TPCC president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy.
TPCC president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy.

Uttam Kumar Reddy: The pilot who took off without his plane

Uttam Kumar Reddy's attempts to be seen as the frontman for the Telangana agitation to counter the TRS failed to garner much support

Hyderabad: On a busy afternoon, a convoy speeds into the Gandhi Bhavan or Telangana Congress office in Nampally in Hyderabad, raising a cloud of dust while passing a big poster of a young Indian Air Force (IAF) officer, dressed in his green jumpsuit, that clearly looks like one from the ages.

A man, with a jet black beard and unkempt hair jumps off the car, hurriedly walking the small flight of stairs, sending the otherwise lazily loitering people around the office into a frenzy.

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“It’s our president, Uttam Kumar Reddy ‘garu’," says a party worker, who have the habit of using full names in order to avoid any confusion as Reddy is a dominant caste grouping in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Reddy, now 56, is the young pilot from the poster, but has barely any resemblance to his former self. But his experience as a ‘disciplined and team oriented’ pilot is part of the narrative being built around Reddy, who is one of the front runners to the top post, if the Congress led ‘Praja Kutami’ does come to power in Telangana. On the contrary, he might be the first head to roll if the Congress, which has a tendency to credit the high command for victories and blame the local units in losses.

Though Reddy won his seat, the Congress managed to win only 21 seats (of 119), shattering his and the party’s claims of having the popular support. Reddy’s attempts to be seen as the frontman for the Telangana agitation to counter the TRS failed to garner much support.

Known to have associations with former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Reddy, who has served in many important ministries in the earlier undivided Andhra Pradesh, has been the leading the faction driven Telangana unit of the Congress since 2015.

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“He can be broadly described as a constitutionalist," says a close family friend of Reddy, requesting not to be named. Defending Reddy who is criticised by party members and opposition for already ‘behaving like the CM’, the person cited above says he is capable of giving up power.

But the rising factionalism, including one led by Reddy, shows the stereotypical politician in him, who has to fight to remain relevant and undisputed in a party where dissent and local organisation threatening dissent is often attributed to its ‘democratic structure’.

“He may not be the most articulate. He is blunt, comes straight to the point and not too much into finessing," the second person cited above said. But Reddy, who swore not to shave his beard until the Congress comes to power in Telangana, is likely only to miss a trip to barbers anytime soon.

Reddy was first elected to the AP legislative assembly in 1999 from Kodad and retained this seat in 2004. After delimitation, he has successfully contested the 2009 and 2014 elections from Huzur Nagar, leaving Kodad to his wife, who is also a legislator. Reddy had served as the minister for housing, Weaker Selection Housing Programme, AP Cooperative Housing Societies Federation and AP Housing Board in the N. Kiran Kumar Reddy led Congress government.

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