Groupism and intra-party rivalries within the party came to the fore at a meeting of the Greater Hyderabad Congress Committee the other day. Supporters of Anjan Kumar Yadav, former Secunderabad MP, created a scene reacting sharply to the rumor that the party high command had suggested the name of former cricket captain, Mohd. Azharuddin to the Lok Sabha seat.
Senior leaders including Telangana Congress Party President, Uttam Kumar Reddy, Sarve Satyanarayana and Marri Shashidhar Reddy were among the silent spectators present at the meeting, while former MP V. Hanumantha Rao, is reported to have walked away in a huff.
Azharuddin is reported to have shown his willingness to contest from Secunderabad which led to the fresh round of commotion over the issue. The buzz that the former cricketer enjoys the support of a section of party leadership here, only added to the confusion.
Anjan Kumar Yadav was visibly irritated when questioned by television reporters on the issue. He replied emphatically that he would contest from Secunderabad and added for good measure, that Azharuddin may have lost his mental balance.
Anjan Yadav also advised Azharuddin to contest on his party’s ticket from the Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency, remarking that he would lend his support to the cricketer’s candidature if he chose to contest for the AIMIM-held seat. While he may have had his own reason to say this, the underlying truth is that the Congress has never mounted a serious challenge to AIMIM in Hyderabad. In fact, it appears to have given up on the Hyderabad seat, realizing that it cannot wrest it from Asaduddin Owaisi. The last time a non-BJP party candidate took on the formidable MIM in Hyderabad was in the 2009 elections, when the editor of the Urdu daily, Siasat, Zahid Ali Khan contested as a TDP candidate supported by the TRS and left parties. However, the election turned out to be a walkover for Owaisi, who retained the seat with a majority of over a lakh votes against Khan.
Azharuddin, therefore, is naturally reluctant to wade into the waters of certain defeat. Aiming at the Hyderabad seat would be an act of political harakiri for him. He had contested successfully from Moradabad in 2009 on a Congress ticket and has expressed his keenness to try his luck in Secunderabad, this time around. Reports say that the party high command is weighing various options and that Azhar is among the prominent front-runners for the Secunderabad ticket.
Anjan Kumar Yadav had won from Secunderabad twice (2004 and 2009), conceding it to Bandaru Dattatreya in 2014. With a high degree of anti-incumbency against the Centre particulary, in urban pockets, he reckons he stands a fair chance of wresting the seat back from the BJP. Yadav claims he has nursed Secunderabad over two terms and is Congress’ best bet.
The noise over Secunderabad is symptomatic of the malaise which plagues the Congress in Telangana. It is seen as being more of a party of leaders than workers and followers. Jaipal Reddy, V. Hanumantha Rao, Jana Reddy, Uttam Kumar Reddy, Shabbir Ali, Shashidhar Reddy are leaders in their own independent right, but not one of them is a crowd-puller who can carry the Congress forward in the fledgling state. (By Y Satyanarayana)