A dark horse is raring to take on Bandi Sanjay in Karimnagar, but will he win a Congress ticket?

A businessman from a political family, Velchala Rajender Rao, is trying to warm up to the Congress from which he has been away for a long time.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Jan 03, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdatedJan 04, 2024 | 8:53 PM

Velchala Rajender Rao (left), Bandi Sanjay Kumar (right)

A dark horse seems to be waiting in the wings to canter and gallop even as the Congress is looking for a suitable candidate to take on the formidable Bandi Sanjay Kumar, the BJP’s national general secretary and the sitting MP from Telangana’s Karimnagar Lok Sabha constituency,

A businessman from a political family, Velchala Rajender Rao, is trying to warm up to the Congress from which he has been away for a long time.

Then there is B Vinod of the BRS who is pawing the battleground to recapture the seat, which he lost to Bandi Sanjay in 2019.

Bandi Sanjay fell by the wayside in the race to the state Assembly from Karimnagar in the 30 November polls. But he cannot be written off in the Lok Sabha contest that is just three months away.

He is known for his fiery speeches which could add to the Hindutva surge expected across the country after the unveiling of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on 22 January.

The Congress needs a candidate who could throw cold water on local Hindutva emotions — which Bandi Sanjay would rake up as he did successfully in the 2019 elections.

But Congress ticket aspirant Rajender has been making moves to draw the party’s attention as it has no ready candidate for Karimnagar.

The major threat to him is from A Praveen Reddy, who sacrificed the Husnabad Assembly seat for Transport Minister Ponnam Prabhakar in the recent Assembly election, apparently in return for a party nomination from the Karimnagar Lok Sabha segment.

Rajender believes that Praveen does not have much influence in the Lok Sabha constituency and hopes that the party will favour him.

Also Read: Revanth Reddy slammed for not seeking CBI probe into Kaleshwaram

The legacy card

He is banking on the image of his father, the late Velchala Jagapati Rao, a two-time MLA and an MLC. He was a well-known leader in the Karimnagar district. He was a legislator from Jagtiyal in 1972 (Congress) and Karimnagar (Independent) in 1989, and represented Telangana graduates constituency in 1978 (Independent).

He had also served the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) as its general secretary and focused on people’s issues all the time. Leveraging on his father’s legacy, Rajender is trying to find acceptance in the Congress with a constituency-specific manifesto with innovative schemes.

Among the schemes is one to woo the youth by forming mandal-wise cricket teams and organising matches, a la the Indian Premier League. The youth would get exposure to cricket and earn money by participating in the tournament.

Rajender also plans to organsie such inter-Assembly segment matches and later on inter-district matches. He wants to make available at each Assembly headquarters agriculture implements and tractors free of cost.

Free diagnostic facilities, one upskilling centre for those who are into their traditional avocations, and others, too, are part of his vision.

Though in his early 60s, Rajender believes he can deliver if provided a chance.

He has already approached Transport Minister Prabhakar, who is in charge of the Karimnagar Lok Sabha seat, and expressed his desire to join the Congress and contest from the constituency. He also informed Prabhakar that if the party prefers anyone else, he would work for the party.

Also Read: Congress offered Rajya Sabha seat from Karnataka: YS Sharmila

The X-factor

But Velchala Rajender has to watch out for the X-factor. If BJP leader Eatala Rajender decides to join the Congress, he will get priority treatment. Eatala is not only popular but is also a Mudhiraj, a backward class community. However, there are no signs of Eatala joining the Congress camp.

Against this backdrop, Velchala Rajender believes he would be the right fit for the Congress in Karimnagar.

Then there is NSUI state president Balmoor Venkat Narsingh Rao who might throw his hat in the ring. Since he too belongs to the Velama caste, the party would have to take a decision between him and Velchala Rajender

Rajender claims to be a victim of K Chandrashekar Rao and the BRS. He had been associated with the party since its inception. He was the general secretary in charge of youth and student affairs between 2001-2004.

Before joining the BRS, he was with the Congress. He was the Andhra Pradesh state Youth Congress joint secretary and its vice-president between 1984 and 1989.

After joining the BRS, he hoped to get a party ticket to contest to the Assembly in 2004. But he could not get ticket either for Karimnagar or Choppandadi, a nearby Assembly segment.

As there was then an alliance between the BRS and the Congress, the latter insisted on Karimnagar. BRS chief KCR then promised Choppadandi and even handed him a B-form, but the seat finally went to the Congress.

Rajender remained in the fray though he was asked to withdraw and ended up third by polling 30,000 votes. TDP candidate Sana Maruti won the seat.

In 2007, when Chiranjeevi founded his Praja Rajyam Party, Rajender joined it and contested to the Lok Sabha from Karimnagar but lost the election though he created a record of polling 1.7 lakh votes, the maximum number of votes polled by any PRP contestant in Telangana.

Even as Rajender is preparing to take Bandi Sanji head-on, one more aspect is worrying him.

The BJP leader is from a Backward Classes (BC) community and the Congress might pit a candidate from the community against him.