No Muslim representation in Revanth Reddy-led Congress government. All eyes on Cabinet expansion expected soon.
HYDERABAD — A tug of war is on between supporters of defeated Congress candidates Mohammed Azharuddin and Mohammed Ali Shabbir for inclusion in the Anumula Revanth Reddy-led government which took the oath of office in Telangana on Thursday.
Thousands of people attended the swearing-in ceremony of Revanth Reddy who took oath as chief minister. Senior Congress leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka (deputy chief minister) and ten others also took the oath of office.
The ministers who were sworn in are N. Uttam Kumar Reddy, Damodar Rajanarasimha, Komati Reddy Venkat Reddy, D. Sridhar Babu, Ponguleti Srinivasa Reddy, Ponnam Prabhakar, Konda Surekha, Danasari Anasuya Seethakka, Tummala Nageshwar Rao and Jupally Krishna Rao.
The party claimed to have ensured social justice in constituting the Cabinet but it has not given any representation to the Muslim community. Some party leaders, however, explained that all ministers were chosen from the newly-elected MLAs and since no Muslim was elected on Congress ticket, the community did not enjoy any representation in the government. However, the Cabinet will be expanded soon to give representation to other left-out sections and regions, party insiders said.
Though intense lobbying is on for the inclusion of Azharuddin, former Indian cricket captain and the current working president of the state unit of Congress party, in the Cabinet, party insiders claim that senior leader and former minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir is likely to get the nod whenever the Cabinet is expanded.
Shabbir, who unsuccessfully contested from Nizamabad Urban constituency, is likely to be nominated to the Legislative Council and could be the only Muslim face in the Cabinet.
Since the Cabinet can have a maximum of 18 members and there are many contenders for Cabinet berths among the MLAs and also from a handful of seniors who could not win the elections, the possibility of nominating two Muslims to the Legislative Council to pave way for their inclusion in the Cabinet appears remote.
Since the formation of Telangana state in 2014, the Cabinet has had only one Muslim minister. In both Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) terms, Mohammed Mahmood Ali served as a minister. In the first term, K. Chandrashekhar Rao, named him deputy chief minister and was allotted the revenue portfolio. After BRS retained power in 2018, Mahmood Ali was made home minister. In both the terms, he was nominated to the Legislative Council.
Interestingly, in both the terms, BRS had only one Muslim MLA – Mohammed Shakil Aamir but he was not made a minister. He was also the lone Muslim candidate of BRS and was elected to the assembly from Bodhan both in 2014 and 2018 but this time he lost the election to P. Sudershan Reddy of Congress.
Be it BRS, Congress, or Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in the undivided Andhra Pradesh, all parties claiming to be secular fielded Muslim candidates only from Muslim-majority constituencies in Hyderabad which have been traditional strongholds of All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). The exercise was a mere formality, knowing fully well that they would have no chance of winning against AIMIM candidates.
Belying all expectations of Congress fielding 4-5 Muslim candidates outside the constituencies held by AIMIM, it gave tickets to only two Muslims – Shabbir and Azharuddin.
Shabbir lost the election to BJP’s Dhanpal Suryanarayana by over 15,000 votes. BRS candidate Ganesh Bigala, who was elected in 2014 and 2018, finished third this time. The division of Muslim votes between Congress and BRS candidates appears to have helped BJP.
Shabbir was elected twice from Kamareddy in 1989 and 2004. He had served as a minister in the Congress government in united Andhra Pradesh between 2004 and 2009 and played a key role in four percent reservation for backward Muslims in government jobs and education. He, however, lost elections from the same constituency in 2014 and 2018.
This time, Congress shifted him to Nizamabad Urban as Revanth Reddy was fielded from Kamareddy to challenge KCR as he decided to contest from two constituencies (Gajwel and Kamareddy). In a surprising outcome, both KCR and Revanth Reddy were defeated by K.V. Ramana Reddy of the BJP.
Azharuddin, contesting from Jubilee Hills in Hyderabad, lost to the sitting MLA of BRS, Maganti Gopinath, by over 16,000 votes. The BJP candidate finished third. AIMIM had come under sharp criticism from Congress for fielding a Muslim candidate from this constituency. Rashed Farzuddin of AIMIM finished a poor fourth.
It remains to be seen who gets the Cabinet berth – Shabbir or Azhar.