Veteran Congress leader D Srinivas passes away, leaving a lasting mark on Telangana’s statehood journey

Srinivas worked behind the scenes mostly when the UPA was in power between 2004 and 2014, laying a substratum for the party to finally deliver a separate state in 2014.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Jun 29, 2024 | 1:36 PM Updated Jun 30, 2024 | 9:15 AM

Veteran Congress leader D Srinivas passes away, leaving a lasting mark on Telangana’s statehood journey

Dharmapuri Srinivas, a towering Congress leader, passed away, in Hyderabad on Saturday, 29 June, at the age of 75, leaving his mark on the struggle for Telangana state.

Srinivas, who preferred dialogue to confrontation, worked behind the scenes mostly when the UPA was in power between 2004 and 2014, laying a substratum for the party to think, act and finally deliver a separate state in 2014.

If KCR and his BRS had exerted pressure on the Congress government at the centre with agitations during the decade-long rule of the UPA, Srinivas was the man unseen, working through back channels.

He became one of those who influenced the party leaders in Delhi on the need for the creation of a separate state. His confidants say that he had harboured a desire to become the chief minister of Telangana after its formation but the destiny had decided otherwise.

When Telangana became a reality in 2014, the Congress was nowhere in the scene either in Telangana state or in Delhi. It was KCR in Telangana and Narendra Modi in Delhi who came to power.

In fact, Srinivas, who was an MLA in undivided Andhra Pradesh between 1999-2004 took the initiative to get the signatures of Telangana legislators on a representation seeking a separate state for Telangana.

Recalling Srinivas’ efforts then, BJP Parliamentary Party Board member and incumbent Rajya Sabha MP K Laxman, learning about his demise on Saturday, called him a tall leader who had struggled hard for Telangana state.

Also Read: Despite BRS MLAs’ exodus to Congress, KCR says it doesn’t matter

Contributions to Telangana movement

When the Telangana movement was a gathering storm in 2001 after KCR founded TRS which is now BRS, Srinivas took pains to convince the party high command to strike an alliance with it.

This was one of the factors that helped the Congress come to power in 2004, defeating the then TDP.

He convinced KCR that the Congress was considerate to the Telangana demand and that was inclined to constitute a second State Reorganisation Committee (SRC) with a view to creating a separate state and not derailing the demand.

Though the demand for a separate state remained muted between 2004-2009 as the then chief minister the late YS Rajasekhar Reddy took a hardline stance against the formation of Telangana state, Srinivas continued his efforts.

After his demise in 2009, the movement acquired a new lease of life but it also saw the fortunes of Srinivas coming down.

He lost the election to the Assembly in 2009 and the by-election thereafter. On the other hand, the movement spearheaded by KCR was in full swing.

Though he was PCC president between 2008 and 2011, it was to no avail as the Congress was under fire from the BRS for resisting the demand for the bifurcation of the state.

In fact, Srinivas’ political glamour began fading as the agitation for Telangana became more intense post the death of YS Rajasekhar Reddy in 2009 under the leadership of KCR.

Also Read: BRS would continue to strive to put Telangana back on track, says KCR

Challenges, political shifts

The force with which KCR took up the Telangana cause made the Congress go on the back foot.

This was due to the Congress initially not showing interest in the creation of Telangana, fearing that it would decimate the party in Andhra Pradesh, which is what eventually happened after the formation of the state.

Srinvas was active and was working behind the scenes for Telangana even as KCR became more aggressive, exploiting the Congress leaders’ inability to keep both the party high command and their constituents happy as their interests were diametrically opposite.

Though the Congress delivered Telangana state, Srinivas’ fortunes never looked up. The Congress lost the Telangana Assembly elections and also at the national level in 2014.

As Srinvas stood at a crossroads, with Congress having been defeated, KCR took Srinvas into the BRS fold in 2015 in recognition of his contribution to the Telangana movement and also on account of political compulsion to fortify the party in Nizamabad, as Srinvas belonged to the powerful backward caste of Munnuru Kapu.

KCR then sent him to Rajya Sabha, but by 2019, there was a change of scene in Nizamabad. Srinvas’ younger son, Dharmapuri Arvind, emerged as a BJP leader, forcing Srinvas to back him despite being in BRS.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, KCR’s daughter and incumbent MP K Kavitha lost to Arvind in Nizamabad. This led to the marginalisation of Srinivas within the BRS.

Though he tried to return to Congress, it did not work out as his age was by then catching up with him.

However, Srinivas remained an asset to the Congress throughout most of his lifetime, as an efficient organiser, troubleshooter and strategist.

It was often said within the Congress that there was no task that Srinivas couldn’t handle as long as he had a phone in his hand.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)

(South First is now on WhatsApp and Telegram)