By: A Saye Sekhar
The writing was on the wall loud and clear, if the Congress needed further proof of its shrinking acceptability in Telangana, Sonia Gandhi’s maiden public meeting here after the creation of the separate state provided shovel-loads of that. The public meeting conducted in the Telangana heartland, Karimnagar, should have been a resounding success with milling crowds lustily cheering her, for the Congress has every right to share the honours, if not claim full credit, for the creation of a separate Telangana along with the TRS and the BJP. It ended as a damp squib. Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao has every reason to smile, knowing that almost all his public meetings shine in sharp contrast. It was a story of too many cooks spoiling the Telangana broth. Utter lack of coordination among Telangana Congress leaders was too conspicuous for anyone to miss. Most of them were busy seeking Sonia Gandhi’s attention. The public attendance at the meeting cannot be described as even moderate, compared to the public meetings of KCR.
Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president Ponnala Lakshmaiah garlands Congress President Sonia Gandhi at an election meeting in Karimnagar district. PTI Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president Ponnala Lakshmaiah garlands Congress President Sonia Gandhi at an election meeting in Karimnagar district. PTI Sonia’s speech writer has completely ignored packing her speech with necessary punches, kindling hopes and raking up emotions. Also, the Congress leaders do not seem to have provided the necessary input to the text of the speech that she took less than 20 minutes to deliver. Election meetings, which are usually replete with spirited speeches and striking of emotional chord with the people, should never appear like an enlarged seminar. In fact, AICC Plenary meetings had seen larger crowds than the Wednesday’s Karimnagar public meeting. The organisers erected pandals and arranged chairs for the people to sit. Promises like establishing a 4,000-MW power project, construction of Pranahitha-Chevella project, criticism of the roles of the BJP, the TRS, the TDP and the YSR Congress, the Congress legislators’ efforts much before the floating of the TRS, the stoking of sentimental issues like the realisation of the 60-year-long cherished dream of people of Telangana have all appeared to be passing references.
Sonia Gandhi could not launch a trenchant attack on the TRS, which the Congress will be fighting in the upcoming elections. It appeared as an attempt to keep the door ajar to rework the Congress parry’s knotty equation with the TRS in the post-election scenario. How much of an ice the secular card would cut with the electors remains a moot question. Of course, the Congress is not locking horns with the BJP straightaway in the election in Telangana. The Congress leaders, who are so naturally used to claiming that all is well even if something doesn’t end well, began asserting that the Wednesday’s meeting was a big success. Leaders, who were called on to the dais, greeted Sonia and adorned her with trademark tricolor khanduvas of the Congress. Some paid obeisance to her by touching her feet. The introduction of Lok Sabha contestants and some select leaders was goofed up by Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president Ponnala Laxmaiah. After calling out the names of one leader after the other, the TPCC president had to cover up his faux pas in a hurried manner when senior leader D Srinivas came onto the dais waving at the people. “Senior leader Dharmapuri Srinivas…yes…I have already invited him…I have already invited him…”said Laxmaiah in a very apologetic tone. Soon he had to usher in K Jana Reddy also on to the dais.
The expected euphoria and enthusiasm went missing among the crowds. The Congress should actually have summoned all its strength and made the electoral war with the TRS as the proverbial David and Goliath fight. But what clearly lacked on the Congress side was a giant leader who can establish emotional connect with people of Telangana. Almost all top Congress leaders of Telangana were either playing second fiddle to YSR Reddy until the 2009 elections or were at daggers with him. But none of them seem to have made any attempt to rise to match his leadership skill and alacrity in attracting the masses. Two successive defeats in elections dwarfed D Srinivas from offering an alternative leadership and Jana Reddy has his own set of inadequacies in outsmarting others. It was too palpable that the party could not mobilise enough crowds to make up for at least a dignified number of audience to attend the public meeting and the delinquent second-rung of leadership too must share the blame. The Congress proposes to oragnise two more public meetings of Sonia Gandhi and five of Rahul Gandhi during the electioneering. Whether the Telangana Congress leaders would pull their socks up to make them big hits or put up a feeble show is only a conjecture.