How Congress hard bargained with the Left and Sharmila

Revanth Reddy

Rama Krishna Sangem

Congress party has hard bargained with its possible allies – the two Left parties and YSRTP of YS Sharmila, in the ongoing assembly elections seat sharing talks. As a result, the main opposition party has had its way in retaining almost all the seats, yet with little damage. Of the  two Left parties – CPI (M) and CPI  – the former has officially ended its deal with Congress while the latter is undecided on its next course.

Most probably, CPI might stomach the humiliation and keep silent for now, though a section of its leaders and cadre are insisting that they should go with the CPI (M) and contest a good number of seats. What we know from sources is that the top leadership of CPI is of the view that it is better to wait till Congress comes to power and take one or two MLCs or a Rajya Sabha seat later.

This is what Congress is promising the CPI and CPI(M). CPI(M) has decided to call it a day and announced 17 seats from where it intends to contest. But, CPI is still in two minds on this – whether to go it alone (along with CPI(M) or trust Congress promises and keep silent for now.  CPI has asked for at least two assembly seats – Kothagudem and Chennur (SC).

Congress is open to giving Kothagudem to CPI, but mulling over fielding former MP G Vivek Venkataswamy, who just joined them from BJP. In that case, Congress might offer some other seat – probably from Hyderabad city to CPI.  CPI is not ready to take this offer. Same was the case with CPI(M) too. The party wanted Palair in Khammam district and Miryalaguda in Nalgonda district.

Congress is okay with Miryalaguda, but refused to given Palair from where former MP Ponguleti Srinivsa Reddy, who joined them from BRS is given ticket. In lieu of Palair, Congress offered any one of seven segments from Hyderabad LS seat. CPI(M) too declined the offer. Congress argument is that the Left parties which have secular credentials should test their fortunes in the Old city of Hyderabad. But, the two Left parties rejected the proposal.


Every seat counts for Congress now

Sources in Congress told me that the party is now not ready to lose even a single seat. “We are weighing winning chances in  every seat and are not ready to concede any of them to the Left parties. In fact, both CPI and CPI(M) were with ruling BRS till recently. They supported BRS in Munugode assembly by-election, instead of us.  So naturally, our party leaders are ready to contest every single seat,” said a PCC working president, from North Telangana.

Same situation came up when YSRTP leader YS Sharmila asked for Palair seat. Congress outright rejected her demand and told her to wait they form the government in Telangana. In fact, Sharmila cultivated relations in Palair for ovr a year and declared that she would contest from there. After Congress win in Karnataka, she proposed two things – either to merge her party with Congress or join as an ally.

PCC president Revanth Reddy and a section of Congress leaders were not interested in either of the proposals. Their argument was that Sharmila’s presence in the elections will damage its prospects, as people still see her as an outsider. At the best they can offer her a Rajya Sabha seat after the elections, if she canvasses for Congress now. After considering all options, Sharmila on November 3 announced her unconditional support to Congress and stayed away from contest.

Though it is not said openly,  TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu too advised his party leaders in Telangana not to contest these elections for two reasons – one, due to lack of resources and two, to avoid split in anti-government votes. Hurt over this decision of Naidu, the party’s Telangana unit president Kasani Gyaneshwar quit it and joined ruling BRS. This development indicates Congress has a backing of TDP supremo Chandrababu in Telangana.

Congress also managed to get the unconditional support of Prof Kodandaram of Telangana Jana Samithi in these elections. Though Kodandaram or his party has no presence at the ground level, Congress wanted his backing for wooing Telangana intellectuals who took part in the statehood movement from 2001- 2014. Kodandaram too tried to contest a few seats in alliance with Congress, but the latter turned it down.

Like others, Kodandaram too is promised a Rajya Sabha seat, if Congress comes to power in Telangana. That depends on a lot of ifs and buts. But, as of now, Congress had its way in ensuring almost all of its leaders are allotted their choices seats. This has become possible because of its tough bargaining with its allies or like-minded.  Congress strategist Sunil Kanugole’s field surveys too played a role in in this hard bargaining.

Rama Krishna Sangem

Ramakrishna chief editor of excel India online magazine and website

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