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The Hindu
The Hindu
Marri Ramu

A farmer’s son who ploughed his path in the field of politics

Soon after winning the students’ union president post at SRR Degree College in 1987, the only government degree college then in Karimnagar town, Ponnam Prabhakar used to tell his inner circle of friends that becoming MLA at least once in life was his dream.

Three-and-half decades later, he has found his dream fulfilled as he has not only become an MLA, but also a Minister in the Telangana Cabinet. But the journey was not smooth for the 56-year-old politician from undivided Karimnagar district, popularly known by his surname Ponnam.

Mr. Prabhakar is the youngest of the three sons of late Sathaiah Goud and Mallamma. He has two sisters. His simplicity is a trait he inherited from his father, a farmer whose world centred around only his agriculture. Even as numerous groups of students used to visit their house when Prabhakar fiercely fought the student union elections, his father would not ask anything and simply focussed on his farming activity.

“Winning SRR college students’ union president post created a strong political base for him as he defeated financially sound and politically powerful opponents,” Venkat Reddy, his college friend, recalled. The more his opponents tried to trouble him, he emerged bigger with resilience. His opponents at the college union elections, having decided to ensure his defeat by hook or crook, even filed two more nominations with similar names hoping to confuse students while voting and cause a split in votes that would result in his defeat. But Mr. Prabhakar won by a huge margin and a couple of months later, his jealous opponents assaulted him in the college resulting in bleeding injuries on his head.

They believed an intimidated Prabhakar would give up student politics for ever. But the young leader emerged stronger, by first becoming NSUI district president and then its State president in 1999. Five years later, he contested as MLA from Karimnagar as an independent candidate. Though he lost the election, he secured more than 20,000 votes making everyone take notice.

Some leaders of the Congress party said after his defeat in 2004 Assembly election that he himself sealed his political career. In a couple of years, he rose like a Phoenix by becoming AP MARKFED chairman. Everyone was sceptical when Congress party gave him the ticket to contest Karimnagar Lok Sabha seat in 2009. Some even wrote him off, commenting that the party’s top leadership gave him the ticket because he would surely bite the dust.

That was the time when former Chief Minister and BRS president K. Chandrasekhar Rao was the incumbent MP. Shattering all records, he won over Vinod Rao of TRS. With the then AP CM Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s support, he was made AP Congress MP Forum Convenor, a political pinnacle for a young politician. From there on, he became even more popular by striving for the creation of separate Telangana State even if it meant inviting the wrath of his political bosses.

Mr. Prabhakar believed his win in 2014 from the Karimnagar Parliament seat would be sure-shot because of his untiring work to secure separate Telangana State. His tough time started with Vinod Rao of TRS winning over him. He slid to his lowest ebb when he lost in 2018 Assembly election from Karimnagar.

With the second consecutive defeat, almost all second rung of leaders deserted him and joined parties in power at the State and Centre. “For 10 years, he struggled but never lost hope. His best move was shifting to Husnabad Assembly seat this year,” Prabhakar’s school classmate Srinivas remarked. The first-time MLA was inducted into the Cabinet by Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy.

“This is only a beginning. I am going to make the party more strong and Husnabad a model constituency,” says Mr. Prabhakar with a smile.

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