Congress leader Sonia Gandhi stood alongside Revanth Reddy as he arrived for his swearing-in.
Revanth Reddy arrived for his swearing-in ceremony Thursday - the 54-year-old is now Chief Minister of Telangana and head of the first Congress government in the still-young state - in an open-top jeep waving to a vocal and adoring crowd at Hyderabad's 30,000-seat capacity LB Stadium.
READ | Revanth Reddy Takes Oath As Telangana Chief Minister, Gandhis On Stage
As big-ticket entrances go, Mr Reddy's was relatively subdued; dressed in a white shirt and black trousers, and perched on a heavily-garlanded open-top vehicle driven cautiously through a sea of supporters chanting his name. But, in politics, optics are at least as important as the situation itself.
And in this entrance there was one important message - Sonia Gandhi standing by his side. Why was this significant?
Because the ex-Congress chief is revered in the southern state as 'Sonia amma (mother)' and seen by many as the driving force behind the creation of Telangana in 2014 - when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was in power at the centre.
For Revanth 'Tiger' Reddy, who began his post-swearing-in speech with a "Jai Sonia amma" call, standing next to Sonia Gandhi does two things.
First, it underlines the support of the matriarch of the Gandhi family in his elevation to Telangana's top job - just six years after joining the party.
Widely seen as a near-automatic choice for Chief Minister, Mr Reddy still had to see off two challengers - Uttam Kumar Reddy and Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka.
Both are Congress veterans with decades of service to the party, both played key roles in the campaign that delivered Sunday's win, and both expected to be 'rewarded' for their loyalty.
READ | Revanth Reddy Is Congress Choice, Rivals Give Party A "Loyalty" Reminder
For now, any discontent at losing the top post to Mr Reddy has been put to bed by making one a Deputy Chief Minister and the other a minister, most likely with a high-profile portfolio. And Mrs Gandhi's public show of support should strengthen the new Chief Minister's hand.
Second, it also ups Mr Reddy's likeability factor among the people of Telangana, millions of whom are firm admirers of Sonia Gandhi particularly, if not the Congress as a party. Mr Reddy may not have needed the helping hand - he is already hugely popular - but a boost could never hurt.
Telangana was formed in 2014 amid tension within the then-ruling Congress, and Mrs Gandhi is widely seen as having played a key role in pushing through the bill that birthed the state.
READ | Telangana State Likely, Sonia Gandhi Has Cleared It, Say Sources
This included reaching out to the BJP's Venkaiah Naidu for her fierce rival's support, and even expelling six of her MPs for attempting to stall the bill in the Lok Sabha and issuing no-confidence motions.
The Congress has never shied away from reminding Telangana voters of Mrs Gandhi's contribution, even demanding, in 2020, that a chapter on this topic be included in school syllabuses.
"Just as role of KCR (outgoing Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, hailed as the 'father of Telangana') cannot be denied... same is with Sonia Gandhiji's role. You are incorporating KCR's role in school syllabus... then why not incorporate Soniaji's contribution," then party leader Sravan Dasoju said.
Mrs Gandhi herself called in that love ahead of this election; in a video message 48 hours before voting, she said, "I, with my colleagues, had the opportunity to be part of the birth of this great state... It is my dream to see a Congress government in Telangana... Will you give us your support?"
The answer, as it turned out, was yes. The Congress eased to victory after votes were counted on Sunday, winning 64 of 119 seats to oust the BRS that had ruled since the state was formed in 2014. The Congress, divided when Telangana was formed, failed to capitalise on its role in its birth to win the first election. Now, nine years later, it finally has the reigns, and a second state in South India.
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