Will Uttam Reddy shave his beard?

Will Uttam Reddy shave his beard?

Telangana Congress president Uttam Kumar Reddy

Will N Uttam Kumar Reddy get to shave his long-grown beard after votes in the Telangana Assembly elections are counted on December 11?

Reddy, who always sported a clean-shaven look thanks to the discipline instilled in him during his days at the Indian Air Force, took a vow in 2016 not to shave his beard till his party, the Congress, came to power in India’s youngest state.

Whether Reddy, who was handpicked by party president Rahul Gandhi for the top job in the Telangana Congress, will get to sport a clean-shaven look after December 11 or have to wait for another five years is anyone’s guess.

The fighter pilot, who flew the MiG 21 and MiG 23 in frontline fighter squadrons, is fighting his biggest battle this time around, helming the Congress’ campaign in the December 7 Assembly elections as the chief of the state unit.

Obviously, Reddy is now the most influential leader in the Congress and the party has gained so much ground that in the past two months, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) was forced to strain his nerves by crisscrossing the state almost every single day – he thought it would be a cakewalk.

The Congress’ alliance with the TDP, an unimaginable proportion till the other day as both parties have fought bitter electoral battles for 35 years, has also helped immensely in the party’s spirited fight against the TRS and KCR.

When KCR dissolved the Assembly and advanced the polls by eight months, the morale among the Congress’ cadre was low and the party started off as an underdog.

Two months down the line, the Congress has not just made KCR walk the extra mile, but also forced him to go on the defensive. From the talk of development, KCR’s speech now spars Congress but is mostly devoted to his one-time boss and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.

The ‘Captain’, as he is known among his followers, hopes to occupy the chief minister’s chair in the event of the People’s Alliance sweeping the state, riding on the momentum that the alliance has achieved.

Reddy’s wife is a Congress MLA from the Kodad constituency where she is seeking re-election.

But political observers say though the alliance is expected to do well in urban pockets, the Congress’ alliance with the TDP has not gone down well with those in the rural areas for the TRS keeps reminding that Naidu is using the Congress to enter Telangana through the “back-door.” And the Congress’ hope of getting the unanimous support of the migrants from Andhra Pradesh settled in Telangana may not be as simple as one thinks – the Reddys who have been traditional supporters may not completely vote for the combine since many have always been against the TDP.

Reddy has served as the Comptroller of Security, Protocol, Administration, Foreign trips of President at Rashtrapati Bhavan before he hung his boots in 1994. He was first elected to the united Andhra Pradesh Assembly in 1999 and won subsequent elections in 2004, 2009 and 2014.