Why did Renuka Chowdhury attack Digvijay Singh?
‘Bombay to Goa’ of 1972 is now ‘Hyderabad to Goa’ 2017. And the Amitabh Bachchan in this political remake is Renuka Chowdhury. The former Union minister decided to beat senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh to pulp by calling the inability to form the government in Goa, “Stupid”.
For those following the political developments in Telangana, this was just the opportunity Chowdhury was waiting for. Her angst was as much about the mess in Panjim as it was about the developments back home in Khammam. For several months now, efforts have been on to push the firebrand leader to a corner, both in her district and in Telangana. So the moment, she saw Digvijay slipping badly in Goa, she decided to fire the first salvo.
Renuka wants Digvijay’s head so that he is no longer general secretary of the All India Congress Committee. Singh is one of the most powerful leaders in the party, looking after the critical states of Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Goa. When united Andhra Pradesh was under Congress rule, Digvijay Singh used to virtually lord over the state troubled by the Telangana agitation. Though the situation after Congress lost power badly in 2014 has altered quite a bit now, he is still the last word on just about everything in the PCC in both states.
Not only does Renuka want Digvijay Singh to take responsibility for the loss in Goa but also has asked the party leadership to give a free hand to regional leaders if the Congress wants to avoid further electoral debacles. Not many Congress leaders have come out supporting Renuka Chowdhury’s outburst but there is a lot of silent approval for her decision and daring to take the bull by its horns.
The rift is now new. In November 2015, district leaders from Khammam complained to Digvijay against Renuka for unilaterally announcing Yadavalli Krishna as the party candidate in the 2019 elections from Kothagudem assembly constituency. Renuka was accused of violating party discipline.
The feeling in the Telangana Congress is that Digvijay either tacitly or deliberately adopts a divide and rule policy, encouraging groupism. This means propping up several leaders in every district, so that they are kept busy checkmating each other. Things came to a head this month in Khammam during the Jana Avadena Sammelanam when Chowdhury and P Sudhakar Reddy, the deputy leader of the Telangana Congress Legislature Party clashed on stage in Digvijay Singh’s presence.
While Reddy objected to the presence of Yadavalli Krishna on the dais, Chowdhury was piqued by former minister V Venkateswar Rao’s entry. Krishna and Rao are patronised by Chowdhury and Reddy respectively and are fierce rivals in the party. Chowdhury suspects Digvijay is deliberately bypassing her in Khammam, besides not giving her any political space in Telangana. Goa is revenge for Khammam.
Unlike other Telangana Congress leaders, Renuka Chowdhury by virtue of having been a former Union minister and now a Rajya Sabha member, considers herself an equal to Digvijay, who too is a member of the Upper House. Telangana Congress leaders admit she is sidelined even on party banners and given her mercurial temperament, this outburst was only waiting to happen. Chowdhury showed she was streetsmart in hitting Digvijay when he messed up in front of the entire country so that it does not look like a case of settling old scores.
According to Telangana Congress leaders, there is resentment over Digvijay Singh insisting on having a say even in deciding candidates for corporator elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation in 2016. In several constituencies, this ended up angering the local MP and MLA.
Last year, there was speculation that former Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy could be drafted in a national role by given charge of Telangana as general secretary. Nothing came of it with Chandy opting to stick around in Kerala politics.
Given her present position in Telangana Congress, Chowdhury clearly has little to lose. One of the more articulate leaders of the party in the state, her fiery temperament is what is needed to wake up the party from the comatose state it is in. The party could do well to put the aggression to good use.