Telangana Chief Minister and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), who is on a temple tour in Kerala and Tamil Nadu ought to be the most worried politician in India. He left for Kerala for a summer sojourn on May 6, where he made a courtesy call to his counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan.
Vijayan, who in the current scenario is an important leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has not given an assurance of his party joining the KCR’s federal front — an alliance of parties excluding the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.
At the national level, the Left parties are most likely go with the Mahagathbandhan, which is a loose alliance of anti-BJP parties. If and when the need comes, this alliance will join hands with the Congress to keep the BJP at bay.
Another important leader who KCR wanted to meet was Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) President MK Stalin — but Stalin refused to meet the Telangana leader on the pretext of campaigning for the May 19 by-elections for four assembly seats in Tamil Nadu. The fact is that the DMK has a pre-poll alliance with the Congress and, perhaps, Stalin is the only regional leader who has openly supported Rahul’s candidature for prime ministership.
Why did KCR choose this time to meet non-BJP party leaders? It must be remembered that the TRS founder has no strong political ideology, and is thus very flexible when it comes to his political relations. In 2004, he joined the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to become Union minister and in 2009, he was seen in an election rally of BJP’s senior leader LK Advani in Ludhiana. Since 2014, he has been perceived as a friend of the BJP — he supported demonitisation, GST and other decisions made by the Narendra Modi government. Modi, while comparing the two Telugu states, has praised the KCR-led Telangana government.
KCR’s federal front was floated a year back and is also seen as an attempt to help the BJP in the post-poll scenario if the saffron party falls short of numbers. In March 2018, KCR visited West Bengal and met Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata. On the way back, he met Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneshwar. KCR also called on Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy, former Prime Minister HD Dewe Gouda and former DMK chief M Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu.
However, not even one leader among them stood in support of KCR’s idea of a non-BJP, non-Congress federal front. Instead, Banerjee joined hands with KCR’s arch rival Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu, and through him she is likely to join the Mahagathbandhan. Naidu is going to be with the Mahagathbandhan in Delhi in the event of Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSRCP coming into power in Andhra Pradesh. Banerjee, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Jammu and Kashmir former CM Farooq Abdullah have campaigned in favour of TDP in the recent elections in Andhra Pradesh.
The Communist Party of India (CPI), which is an election ally of Pawan Kalyan’s Janasena in Andhra Pradesh, is part of the Mahagathbandhan along with Naidu at the national level. Also the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party are part of this Mahagathbandhan. In short, no powerful regional leader is on board KCR’s federal front.
This is why KCR is a worried politician meeting other regional leaders.
B Vinod Kumar, a senior TRS leader who was with KCR on his Kerala and Tamil Nadu has categorically said that the regional parties have to take a united stand in favour of either the UPA or the NDA and that the TRS will take a conscious decision after May 23. This makes it clear that KCR has abandoned the federal front idea.
Then, the question arises: Why is KCR in a hurry to join the non-BJP front? What is stopping him from accepting the Congress in the alliance? What went wrong in his friendship with the BJP and particularly Modi?
KCR is ready to play a larger role in Delhi — for this, he has made his son KT Rama Rao the working president of the TRS so that if need be he can hand him the power in the state and move to Delhi.
His ties with the Congress have never been good. KCR had promised to merge his TRS with the Congress once Telangana was created, but went back on his promise. This led to the marginalisation of the Congress in the new state. This could be a reason for him not being a part of the Mahagathbandhan. Also, by joining the coalition, KCR will be giving the Congress a new lease of life in the state. However, KCR does not much options now but to join the Mahagathbandhan.
His ties with the BJP appear to have sored. Income tax notices were served to KCR and several of his party MLAs and this has given room for suspicion that KCR and Modi are not on good terms. The BJP is upset with KCR as about 25 farmers from Nizamabad, his daughter Kavita’s constituency, travelled to Varanasi to file nominations against Modi.
Out of the 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana, even if KCR wins 16 (as he claims), without joining any alliance at the Centre, he will have no role to play.
Thus, in the whole election game, KCR seems to have become a loner.
Amar Devulapalli is a Hyderabad-based senior journalist. Views are personal
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