Revanth Reddy was sworn in as Telangana Chief Minister. (File)
There is a reason Revanth Reddy, Telangana's new Chief Minister, is "Tiger Revanth" to his admirers. That is because he bides his time and attacks at the right moment. And when he is under attack, he fights back and fights fiercely.
On July 1, 2015, when Revanth Reddy emerged from Cherlapally jail after a month's imprisonment - he was caught on camera trying to bribe a legislator to vote in a particular way on behalf of Chandrababu Naidu - he had declared that his one-point agenda was to defeat KCR or K Chandrashekar Rao. He converted the embarrassment and humiliation of jail into an opportunity to take on the tallest leader of Telangana.
"I will see your end. My time will come," he had declared on that day. Revanth Reddy has worked towards that goal since. That episode cut him deep. He had to come out on bail for 12 hours to attend his only daughter's engagement.
In 2017, he told Chandrababu Naidu there was no future for him in the Telugu Desam Party in Telangana, and joined the Congress. In June 2021, he became state Congress chief amid allegations that he had paid a huge bribe to bag the post. This despite the fact that at that time, the Congress was perhaps at its lowest, under threat of being wiped out politically in the state.
He prepared his pitch, attacking KCR and the BRS government in a manner that demanded attention. All along, fighting off attacks from party colleagues. Even during the selection of candidates, there were allegations that he had "sold" tickets and the BRS nicknamed him "Rate-entha Reddy", mocking him as morally and politically corrupt. KTR, the Chief Minister's son and minister, referred to his past links with the RSS (BJP's ideological mentor) and Chandrababu Naidu, saying voting for him would be a vote for the BJP or even the Telugu Desam.
Revanth Reddy took all the criticism and knocked them out of the boundary (though he is into football more than cricket).
At 30, when he became president of Jubilee Hills Housing Society, which is the address of Hyderabad's rich and famous, he declared that he would one day be Chief Minister. He joined KCR's TRS in 2002 but when he didn't get the chance to contest from the Kalwakurthy assembly seat in 2004, he quit.
The story of how Revanth Reddy won his first election as a Zilla Parishad member is a revelation.
It was 2006. There were 21 candidates and Revanth Reddy worked on each of them to convince them to withdraw. Only one candidate from the Congress, (Sankireddy Jagadeeswar Reddy), known to be close to YS Rajasekhar Reddy, who was Chief Minister at the time, refused to step aside. Revanth Reddy then tracked down nine people in the area with a similar name and got them to contest the election. The confusion over the names split the votes and Revanth, an Independent, won the election. He won as MLC in 2007, again as an Independent, after which he met Chandrababu Naidu and joined his party.
Revanth was also invited to join the Congress around that time but told NDTV he refused because he felt there would be better opportunity to make a mark as a politician if he was in the opposition.
In 2009, Revanth Reddy was given the B form at midnight by Chandrababu Naidu to contest from Kodangal. He says he had to find out where the assembly constituency was located, to go and file his nomination papers the next morning because it was the last day. It took him two weeks to win the election, polling over 46 per cent of the votes against a five-time MLA of the Congress, Gurunath Reddy.
In 2014, he doubled his victory margin. In 2018, the TRS strategised to defeat him in Kodangal but he made a comeback as the Malkajgiri MP in 2019.
54-year-old Revanth Reddy is not from a political family but doesn't hesitate to say that he is politically ambitious and has always looked to exploit opportunities that came his way.
Born to an agricultural family, one of seven siblings, he graduated with a visual arts degree from the Osmania University.
Revanth Reddy initially dabbled with small businesses, real estate, and set up a printing press. That was when he met his wife Geetha, who was from a political family. She is the niece of late Congress leader Jaipal Reddy. They met on a boat ride at Nagarjunasagar and the love story could pale a romantic flick.
A friend who knew Revanth from those days says it was his fearlessness and charisma that attracted her. Her family, opposed to the match, sent her off to college in Delhi, to live with her uncle Jaipal Reddy, but that did not end the romance. They married in 1992 when he was just about 23.
Geetha says she never wanted him in politics but eventually made her peace with the idea, realising that he was passionate about it.
The couple has a daughter Nymisha, and now a grandson Reyansh, who was born in April. "Reyansh has been lucky for his grand-dad," a beaming Nymisha told NDTV.
The proud grandfather is often photographed with the baby boy. Even when he went to file his nomination papers at Kodangal, he had held up the baby before the huge crowds like a trophy.
The story goes that Nymisha had wanted to go abroad to study but the doting dad said he would have to move too. So, her plans had to change.
Revanth likes to say that his stint with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student wing of the RSS, were his "student days" in politics. In 2001-02, he joined the then-new party TRS, but after some disappointment, shifted to the Telugu Desam, which he says was his junior college. The Congress is University, he says.
His admission to the "university" came about on the invitation of Rahul Gandhi, who spotted his talent. Digvijaya Singh was talking to him and Rahul Gandhi took it forward. He says he initially refused but joined six months later. He says he had also been invited by the BJP but rejected the offer.
In his political journey of about 20 years, Revanth Reddy has always been in the party that was not in power. He was always in protest mode, criticising the ruling party. Now as he graduates to head boy, his leadership will be tested.