How contenders delayed naming of new Telangana CM
Senior party leaders said Revanth Reddy would be the CM with two deputies N Uttam Kumar Reddy and Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka
Even as Telangana Congress president A Revanth Reddy was named the state’s next chief minister, the infighting in the state party unit has come to fore, which delayed the process to select the new CM.
On Monday the newly elected party legislators had left the decision on deciding the CM to the party high command. Senior party leaders had said Revanth Reddy would be the CM with two deputies N Uttam Kumar Reddy, a six-time MLA and former state unit president, and Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, the party floor leader in the outgoing assembly.
“Uttam Kumar Reddy staked his claim for the top post citing his seniority and loyalty,” a senior Congress leader familiar with the developments said.
Vikramarka, the Dalit face of the party, was also a contender for CM post. He has been with the Congress since early 1980s and had recently undertaken extensive padayatra across the state. In fact, as the poll results were still pouring in on Sunday, he told the media that he was ready to take up the responsibility “if the high command directs.”
“It is possible that the central leadership will opt for one or two deputy CMs to placate the aspirants,” a party leader said.
Amidst competing claims, the AICC observer and Karnataka deputy chief minister DK Shivkumar left for Delhi on Monday afternoon to hold discussions with the central leadership on the choice of chief minister and the composition of the new cabinet. Earlier, he supervised a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) which unanimously passed a one-line resolution authorising Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge to appoint the CLP leader.
“All (newly elected MLAs) have decided that whatever the high command decides, we will go by that,” Shivakumar had told reporters in Hyderabad after the meeting, which lasted for over three hours.
On Sunday, the Congress scripted a turnaround story in Telangana as it comprehensively trounced the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) by winning 65 of the 119 seats in the southern state.
Ahead of the CLP meeting, Shivakumar separately had met Uttam Kumar Reddy, Vikramarka and Munugode MLA Komatireddy Rajgopal Reddy, who is the brother of Venkat Reddy, at another hotel in the city, according to a party veteran who did not want to be named.
A senior Congress leader said that a CLP resolution, authorising Kharge to pick the new CLP leader, was proposed by Revanth Reddy and seconded by senior MLAs, including Vikramarka and D Sridhar Babu.
Congress leader and former member of Rajya Sabha V Hanumantha Rao had said Reddy could be the next chief minister. “Most probably, Revanth Reddy has chances to become the chief minister going by all the work he did,” he had said.
Former state minister Konda Surekha also batted for Revanth Reddy for the top post. “Reddy is going to take the chief minister’s post with the high command’s blessing,” Surekha said.
The leadership tussle brings back bitter memories of the early 1980s when the party had changed four Chief Ministers in the combined Andhra Pradesh. This became one of the key campaign themes of the Telugu Desam founder N T Rama Rao who stormed to power within nine months after floating the regional party.
A section of Telangana Congress leaders treat Revantha Reddy as an “outsider” as he made a lateral entry into the party from Telugu Desam Party in 2017. Soon after his appointment as the state party chief in 2021, there was a virtual revolt from a section of senior leaders.
However, the high command firmly stood by him and gave him a free hand in the selection of candidates for the assembly polls and formulation of campaign strategies.
Revanth was successful in infusing new energy and dynamism into a moribund organisation and ran an aggressive campaign focusing on the ‘corruption and family rule’ of the BRS.