HYDERABAD: It is the people of Telangana who want the Congress to come to power in the State, says AICC Telangana in-charge Manikrao Thakre while exuding confidence in his party winning over 71 seats in the ensuing Assembly elections. In an exclusive interview with TNIE, Thakre revealed that the grand old party would release its second and final list after Rahul Gandhi’s bus yatra, which is scheduled to be launched on Wednesday.
Excerpts from the interview
After the release of the first list, there were widespread protests by aspirants and disgruntled leaders. How do you see this?
The people of Telangana are looking to Congress. They want to bring Congress to power. Naturally, there will be demand for such a party. Congress has many exceptionally good candidates, but we can nominate only one candidate for each seat. Making a decision to nominate a candidate is not that easy. At the end of the day, all the aspirants will strive hard for the victory of Congress, shortlisted by the party’s high command.
But, on the contrary, some aspirants have left the party, making huge allegations against TPCC chief A Revanth Reddy of selling tickets. How should we look at it?
Rival parties have been continuously making such allegations through social media. It is clear now that these are planted allegations in the wake of the ensuing elections.
Senior leader Ponnala Lakshmaiah has left the party. He is a prominent BC leader. Wouldn’t it damage the party’s prospects?
The Congress party has given many opportunities to Ponnala. He was made a minister and PCC president. We have not even finalised the candidate. His name was also in discussion. But he made his decision. I can tell you that we will give more seats to BCs than BRS. We will ensure social justice by giving seats to SC, ST, BC, and women.
When will you announce your candidates for the remaining constituencies?
It will be after Dasara. Now, we are preoccupied with Rahulji and Priyankaji’s campaign in the State.
Your top leaders are going to tour the State for three days. What is your party’s strategy to win the confidence of people?
Rahul Ji has united the entire Opposition and formed the INDIA alliance. Under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, we have won Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka Assembly elections, and now we are going to win Telangana. The people of Telangana believe in the leadership of Sonia, Rahul, and Priyanka as they will stand by their word. Sonia Ji promised Telangana and delivered it.
In your first list, there are 12 new faces. Why did Congress rely on new candidates? Will there be more new faces in the second list?
As you know, many Congress leaders defected to BRS after the 2018 election. Back then, the situation was different. But now, many leaders are joining the Congress fold. If they are strong enough, we are fielding them as they are Congress leaders now. In the second list, there may be a few seats for newly joined candidates, but not many.
Before assuming charge as AICC Telangana in-charge, there used to be an internal rift between the State party leaders. But now, the leaders seem to be disciplined. How did you achieve it?
The Congress party’s cadre is robust at the grassroots level, but it requires a force to coordinate and unify everyone. All I did was coordinate with the leaders. I took everyone into confidence and told them that everyone in the party will get justice. The Telangana leaders and Karyakartas believed in me and are working hand in hand.
The election schedule is here. But, your party seems to be weak in North Telangana. How are you going to manage to win?
In the past, it was. But now the party is strong in Adilabad and other parts of North Telangana. We are doing better than BRS. There is no question of the party being weak anywhere in the State. You can go and inquire. Whoever the candidate might be, Karyakartas will work unitedly and help them win the elections. The people believe in our guarantees just like in Himachal and Karnataka. We will implement our promises within 100 days after coming to power.
We have learned that you are in touch with many BRS and BJP leaders. Are any new leaders joining your party, and can you please name a few?
Many leaders, including MPs and MLAs, want to join Congress. Many have met and discussed with me recently. I cannot reveal the names at this point. We will take our leaders into confidence on this and go ahead after getting approval from the party’s high command.
When will your manifesto be released? How will it be different from BRS?
BRS has largely ignored the development of Hyderabad. We are preparing a new plan for the development of Hyderabad on all fronts. We have a vision for Hyderabad and the State. The manifesto is being prepared by Sridhar Babu, and very soon we will release it.
How many seats do you expect to win?
We expect to win 71 seats and form a government on our own.
How are you so confident in giving such an exact number?
Everyone knows that BRS, BJP, and AIMIM are one. Now, the truth has come to light. Also, we are not making false promises like them. People strongly believe that Congress will implement its promises. People are vexed with BRS family rule. It is the people who want the Congress to come into power. If you ask me after a few more days, the number may increase, and we may even touch 80.