From losing deposits to capturing state, cong’s remarkable journey

The Congress leadership gave full freedom to Revanth, who promised to bring the party to power in Telangana.
TPCC chief A Revanth Reddy waves the party flag at Gandhi Bhavan amidst a huge number of supporters in Hyderabad following the Telangana Assembly election results |  Sri Loganathan Velmurugan
TPCC chief A Revanth Reddy waves the party flag at Gandhi Bhavan amidst a huge number of supporters in Hyderabad following the Telangana Assembly election results | Sri Loganathan Velmurugan

HYDERABAD: The Congress has secured a clear majority in Telangana. Just a year earlier, the grand old party lost its deposit in the Munugode bypoll. How did the Congress manage such a massive turnaround?

TPCC chief Revanth Reddy and other party leaders, political strategist Sunil Kanugolu and his war-room, and the party’s active social media team played a key role in the turnaround, with ample support from Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

The combative Revanth Reddy, earlier with the TDP, was appointed as the Telangana Congress chief in June 2021. The first electoral test that the party faced under his leadership was the Huzurabad bypoll in October 2021. While the BJP’s Eatala Rajender polled over a lakh votes, around 24,000 more than the candidate of the ruling BRS (then TRS), the Congress finished a distant third with a meagre 3,000 votes and lost its deposit.

Revanth, of course, was under pressure after such a demoralising loss, but didn’t lose heart. He started the Dalit Girijana Dandora, Yuva Sangarshana Sabha and similar campaigns, and also went on padayatras to boost the morale of the party cadre.

The TPCC chief faced trouble from within the party too. A few seniors did not initially back Revanth, an outsider, in his endeavours. Nevertheless, he received support from the party high command, which initiated steps to control dissidence. The Congress leadership gave full freedom to Revanth, who promised to bring the party to power in Telangana.

Revanth succeeded in infusing fresh blood into a moribund Congress. While the BJP too tried to onboard leaders including Thummala Nageswara Rao and Ponguleti Srinivas Reddy, Revanth ultimately persuaded them to join the grand old party ahead of polls. The TPCC chief also managed the ‘Ghar Wapsi’ of leaders such as Vivek Venkataswamy, Komatiredddy Rajagopal Reddy and Jupally Krishna Rao who had left the grand old party in search of seemingly greener pastures.

Support from high command

The party leadership did not just back Revanth from Delhi. Top leaders including Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge campaigned aggressively in the state ahead of the 2023 Assembly polls and gave ample support to Revanth, who campaigned all across the state and addressed 55 meetings despite contesting against the CM in Kamareddy and also trying to wrest back Kodangal.

Revanth faced serious allegations from disgruntled leaders who did not receive tickets. They even accused him of collecting money. But the party leaders including Rahul backed Revanth and maintained that winnability was the sole criteria and went by the survey results of strategist Kanugolu and his team. The party even gave tickets to turncoats and new entrants provided they stood a good chance of winning.

With elections nearing, the usually faction-ridden party for once put on a united front with Revanth, CLP leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka and other leaders focusing on the party’s victory. Senior leaders including several observers monitored the operations from the party HQ, Gandhi Bhavan, and addressed almost five to six press meets every day attacking the ruling BRS over alleged corruption in Kaleshwaram irrigation project and Dharani portal, and failure in implementing welfare schemes such as Dalit Bandhu and 2BHK. The party successfully targeted unemployed youth with its campaign against the TSPSC paper leak and released a job calendar in its manifesto, promising to fill up 2 lakh vacancies in a year.

#MaarpuKaavali, #ByeByeKCR & Sunil Kanugolu’s war-room

It was not just Revanth and other Congress leaders. Political strategist Sunil Kanugolu and his ‘war-room’ too played a key role in the Congress victory. Naveen Pettem, a Telangana Congress social media coordinator, told TNIE that the “party’s online team has strong roots with coordinators in almost every village”.

Before the first week of October, the party was not that active on social media compared to the ruling BRS. Then, the social media team created material with the help of Kanugolu’s war-room, including Twitter posts and ad content. To push its narrative, the party built a Twitter team of around 200 members that was active 24/7.

Ads with catchy slogans such “Car Povaali.. Hastam Raavali” and “Maarpu Kavaali... Congress Ravaali” resonated with those tired voters who were looking for a change after 10 years of the BRS. The Congress even brought in a CM lookalike for its ‘ByeByeKCR’ campaign, incurring BRS wrath. When some of its advertisements were nixed by the EC after complaints by the ruling party, the Congress proudly posted them on social media with the caption ‘banned ads’.

The social media team added strength to the campaign by Revanth, who always insisted the party would win 75 seats and that a Congress government would take oath on December 9, the birthday of Sonia Gandhi, in LB Stadium.

The Telangana Congress social media team, which has 33 state secretaries and 66 district coordinators, also appointed 238 Assembly coordinators and 635 mandal coordinators in addition to the village teams. The team also popularised the party’s six guarantees and its numerous freebies.

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