Revanth Reddy: The man who steered Congress campaign in Telangana
Fifty-four-year-old Revanth Reddy has led the Congress to victory in Telangana barely two years after he was appointed as the president of the party’s state unit
Barely two years after being appointed as the president of the Telangana Congress, 54-year-old Revanth Reddy, the former Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MLA who had cut his teeth in the right-wing student union Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), has led the grand old party to a stellar victory in the assembly elections in the state.
Revanth Reddy took over as the Congress state president from old-timer Uttam Kumar Reddy in 2021. By then he had been in the Congress for over four years with the party not being able to displace K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR)’s then Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). Come 2021, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had also begun making inroads into Telangana by winning bye-elections and getting four MLAs in the state. Their then party chief Bandi Sanjay took the saffron deep into the Telangana hinterland and the BJP was soon becoming a force to reckon with in the state.
Srikanth Bhandaru, spokesperson of the Congress said, “It is at this time that all of us in the Congress convened and decided that we had to up our game. Revanth Reddy then took over the narrative and stepped into the shoes of a leader.” Reddy is known to have rallied support from within the Congress to unite all the warring factions and quell rebellion among senior congressmen who had begun to drift into the BJP.
By 2022, Reddy had begun touring constituencies and his campaigning had begun to see results. The BJP’s faux pas of dethroning Bandi Sanjay and replacing him with a meek Kishan Reddy propelled the Congress into the pole position even before the election season kicked in. “The Congress has taken over the BJP’s position as the number two party,” KT Rama Rao, working president of the Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) and former minister, told HT earlier. The Karnataka win only emboldened the Congress that was looking for a toe hold in Southern India.
Once the elections were announced, Revanth Reddy could wean away more than 35 leaders from the BRS at various levels to join the Congress, thus strengthening the party. “His padayatra in February this year was a turning point. He began taking on KCR directly and attacking the family. This was something that no Congress leader earlier had dared to do,” said Hari Kasula, Founder of PsyBe, a campaign strategy firm based in Hyderabad. Reddy’s confidence also stemmed from the Gandhis throwing their weight after him. “Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi saw that Reddy was being favoured by the Telangana cadre. Being from Kodangal, he speaks the way the locals do,” said the Congress spokesperson.
In the run-up to the election, Revanth Reddy’s efforts were supplemented by an active role played by the state election in charge, Manick Rao Thakre, and Sunil Kanugolu, who presented the party with the blueprint to win over the Telangana electorate. While Thakre managed to convince the former Congress leaders in the BJP to return to their home base, Kanugolu’s team engineered a district-wise campaign helping the local Congress leaders put forth a strong narrative to counter KCR’s emotional statehood pitch. Reddy’s oratorial ability and availability also seem to have struck a chord among the locals to whom KCR was largely seen as a farm-house CM.
Many in the Congress believe that the caste factor also worked in Reddy’s favour. If Reddy is indeed named chief minister, he will join the list of Reddys who have won the Telugu state (formerly the united Andhra Pradesh) for the Congress party. From Neelam Sanjiva Reddy in the 1950s to Marri Channa Reddy in the 70s to K Vijaya Bhaskar Reddy in the 90s, YS Rajasekhar Reddy and Kiran Kumar Reddy in the 2000s, Revanth’s name could be etched on the board at the entrance of the Gandhi Bhavan in Hyderabad.