Politics of padayatra in Congress: AICC throws weight behind Bhatti
DECCAN CHRONICLE | Md Nizamuddin
Hyderabad: While TPCC president A. Revanth Reddy's 60-day padayatra is still ongoing, CLP leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka began his 1,365-km "Haath se Haath Jodo Abhiyan" foot march at Boath Assembly constituency on Thursday.
AICC chief Mallikarjun Kharge, a Dalit himself, and AICC incharge (TS) Manikrao Thakre appear to be throwing their weight behind Bhatti who belongs the Dalit community.
In addition to Thakre, AICC secretaries Nadeem Javed and Rohit Chaudhary, as well as MLA D. Sridhar Babu, will be participating in Bhatti's yatra. Other leaders are expected to join him at various locations along the way.
According to party insiders, Revanth Reddy does not appear to be providing Bhatti with support. When Bhatti attempted to include senior PCC leaders such as general secretaries and vice-presidents in his padayatra, Revanth Reddy reportedly objected.
"Bhatti was interested in enlisting some PCC leaders in order to make this yatra a success, but Revanth stopped him. Revanth objected since they were picked without his consent. This demonstrates that Revanth is unwilling to extend his cooperation. Bhatti’s yatra is posing a big challenge for Revanth, given the fact that the latter's yatra cannot be fully called a padayatra because he is also travelling on vehicles," said a leader.
When Revanth Reddy kicked-off his padayatra on February 6, Thakre, Mulugu MLA Seethakka and former minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir were present. However, numerous senior leaders have been conspicuously missing from the TPCC chief’s padayatra for more than a month.
In Revanth Reddy’s Karimnagar public meeting on March 9, Nalgonda MP N. Uttam Kumar Reddy, former MP V. Hanumantha Rao, former minister Konda Surekha, MLAs D. Sridhar Babu, Seethakka, MLC T. Jeevan Reddy, former minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir, former MLA Vamshi Chand Reddy and Bhatti himself were present.
Party insiders asserted that Uttam Kumar Reddy and Bhatti only attended Revanth Reddy's public gathering due to the presence of Congress heavyweights like AICC general secretary Jairam Ramesh and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel in addition to Thakre.
Interestingly, Bhatti and former deputy CM Damodar Raja Narsimha, both Dalit leaders, reportedly met Kharge in New Delhi on March 14. Revanth Reddy was at the centre of a controversy that day, when he claimed that senior Reddy leaders had sold out to the BRS.
Many party leaders said that the AICC leadership was eager to elevate Bhatti as a formidable Congress leader, and, given that he is a Dalit leader and considering the caste equations, he may be projected as the CM candidate.
A senior leader believes that Bhatti is trying to position himself as an alternative leader, someone who is approachable.
"Both Bhatti and Damodar met Kharge, and the yatra being taken up by Bhatti suggests that there is an alternate power centre swiftly emerging within the state Congress. You can understand what it implies when two prominent Dalit leaders meet with the AICC chief," the senior leader added.