The Congress will have its heavy-duty campaign machine rolling in the Telangana region, with party chief president Sonia charging the lead, to recover the lost ground before Andhra Pradesh is formally divided June 2.
Although party vice-president Rahul Gandhi is spearheading the pan-India election campaigns this time, Sonia decided to take charge in Telangana to cash in on the positive image she had built for herself by backing the bifurcation move.
Significantly, both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul have been avoiding touring Andhra since 2012 when demands for the state’s division triggered extreme reactions — both for and against it.
With Parliament passing the bifurcation bill, the party hopes Telangana, which has 17 seats, will now pay back. “The message that Sonia Gandhi was instrumental in creating Telangana has gone out loud and clear,” says Congress MP Madhu Gaud Yakshi.
The Congress president will address her first rally in Hyderabad — which will be part of Telangana after serving as a joint capital for next 10 years — on April 16. Rahul may chip in later, but a party source said, “His tour plan has not yet been finalised.”
The bifurcation move saw the Congress losing not only its allies, many of its own MPs and MLAs in the Seemandhra region also defected. Even former CM Kiran Kumar Reddy quit the party to form his own outfit.
The last jolt came when pro-division TRS chief K Chandrashekar Rao refused to strike an alliance deal with the Congress. Some pre-poll surveys predicted poor results for the Congress in both Telangana and Seemandhra.