How Congress Won in Telangana: Deciphering the Electoral Strategies and Narration

Congress Won Telangana

The Congress party ended a decade-old rule of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) party, winning 64 seats, while BRS won 39 seats. The Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) President Revanth Reddy led the elections to an outstanding victory and ceased the BRS government from a hat-trick. The grand old party’s electoral strategy made a fantastic turnaround in the political landscape. Let us decipher the modus operandi of the Congress party in the Telangana elections.

Anti-Incumbency Factor

The difference between BRS and the triumphant Congress is around 2 per cent vote share. The surveys revealed that anti-incumbency was high in rural areas and predominantly soared against 30-35 MLAs. However, the party’s decision to renominate most of the MLAs and align with other factors became a disaster for BRS. The defeat of six key ministers and Chief Minister KCR in Kamareddy showcases the gravity of the prevailing anti-incumbency factor.

Projection of Unemployment

Most of the youth felt there was a lack of a proper job calendar released at regular intervals. Apart from that, many students alleged that KCR failed to provide the monthly allowance that he promised during the 2018 polls. The latest Periodic Labour Force Survey Annual Report suggests that Telangana’s unemployment rate is 15.1 per cent, much higher than India’s average of 10 per cent. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh stated that Telangana has the highest unemployment in the country and youth suicide is high. During the election campaign, PM Modi reiterated that KCR gave only “tears, scams and unemployment,” bolstering the imperative of the unemployment issue.

Also Read: Sunil Kanugolu’s Genius & Congress’s Telangana Victory

Disconnect from Youth

The question paper leakage profoundly brewed strong discontentment among youth against the KCR’s government. The Telangana State Public Service Commission’s (TSPSC) delay in releasing the employment notification, examination cancellation, and question paper leakages inculcated colossal resentment towards the BRS government. Karne Shireesha, also known as Barrelakka (sister who owns buffaloes), became the voice of unemployed youth when she independently contested the KCR’s government neglect of youth and unemployment. Her popularity explicated the unemployment crisis in Telangana. 

Notably, there was a strong wave of youth support for Barrelakka. Moreover, across Telangana, youth expressed solidarity and support, which is a testament to the altering dynamics of youth’s involvement in electoral politics. The Congress party used the youth’s anger against the KCR government and promised a better job calendar and opportunities to attract the youth.

Urban Development Vs Rural Backwardness

Congress successfully propagated that Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh were responsible for the creation of Telangana with the vision of development. However, for the last 10 years, the BRS party’s development, investment, and industries have occurred only in Hyderabad. There is a vast disparity between Urban and Rural infrastructure development and funding. The rural voters felt that the BRS neglected the development and cast their anger in Ballots.

Dynasty Politics and Nepotism

The allegation on KCR for promoting his family in the party and government gauged bitterness in the public. His son KT Rama Rao, daughter K Kavitha, nephew Thaneeru Harish Rao, and Joginapally Santosh, who are in key positions and control of the party, raised the question of democratic functioning. Congress was perspicacious in constructing the discourse of dynasty politics and nepotism among voters.

Allegation of Corruption

The Congress set up an electoral campaign highlighting the corruption in various levels of the BRS government. They intensified the campaign, stating, ‘Telangana is aspiring for a change’. The alleged corruption on the ‘Kaleshwaram project’ and the minister’s involvement in the land mafia also created a negative image among the voters. There was a severe allegation of land mafia and benami of the several ministers. Most of the welfare schemes were routed to BRS cadres, which is one of the substantial allegations BRS have to encounter.

BRS’s nexus with BJP and AIMIM

The Congress successfully set the narration of the nexus between BRS-BJP-AIMIM in the electoral seat arrangement in the Telangana assembly election and would continue in Lok Sabha polls. Congress proclaimed that the BJP never targeted top BRS leaders by sending the central investigating agencies like ED, CB and IT, unlike they did in other states. 

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said to a crowd that Congress was not fighting just the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) in Telangana but a combined team of BRS, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AMIM) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “They are all working together, and that is why there are no raids on Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao by the CBI, ED or IT department despite the BRS government knocking off ₹1 lakh crore in the Kaleshwaram project,” he claimed. Despite receiving a summons from the ED, KCR’s daughter Kavitha was not arrested by the ED, rooted in the argument of the nexus between BRS and BJP among the citizens.

Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ and Election Campaigning

Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ set a tone for the resurgence of Congress in Telangana. The cadre building and the tactics for encountering the elections were unveiled during the padayatra. Moreover, the yatra significantly impacted party workers and exuded confidence in Congress leaders.

Rahul Gandhi’s election campaigning garnered a good crowd, and he spent considerable time in Telangana to elevate the positive perception. Particularly, the strategic campaigning and slogan of “Marpu Kavali Congress Ravali” (Change should happen, Congress should come) resonated well with the neutral voters.

KCR: Disconnected from the Masses

KCR banked on his charisma and appeal, but he failed to apprehend the proliferating negative image of his legislators and his deteriorating status. Congress heavily criticised KCR for his autocratic style of rule. He was perceived as arrogant due to his stubbornness and inaccessibility. Besides public meetings, KCR failed to reach the grassroots level to meet the public. He was disconnected from the masses long back.

Cohesive Social Media Strategy

The penetration of smartphones changed the mechanism of the electoral campaign. The Congress digital media campaign demonstrated the statehood narrative delivered by the Congress government and it propagated that it deserves a chance to `bring about change’ in the plummeting state. Besides Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, Congress connects with people through advertisements with themes and songs from popular films.

Apparently, envisaging an electoral victory, the Congress party’s ‘Abhayahastam Guarantee Card’ was promoted under the name `Congress Bharosa’ with six significant issues on its initiative, including free RTC bus travel for women and farmer support schemes got the eyeballs of the netizens. Interestingly, 7,84,586 persons applied for the ‘Congres Bharosa’ card, showing it to be the predominant recourse of the digital campaign. The poll strategist Sunil Kanugolu is the chief architect behind the digital campaign, which was well coordinated and struck a chord with the people. The allegation of graft on the ruling dispensation and the well-conducted welfare schemes of the congress seemed to connect with the masses.

Promise of Dalit CM and Neglection of OBC’s

The BRS party’s broken promise of a Dalit CM dented the trust among the Dalit community. During the campaign, AICC President Kharge termed KCR as ‘Dora’ and questioned him for ‘breaking’ the promise of making a Dalit the first CM of Telangana state. Out of 119 seats, OBCs were given only 23 seats despite their numerical strength being around 60 per cent. It did not go well with dominant OBC communities who are aspiring for political power like neighbouring states.

Manifesto of Congress: Six Guarantees

The Congress articulated that they are determined to provide social justice, economic empowerment and unbridled progress to the people of Telangana. Based on that, the congress proposed six guarantees for the Telangana State in their Manifesto. These include the ‘Mahalakshmi’, ‘Rythu Bharosa’, ‘Gruha Jyothi’, ‘Indiramma Indlu’, ‘Yuva Vikasam’ and ‘Cheyutha’ guarantees.

Under the Mahalakshmi guarantee, Congress targeted women, pledging Rs. 2,500 to women per month, LPG gas cylinders for Rs.500 and free bus travel on RTC buses. Young ladies getting married would also be given 10 grams of gold and 1 lakh in cash, while eligible women would receive free electric scooters. 

The Rythu Bharosa (Farmer’s Investment Support Scheme) assured the State’s 58.33 lakh farmers, offering Rs.15,000 annually.

Under the Gruha Jyothi promise, Congress is offering 200 units of free power to every family and 24-hour free electricity for agricultural uses.

The Indiramma Indlu guarantee provides Rs.5 lakh for people who do not possess a home, as well as selected housing sites and a plot of 250 square yards for Telangana movement fighters. The party has also offered 25,000 monthly pensions to martyrs’ families, a government post for one family, and the dismissal of cases against activists.

The Yuva Vikasam guarantee addressed youth concerns. Students would receive a Vidya Bharosa card worth 5 lakh, and each mandal will have a Telangana International School.

The Cheyutha provides poor people with health insurance coverage of up to ten lakh rupees and a 4,000 rupee pension.

The Congress party’s poll management, narration setting and electoral strategy were quintessentially focussed on the drawbacks of the KCR government and public sentiment. The strategic ambush pushed BRS into a corner and it failed to revert effectively.

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