Will Cong fortunes change in Telangana with two BRS leaders joining?

(MS Shanker)

As anticipated two former ruling Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) leaders, Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy and Jupally Krishna Rao finally joined the Congress party on Monday in the presence of the AICC President Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi.

Will their join the Congress can be construed as a setback to the ruling BRS?

Or a ‘shot in the arm’ for the Congress, which looks confident to return to power this time around after their party’s emphatic back to back to wins, including the emphatic in the neighboring Karnataka. The two BRS leaders, who joined the Congress today, are expelled from the ruling BRS for their alleged anti-party activities.   

Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy, who won the YSRCP ticket in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, however, defected to the ruling TRS (now BRS). Interestingly, he was denied the ticket in the 2019 elections by the ruling party.

Since then, he maintained a distance from all activities of his party and forced his supporters to guess- sometimes dropping enough hints of joining the saffron party. He had met the Union Home Minister Amit Shah too.

But, later reasons known to him, he started moving closer to the Congress.

What was more interesting is that Jupally Krishna Rao, who defected from Congress to TRS (BRS) before the 2014 assembly polls from his native Mahabubnagar district and won to go on to become a minister in KCR cabinet, however, failed to retain his seat in the 2018 polls. Like Ponguleti, he too opts to keep away from the party’s official functions and gives an impression to return to his parent party – that’s Congress.

Both the leaders were hobnobbing together and also held a massive rally in Khammam giving an impression that they may as well float a new party, instead of joining either the BJP or Congress.

Fearing that their joining the BJP may not get as much important as they can in the Congress, appears to have taken a final call. They along with their supporters formally joined the Congress, as they feel, the BJP, which is entangled in internal fights, has lost the momentum that it has created with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Minister Amit Shah, and that party’s national president JP Nadda, who addressed massive rallies, re-igniting enthusiasm among the party’s rank and file in the state.

But, the two former leaders decided to join the Congress, and many political analysts argue that they realized that they may not get as much importance as they deserve in the saffron party. Their assessment was based on two senior Congress members (Marri Shashidhar Reddy and Konda Visveshwar Reddy) and one former minister, a close confidant of KCR (Etela Rajender), on suspension from the party joined the saffron party.

While Rajender, who contested from his native Huzurabad byelection and won with a massive majority, another Congress leader, Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy, who joined the saffron party, but lost in the by-poll that followed from Munugodu In the newly created Bhuvanagiri district,

With the assembly elections around the corner, those in the ruling party, who fear may not get renominated, despite repeated assurances from none other than the Chief Minister and party supremo KCR, many may join either the Congress or the BJP in the coming days. The reason, is those who are being branded as non-performers by the IPAC Prashant Kishore in the past (close to 35-40 sitting MLAs), are heart-in-heart worried a lot. IPAC, an election strategy agency, which was commissioned by KCR last year, gave a survey and gave KCR a scary picture. That has forced KCR to retreat his decision to advance polls as he did in 2018 (instead of scheduled 2019).

It may be true that the humiliating loss in Karnataka proved as a severe setback to the BJP and an advantage to the Congress, yet the ‘change of heart’ of KCR, who chose to tone down his tirade against the BJP as well as putting his national political ambitions shelving for time being, added to the confusion in political circles in the state. Has KCR realized that retaining power in the state is becoming untenable with the Congress party’s back-to-back victories in the state assembly polls?

Against that backdrop, the upcoming polls in November are likely to be interesting to watch new political alliances – either pre-poll or post-poll – as many feel that KCR wanted to keep his options open in the case of a fractured verdict and BRS may emerge as the single largest party, falling short of requisite halfway mark, that 65 of the 119. In the case of half a dozen, KCR has no problem, as he had all-weather ally AIMIM to bail him out. Only if all major parties – the BJP and Congress, besides his, get between 25-35 each, the problem will arise, as he is determined not to join the Congress and keep his option open to join hands with the rightist BJP.

Amidst all this uncertainly, the Congress looks more than confident to repeat its Karnataka model to grab power in Telangana too. The Congress confidence also borne out for luring in two important leaers like Ponguleti and Jupally, who enjoy considerable clout in their respective districts – Khamam and Mahabubnagar. In sharp contrast, surprisingly the BJP and KCR, appears not as confident as the Congress.