Even as Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh were bracing for Cyclone Michaung on Sunday, the Congress stormed across Telangana, putting an end to almost decade-long rule of Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS).
The defeat became more bitter for the BRS (previously Telangana Rashtra Samithi) as its supremo and Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao lost to the BJP's K Venkata Ramana in Kamareddy, even though he retained Gajwel seat.
KCR, as the BRS chief is popularly known, was at one stage even placed third, trailing behind Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president A Revanth Reddy.
Soon after the trend became clear, Revanth Reddy took to X (previously Twitter) and paid homage to Srikanthachari, one of the martyrs of the Telangana movement.
"Kudos to the immortals who kept Telangana's aspirations high in the sky," the Congress chief who won from Kodangal wrote.
In another post, he was more explicit: "Bowing the head to Kodangal Gadda (land), who raised the flag of self-respect as high as the sky."
Revanth Reddy's tweets pointed at a major factor that played a pivotal role in the BRS's defeat: The Telangana pride.
KCR, who rode to power twice in 2014 and 2018 on pro-Telangana sentiments, fell to the same factor as his government, and party men alienated the majority, specifically the 61.12 per cent of the rural population, with rampant corruption, nepotism, and arrogance.
The welfare schemes of the government, too, did not help the BRS. Several of the schemes went against the party.
The Rythu Bandhu, Dalit Bandhu, and the Dignity 2BHK House schemes looked good when announced, but their implementation was skewed, angering the electorate.
The Rythu Bandhu, also known as Farmers' Investment Support Scheme, was envisaged to provide financial support to farmers during the rabi (winter) and kharif (monsoon) seasons.
Announced on May 10, 2018, the scheme promised to provide Rs 10,000 per acre to farmers. Tenant farmers, however, were excluded from the scheme.
However, the BRS government digitised land records through its Dharani portal, an integrated land records management system. More than making the system efficient, the flawed handling and updation of the portal made several farmers landless, and even tenant on their own properties.
Instances of land sold generations ago going back to original owners due to the flawed updation of the portal have been widely reported from across the state. Those who bought the land, had to watch helplessly as government officials at the mandal level, too, washed their hands of.
The High Court of Telangana, too, had criticised the portal for its failures that made people run from pillar to post to rectify the mistakes. With many farmers becoming the victims of Dharani and recorded as landless, they could not claim the Rythu Bandhu benefits.
One of the promises both the Congress and the BJP made during the run-up to the November 30 Assembly polls was to scrap Dharani, and replace it with a better and efficient computer-based system. The promise went well with many, who were forced to chase officials — mostly in vain — to correct the mistakes.
Suicide of farmers over the non-disbursal of Rythu Bandhu, too, were reported.
The BRS government launched the Dalit Bandhu scheme with much fanfare in August 2021. The plan was to provide a one-time payment of Rs 10 lakh to eligible members of the backward classes as capital for starting a business of their choice. The scheme invited criticism with people alleging nepotism in selecting the beneficiaries. Most of the funds, they said, went to those close to BRS leaders.
The Dignity Housing scheme was the BRS government's prestigious programme to provide two-bedroom-hall-kitchen houses to the homeless. This scheme, too, triggered allegations of nepotism as thousands of eligible people were left out. Additionally, it has also been reported that the government did not allot houses that were constructed under the scheme.
The government was to construct 2.93 lakh houses and hand them over to the below poverty line families by 2023. So far, it has constructed 1.42 lakh houses and started allotting them just a few months before the polls. While several families received the houses in some constituencies, very few were allotted the residences in other segments.
Unemployment and failure in conducting Telangana State Public Service Commission (TSPSC) exams angered the youngsters, especially those in rural areas. Despite preparing for the tests, the TSPSC was forced to cancel the exams due to malpractices, including leakage of question papers.
Though the government claimed that the question paper leak was not a systemic or institutional failure, youngsters held it against the government.
The BRS was the first to announce its candidates for the majority of seats in Telangana. Barring a few, the party retained almost all of its 99 MLAs. The retention of the MLAs added to the anti-incumbency factor, which reflected in the elections.
While the BRS seemingly went into defensive during the campaign phase, the Congress seemed confident. Buoyed by the massive win in the May 10 Assembly elections in Karnataka, it hit the ground running.
Additionally, it put up a united front as the leaders — barring a very few — buried the hatchet and worked like a well-oiled machine.
Besides the Karnataka win, three yatras, too, helped Congress campaign machinery. Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra did the groundwork for the Congress, while Revanth Reddy's "Yatra for Change" further strengthened the party.
The Congress Legislative Party leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka later undertook his "Vijayabheri", connecting with the people at the grassroots level.
Revanth Reddy and Vikramarka's yatras were likened to the one undertaken by former chief minister of unified Andhra Pradesh, the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy, which helped him win.
While the BRS projected KCR as the architect of Telangana, the Congress countered it, arguing it was Sonia Gandhi who made the statehood possible. The Congress succeeded in countering the BRS's "KCR is Telangana" argument, which took the regional party to power in 2014 and 2018.
Despite the party facing charges of dynasty politics, the Congress also succeeded in highlighting the family rule in the BRS. KCR's son KT Rama Rao and nephew T Harish Rao were ministers in the state and had a huge say in matters of governance and party. His daughter K Kavitha is an MLC.
The Congress also replicated its "guarantee politics", which was a hit in Karnataka, in Telangana also. The party made six guarantees to the voters.
Mahalakshmi: Women will receive Rs 2,500 every month, gas cylinders for Rs 500, free travel in RTC buses for women.
Rythu Bharosa: Farmers to get Rs 15,000 per acre annually, tenant farmers to get Rs 12,000 per year, additional bonus of Rs 500 per year for paddy.
Gruha Jyothi: 200 units of free power to every household.
Indiramma Indlu: 250-sq-yard plot for all Telangana movement fighters, house site and Rs 5 lakh for homeless BPL families.
Yuva Vikasam: Vidya Bharosa card worth Rs 5 lakh for students, international schools in every mandal.
Cheyutha: Rs 4,000 for the elderly, Rs 10 lakh Rajiv Arogyasri insurance.
A few days before the elections, the Congress invoked Indira Gandhi, the former prime minister, who was representing Medak (in unified Andhra Pradesh) when she was assassinated on October 31, 1984. Though she was not familiar to the younger generation, the older generation had fond memories of her. Additionally, Rajashekhara Reddy had launched a housing scheme, Indiramma Illu, in her name to make the state hut-free.
Indira Gandhi's name found resonance with the backward communities and tribals in the state. Out of the 31 constituencies reserved for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, the Congress won 23, helping it to go past the simple majority of 60 seats in the 119-member Assembly. The party had only seven seats in the second Telangana Assembly.
The BRS won the remaining eight SC/ST seats. The BJP got none.
The BJP, however, made gains by winning eight seats, up from its three MLAs in the second Assembly. The BJP's hardcore Hindutva template and minority-appeasement tactics, however, failed to make a major impact in Telangana. It has been believed that the row over Sanathana Dharma might have helped the saffron party gain more votes. The All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), which contested in nine constituencies, retained its seven seats in the Assembly.
The Left parties — the CPM and the CPI — were aligned with the BRS till the latter unilaterally unveiled its list of candidates. Both Communist parties had helped the BRS win the Munugode bypoll last year and were hoping for an alliance.
Finding itself left in the cold, the CPM and CPI tried to ally with the Congress. The CPM later decided to go it alone and fielded 17 candidates, mostly in Kammam and Nalgonda districts. The party was left disappointed.
Meanwhile, the CPI accepted the lone seat — Kothegudem — the Congress had offered it. The party candidate, Kunamneni Sambasiva Rao won the seat by a margin of 26,547 votes, defeating his nearest rival, Jalagam Venkat Rao of the All India Forward Bloc.
The Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which decided not to contest the election since its supremo N Chandrababu Naidu has been entangled in a legal battle in Andhra Pradesh, saw its votes splitting in Telangana. However, the Congress seems to have benefitted more from the TDP's decision.