Hyderabad: The Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) set a new joint trajectory when All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Rahul Gandhi and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu addressed public meetings together on a common platform, as part of their alliance’s campaign in Telangana for forthcoming assembly polls.
Presenting a united front, Gandhi and Naidu both attacked caretaker chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, calling his party, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), a “B-team" of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The coming together of Gandhi and Naidu was a first for the Congress and TDP, which have been political rivals for over three decades. The TDP was formed in 1982 by former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. T. Rama Rao.
For the forthcoming 7 December elections, the TRS, which won the polls in 2014, is facing the Congress which is in an alliance with the TDP, Communist Party of India and the Telangana Jana Samithi.
Both Gandhi and Naidu also perhaps set the stage for the 2019 general elections, as the latter has begun mobilizing other opposition parties over the last few weeks to forge an anti-BJP coalition along with the Congress.
Naidu quit the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in March this year, paving the way for an anti-BJP coalition for the 2019 general elections. His decision to align with the Congress, which he called a “democratic compulsion", surprised everyone.
The two leaders addressed three public meetings in Khammam district and Hyderabad on Wednesday. Alleging that Narendra Modi was undermining governmental institutions like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Supreme Court, Naidu said, “All regional parties must work against the NDA. It is necessary and that is why this alliance was born in Telangana."
Stating that N.T. Rama Rao founded the party for Telugu people, Naidu said that he would also work for the people of Telangana. “Telugu people should work together. KCR (as Rao is known) is speaking against me, I don’t know why. Would he have been here without the TDP (Rao was a TDP minister in the past)?" said the Andhra Pradesh chief minister.
Naidu also said that voting for the TRS and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen is akin to voting for the BJP. “I am asking the TRS and AIMIM; who will you go with this time (2019)?" he asked.
Speaking after him, Gandhi also questioned the work undertaken by the NDA government since it came into in 2014. “Telangana was supposed to get a rail factory at Kazipet, a steel plant and financial incentives. AP was also promised that it would get special category status. The Congress is going to fulfil all of these promises made to the two states," said the Congress chief.
Calling KCR Modi’s “B-team", Gandhi said the Congress-led alliance in Telangana will first defeat the TRS and then the BJP in New Delhi in 2019.
“The TRS supported Modi with the goods and services tax and his every other bill, while the Congress opposed it. The chief minister here only knows how to redesign irrigation projects. He changed the name of the Pranahita (Chevella) irrigation project to Kaleswaram, and increased the cost from ₹ 40,000 crore to ₹ 90,000 crore," he alleged.
Promising to give ₹ 10 lakh to the families of those who lost their lives during the Telangana statehood agitation, Gandhi said that if the Congress-led alliance comes to power, it will strive to provide employment to the youth in Telangana.