Sonia Gandhi left her indelible mark on Telugu politics

Update: 2023-02-26 03:36 GMT
A file photo of Congress MP T Subbarami Reddy (L) and Kerala MP Kodikunnil Suresh (R) with former Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi.

Hyderabad: Congress former president Sonia Gandhi, undoubtedly a power centre in Indian politics for over three decades, has left an indelible mark on the Telugu political canvas.

Her decisions directly or indirectly led to radical socio, economic and political changes, the most crucial being the 90s liberalisation and carving out of Telangana state, while they resulted in a Telugu — P.V. Narasimha Rao — becoming Prime Minister who heralded path-breaking reforms and two Chief Ministers, K. Chandrasekhar Rao and Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, emerging as the most powerful leaders in their respective states.

Soina Gandhi had seriously considered making her electoral debut from the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh in the 1999 general elections. When it was decided that she would also contest from south, then PCC chief Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, who later became Chief Minister, offered his bastion Kadapa.

After much dilly dallying, she chose Bellary in Karnataka, where she defeated Sushma Swaraj, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s “desi” answer to Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origins.

Referring to formation of Telangana, Prof. K. Nageshwar, former MLC and political analyst, said: “She stood by her promise to create Telangana state.” Remarkably, Sonia Gandhi went ahead with giving Telangana statehood despite being cautioned about the political fall-out.

According to a senior Congress leader, her trait of keeping a promise and the suicide of many youths during that time  influenced the decision.

Congress leaders, however, rue her decision to leave it to veteran Congressman Digvijay Singh to take a decision on then TRS president Chandrashekar Rao’s proposal to merge his party with the Congress before 2014 polls. When Rao was ready join the Congress with a rider that he should be made Chief Minister, Sonia Gandhi sent him to Singh who, both the sides, claim “mishandled” the situation with his assertion that Rao would be the seventh contender after six from the Congress.

In the case of Jagan Mohan Reddy, Sonia Gandhi had stopped him from continuing the “odarpu yatra”, calling on kin of Dr Rajasekhar Reddy’s admirers who died by suicide grieving over the then CM’s untimely death in a copter crash.

While her decision that Jagan Mohan Reddy should hold meetings in all district headquarters and meet the victims’ families there led to the latter choosing his own path with YSR Congress, the subsequent decision to keep him in jail for more than year turned him into a formidable force. Bifurcation of the state led to rout of the Congress in the residual state.

Though Sonia Gandhi preferred Narasimha Rao, known for his staunch loyalty to the family and considered a weak politician, over others in 1991, she  soon developed differences with him. “According to PV, it was Arjun Singh who poisoned her ears and the animosity grew as she believed that her husband’s assassination case was getting diluted,” said K. Ramachandra Murthy, senior journalist and close associate of the former prime minister. “Out of sheer grudge, she did not allow PV’s final rites in Delhi and sent the mortal remains to Hyderabad and this decision left a scar on Congress,” he pointed out.

Interestingly, Narasimha Rao’s photograph was prominently displayed along with those of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh on the dais at the Raipur plenary, apparently a reconciliatory move on her last day in politics.  

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