Revanth Reddy emerges from shadows to take vanguard against BJP’s south push

Revanth Reddy's hard-hitting anti-BJP rhetoric sprinkled with a liberal dose of humour has put him in the limelight.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Apr 22, 2024 | 5:00 PMUpdatedApr 22, 2024 | 7:54 PM

Revanth Reddy with KC Venugopal during a campaign rally in Alappuzha in Kerala. (X)

Telangana Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy seems to have emerged as the most visible Congress leader in the South.

One day he is in Wayanad in Kerala batting for party supremo Rahul Gandhi and the other day he is in Bengaluru in Karnataka, nailing the BJP.

The next day he is back in Hyderabad, attacking the Opposition BRS with his fiery speeches. He seems to be metamorphosing into the party’s face in the South.

Also Read: ‘KCR will turn into cinders if he tries to touch Congress MLAs,’ warns Revanth Reddy

Speeches of Revanth Reddy

Revanth Reddy’s skill in capturing the attention of the audience with his rhetoric laced with humour cannot be emphasised enough.

Though he is not as fluent in Hindi as his archrival K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), he manages to communicate his point effectively. It is this ability that is keeping him in good stead in communicating with non-Telugu-speaking people also.

When it comes to delivering speeches, very few match him in intensity, wit and logic.

For instance, addressing a public meeting in the Bangalore Central Lok Sabha constituency on Saturday, 20 April, he built a water-tight argument, sprinkled with humour, against electing PC Mohan of BJP.

“Has PC Mohan done anything for Bengaluru? If he were to eat pallis and batanas, he need not go to the Central Hall of Parliament. They are available at Bengaluru bus station also,” he said.

He also gave an exposition on why the voters should defeat the BJP, which is essentially North India-centric.

Revanth Reddy brought to focus the perceived discrimination of the South by the BJP in releasing funds and the representation in the Cabinet.

Also Read: No BJP or Modi wave in country, says DK Shivakumar in Kerala

Crossing borders

Though DK Shivakumar, the deputy chief minister of Karnataka, has hit the southern campaign trail, he seems to have been overshadowed by Revanth Reddy, thanks to the latter’s hard-hitting anti-BJP rhetoric.

Though the South is dominated by the INDIA bloc, it is Revanth Reddy who appears to be all over, batting for the alliance and the Congress. In Kerala, however, the Congress-led UDF is battling CPI(M)-led LDF for supremacy.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah seems more preoccupied with Karnataka.

Another important INDIA bloc partner, MK Stalin, is also confining himself to Tamil Nadu. The Congress leaders of Kerala have left the responsibility of the party’s victory in the South to the national leadership.

Also Read: Curious case of Telangana CM Revanth Reddy

Distancing from RSS-ABVP

Besides Rahul Gandhi, AICC general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal, is also in the fray in Kerala.

Revanth Reddy has been addressing election rallies across South India and making a conscious effort to distance himself from the RSS-ABVP ideology, in which he is accused of having roots.

He has been coming down heavily on the saffron party more than ever in the past, in the wake of the criticism in Telangana that he and Narendra Modi are comrades-in-arms.

The BRS always refers to the day when Revanth Reddy called Narendra Modi “bade bhai” (big brother) at a public meeting to secure a liberal release of funds and quick clearances for projects.

Also Read: “Modi wants to topple my government”: Telangana CM Revanth Reddy

Repercussions of bade bhai reference

The BRS refers to the “bade bhai” reference to underscore that he was in league with the saffron party though the party is always at loggerheads with the BJP at the national level.

Recently, Chandrashekar Rao had said that there was a possibility of Revanth Reddy joining the BJP bandwagon after the Lok Sabha polls.

He based his observation on the quote of Revanth Reddy in “Aap Ki Adalat” that if anyone wanted to vote for BJP they were free to do so, though he said it in a different context.

BRS leader and former minister T Harish Rao said there are two Congress parties: One in Telangana, which is hand-in-glove with the BJP, and the other at the national level fighting the BJP.

Though the three principal political parties in Telangana — BJP, Congress and BRS — indulge in a long and tortuous charade of accusing the other two parties of being aligned with each other in a secret deal, the pink party’s allegation against Revanth Reddy seems to be sticking, of late.

Also Read: Race for second spot in Tamil Nadu, Telangana in Lok Sabha polls 2024

Trying to shed the saffron remains

What appears to be bothering Revanth Reddy more is how to wash off the saffron tint that stuck to him when he was in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) — the student wing of the BJP — during his student days.

Though he did not associate himself either with the RSS or the ABVP after entering public life, it is a convenient part of his past for the Opposition to nail him.

BRS leader and former minister KT Rama Rao (KTR) had repeatedly said of a “Godse in Gandhi Bhavan” after Revanth was appointed the Telangana PCC president, implying that his ethos is moored in the RSS ideology.

In Telangana, the BJP accuses the Congress and the BRS of being comrades-in-arms while the BRS contends that the BJP and the Congress are hand-in-glove while the Congress says that the BJP and the BRS are covert friends.

Though confusing, this charade is meant to gumrah (mislead) Muslims in their favour but to what extent they believe in these bizarre arguments is anybody’s guess.

Also Read: BRS Rajendranagar MLA calls on Revanth Reddy, joining Congress?

Words that sting like bee

The trait in Revanth Reddy that makes him stand apart from others is his incisive and fiery speeches. Though his speeches are meant to rev up youth, they hurt the Opposition.

He is an equal match to former chief minister KCR in delivering high-voltage speeches.

KCR is in a different genre in abusing his rivals. His comments are surgical in nature and always cut in like the surgeon’s scalpel while Revanth Reddy’s criticism is always like a sledgehammer blow.

It hits like a maelstrom, leaving everyone gasping.

Revanth Reddy always gives it back to KCR and his son KTR whenever they target him.

Even when Revanth Reddy was in the Opposition, he never showed laxity in attacking the all-powerful KCR and KTR so much so that they both began detesting him and despising his presence in Telangana politics.

Over a period, the father-son duo seemed determined to see his end but he always returned to the centre stage of politics like RL Stevenson’s Bottle Imp.

Also Read: KCR tells cadre to await return of his Telangana hero avatar

Daring attitude

Sometimes it appears that he gets a kick out of resorting to adventurism. When he was in the Opposition, he flew a drone over KTR’s farmhouse in Janwada village on Hyderabad’s outskirts on 1 March 2020, to take pictures and establish it was built illegally.

His contention was that KTR had built the farmhouse on 25 acres in violation of Government Order (GO) 111, which proscribed constructions within a 10 km radius of Himayatsagar and Osmansagar reservoirs, the largest waterbodies in Hyderabad.

The police, at the behest of the then BRS government, slapped a case against him — a Lok Sabha member from Malkajgiri, and sent him to 14 days judicial remand for violating the KTR’s privacy by taking visuals of his farmhouse.

He was later granted bail.

Also Read: “Modi wants to topple my government”: Revanth Reddy

The rise of Revanth Reddy

Revanth Reddy was once a small-time politician. He began his career in politics as Zilla Parishad Territorial Constituency (ZPTC) in 2006 from an obscure village, Midgil, in the Mahbubnagar district.

His mercurial rise in politics baffles everyone as he kept going up the ladder so quickly even before people realised he was at the pinnacle of glory.

In 2007, he was elected an independent Member of the Legislative Council (MLC). He later joined the TDP.

In 2009, he was elected to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly from Kodangal in the Mahbubnagar district with 46.46 percent of the total polled votes on a TDP ticket. He then defeated the then-incumbent and five-time MLA Gurunath Reddy of the Congress.

Also Read: Revanth threatens KTR with jail time if he keeps admitting to phone-tapping

From TDP to Congress

Revanth Reddy served as MLA in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly between 2009 and 2014, and the Telangana Assembly between 2014 and 2018.

After the formation of Telangana in 2014, he was elected to the Telangana Assembly from Kodangal.

He was also elected as the floor leader of the TDP in the Telangana Legislative Assembly.

On 31 October 2017, he joined the Congress. He was made one of the three working presidents of TPCC on 20 September 2018. However, he lost the Assembly poll from Kodangal later that year.

He, however, won the election to the Lok Sabha from Malkajgiri in 2019 by a margin of 10,919 votes, constituting 38.63 percent of the total votes cast, defeating his rival Marri Rajashekar Reddy of the BRS.

Also Read: Kerala LoP raises issue of school vandalism in Telangana with Revanth Reddy

Taints from the past

Apart from his ABVP background, the other grey area in his personality is his attempt to bribe BRS-nominated MLA Elvis Stephenson on 31 May, 2015, requesting him to vote for the TDP candidate in Legislative Council elections.

Following that, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) sent him to jail. He was booked under sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) and sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with section 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Two others, Bishop Sebastian Harry and Uday Simha, were also booked. On 30 June the same year, the Telangana High Court gave him conditional bail.

Also Read: ‘KCR will turn into cinders if he tries to touch Congress MLAs:’ Revanth Reddy

The KCR factor

Viewed from a different angle, KCR was responsible for Revanth Reddy’s rise.

It was KCR who organised the sting operation against Revanth Reddy to drive N Chandrababu Naidu out of Telangana soil. He was apparently worried that if Naidu stayed in Telangana there was always the possibility of the TDP sprouting green shoots and becoming a threat to him.

Revanth Reddy bore a grudge against KCR for sending him to jail and had even dared KCR on one of those days, saying: “My day will come. Then you will see what I am.”

Also Read: Revanth Reddy lashes out at BJP, says PM Modi insulted Telangana

Politics of survival?

Political analyst Telakapalli Ravi said Revanth Reddy bit more than he could chew when he called Modi his bade bhai.

“There was no necessity. As a Congress chief minister, he should have exercised restraint. He should have taken a combative position on the Centre-state conflict,” he opined.

“But he did not do it. Now he is coming out with a laboured explanation that he called Modi bade bhai only for the development of the state. He is now trying to wash off the saffron taint,” Ravi said.

“Revanth Reddy is more preoccupied with his day-to-day slugfest with BRS supremo K Chandrashekar Rao. It is survival politics,” he added.

“As he belongs to a party where internal dissension is more a rule than an exception, he has to watch out for trouble. That is why he is trying to be in the good books of the party and consolidate his position as the chief minister,” Ravi said.

Also Read: KCR helping BJP win Lok Sabha seats in Telangana to get bail for Kavitha, says Revanth

Fertile ground to grow

He said Revanth Reddy is making the most of the Congress’s adversity.

“The party has only three chief ministers and of them, two are from the South. Siddaramaiah is ageing. The other one is Revanth Reddy and the Congress is using him since he is dynamic and energetic,” Ravi said.

The third chief minister is Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu of Himachal Pradesh.

“So far, Revanth Reddy has done well and it seems he has already earned brownie points with party leadership,” Ravi said.

Revanth Reddy has scope for further growth if he could get at least 10 Lok Sabha seats for the party in Telangana, he added.