Sonia Telangana
The Congress unit in the state seeks to establish the narrative of Sonia Gandhi being responsible for Telangana’s formation. File photos: X

Congress builds counter-narrative to KCR's: 'Sonia, giver of Telangana'

KCR termed himself 'Telganana Bapu', the father of the state; Revanth govt now seeks to give credit to Sonia Gandhi, on 10th anniversary of state formation

At around 4 pm on February 17, 2006, K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), then Union Minister of Labour, returned to his Delhi residence from 10, Janpath, the residence of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, in joy.

Even before disclosing the reason behind his ecstasy to waiting friends, KCR rang up G Chinna Reddy, then Congress MLA, in Hyderabad. “Chinnanna, my mission in Delhi is accomplished. Amma (Sonia Gandhi) showered blessings on me, on my birthday, stating, ‘Rao Saab, your dream of achieving Telangana state will become a reality soon’. What more I want!” he said.

An emotional 70-year-old KCR also told Chinna Reddy: “I will merge the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) with the Congress. I will join Sonia’s team as her advisor in-charge of the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.”

Chinna Reddy was at the forefront of the Telangana rebellion within the Andhra Pradesh Congress and was considered a friend of KCR.

'Day of joy'

Later, KCR narrated what exactly happened at 10, Janpath to visitors and some media persons.

“I went to meet Sonia Gandhi to seek blessings on my birthday. Amma received me with affection. I touched Amma’s feet. I told her, ‘Amma, I have never touched anybody’s feet other than my mother. Now, I have touched your feet for blessings.’ Then she announced that my long-cherished dream of Telangana would become a reality soon,” he said.

This news triggered speculation that KCR would merge the TRS with the Congress the moment statehood was granted to Telangana.

Birth of state

Telangana state, however, could not happen ‘soon’. Parliament passed the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Bill 2014, after eight years, and only after a fierce agitation. Telangana came into existence on June 2, 2014.

The idea of TRS’ merger with the Congress was forgotten.

Five days after the passage of the Bill, KCR again knocked at the door of 10, Janpath, this time with his entire family, to thank Sonia Gandhi, then UPA chairperson. This meeting again revived speculation of a TRS-Congress merger, but KCR evaded any query in this regard.

Solo credit

In the 2014 elections, the TRS won the majority in the Assembly and formed a government. KCR dismissed the merger talk as a media creation.

And, a new narrative was born: KCR, braving a fast unto death, wrested Telangana from Sonia Gandhi.

An attempt was made to project KCR as ‘Telangana Bapu’ (Father of Telangana) who transformed the Telangana agitation in November 2009. The party started claiming that the fast unto death brought the UPA government to its knees.

After forming the government, KCR drove away all important leaders such as Prof Kodandaram, who led the movement in the later phase, so that he alone could take credit for the title of Telangana Bapu.

According to G Niranjan, senior vice president of Telangana Congress, a false narrative that KCR birthed Telangana state was promoted for 10 years.

“Everything revolved around KCR to make him Telangana Bapu. But this fell flat in the 2023 elections, when people voted him out of power,” Niranjan said.

Congress counters

Against this backdrop, the Congress, which came to power in the state in November 2023, planns to demolish KCR’s ‘founder of Telangana’ image and establish the ‘Sonia the giver of Telangana’ narrative.

The government of Chief Minister Revanth Reddy, for the first time, will publicly establish at a meeting on June 2 that Sonia Gandhi was responsible for Telangana’s formation.

Deputy Chief Minister Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, who moved a resolution in the cabinet for this, said it was due to Sonia's efforts and the Congress that the six-decade-long dream came true in 2014. “Sonia Gandhi promised statehood and fulfilled it braving all odds. Her presence will make the 10th anniversary complete and meaningful,” Bhatti said.

New statue

Meanwhile, the state government has begun steps to erase imprints of the Bharata Rashtra Samiti (BRS), as the TRS was renamed, that were intended to perpetuate KCR’s image as the man behind Telangana. In place of a Mother Telangana statue, designed by KCR himself, a new statue representing Telangana’s rural culture is expected to be unveiled soon.

Similarly, a song written by writer Andhesri that reverberated during the statehood movement has been adapted as the state anthem.

Oscar-winning music director MM Keeravani has set the tune for the anthem. The palatial chief minister’s residence built by KCR, which made the occupant inaccessible to the public, has been shunned.

Advice for Congress

However, a few intellectuals have a word of caution for the Congress.

A decision to acknowledge the role played by Sonia Gandhi in 2014 in the formation of Telangana was a bold step by the Congress government, opined Ravi Kanneganti of Rythu Swarajya Vedika. However, he cautioned that the fervour should not end with a symbolic gala event.

“The statehood ignited hope for better opportunities. The Congress should keep in mind that it is yet to be an unmet goal even after 10 years,” Ravi said.

Writer and the first Chairman of State Backward Caste Commission, BS Ramulu, said the Congress steps should not be even seen as vindictive.

“Honouring leaders like Sonia Gandhi, who was forgotten for 10 years, is right. But the government should ensure that its decisions are not seen as vindictive by other parties,” Ramulu said.

Grassroot campaign

Prof M Kodandaram, who led the Telangana movement in its final years, was happy that the collective leadership of Telangana movement was being acknowledged for the first time. Stating that hitherto an impression was created that only one leader fought for statehood, he welcomed the decision to invite Sonia Gandhi on June 2.

“It was a popular movement led by thousands of activists in villages, towns and bastis, unaffiliated to any political party. The Congress promised to meet the aspiration of these organisations and leaders. Let’s hope for the better,” said Kodandaram, who taught political science at Osmania University.
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