KCR Chandrababu Naidu
Political observers argue that K Chandrashekar Rao (left) might put an end to hostilities with N Chandrababu Naidu, providing a golden opportunity to Andhra parties, specifically the latter's TDP, to revive activities in Telangana.

TDP looks to edge into Telangana as KCR opens gates to go national

Political observers believe that continuing the 'ban' on Andhra parties in Telangana while planning to launch BRS in other states could be morally indefensible for KCR

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Little might K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) have anticipated that a day would come when he could scrap the emotive Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in favour of Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS), even though the new party’s future is difficult to predict.

He used the Telangana sentiment to drive away Andhra Pradesh-based political parties by stating that Andhrollu (Andhras) have no role in Telangana (“Andhrollaku Telanganalo emi pani.”). The Telugu phrase reverberated in Telangana politics between 2014, when the state was carved out of AP, and April 2021, when TDP MLAs Sandra Venakata Veeraiah and Mechha Nageswara Rao merged the TDP Legislative Party (TDPLP) in Telangana with TRS.

Also read: Why statehood movement heads feel ‘national leader’ KCR should support them

That was the end of TDP’s journey in the Telangana Assembly and a dream-come-true for KCR, who wanted power in Telangana to be an exclusive prerogative of TRS.

KCR had so effectively used the Andhrollu mantra that by 2018, Telangana had been converted into a single-party state. The TRS was in power, the Congress on sickbed with only 19 seats, and the BJP was nowhere on the horizon.

Climate change

But the time between 2018 and 2022 brought about a seachange in Telangana politics. Rabble-rouser BJP entered the scene, forcing KCR to devise an all-India strategy to counter the threat from Narendra Modi – Amit Shah’s “double engine” bait for Telangana.

Also read: Why neighbour Andhra may throw a spanner in KCR’s national dreams

Arguing that the Modi-Shah BJP menace could only be tackled with an assault on the Centre, KCR decided to renounce Telangana emotive politics in favour of national politics.

The talk among political circles is that continuing the ‘ban’ on Andhra parties in Telangana and, at the same time, launching BRS in other states was morally indefensible for KCR. So, they argue, KCR might put an end to hostility towards N Chandrababu Naidu, providing a golden opportunity to Andhra parties, specifically the TDP, to revive activities in Telangana.

Erosion of TRS loyal base?

Katragadda Prasuna, former MLA and TDP spokesperson in Telangana, said with KCR choosing to launch a national party, the chances of TDP’s revival in the state have brightened. Stating that the launch of BRS by KCR would realign political forces soon, Prasuna said it would erode TRS’s local base and might even force the party’s new avatar to search for new friends.

“Telangana will witness a political transformation. Though it is difficult to imagine the future, Telangana people are certain to see a revival of TDP. The silent supporters among SC, ST, and BC are waiting for the right moment to strike back,” she said.

Also read: KCR’s TRS turns BRS: Masterstroke or misadventure?

According to party sources, Naidu had a meeting with senior leaders from Telangana two days ago. Though the contents of the deliberations have not been made public, sources indicated that Naidu discussed the possible scenario that would emerge once BRS takes off.

Telangana TDP president Bakkani Narasimulu, former MP Ravula Chandrasekhar Reddy, politburo member Arvind Kumar Goud, and senior leader Nannuri Narsireddy reportedly attended the meeting. Goud said the party’s base is intact in the state and a revival is on the cards.

Political harakiri?

Many political commentators feel that relinquishing TRS will weaken KCR’s grip over the state. BJP chief spokesperson K Krishna Sagar Rao, for instance, felt that KCR’s initiative would be disastrous. “I strongly believe CM KCR’s initiative will be self-sabotage. The change of name from TRS to BRS will lead him to lose his home turf while he embarks on a wasteful national ambition,” Rao told The Federal.

Professor M Kodandaram, president of the Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS), also believes that removing the word “Telangana” from the party’s name might disengage people from the TRS.

Also read: JDS to back KCR’s endeavour to become voice of people, farmers nationally

“TRS has not come into existence just because KCR wanted it. A huge intellectual churn that took place between 1996 and 2001 was responsible for it. The name represents the collective consciousness of Telangana people. Because of this name, the people owned the party and supported it even after the KCR family appropriated power and drove away from the party the genuine leaders responsible for the movement’s success. People will realise the game plan in eschewing the name ‘Telangana’ for selfish goals and dissociate from him,” Kodandaram said.

Caste war

It took a humongous effort for KCR to eliminate the TDP from the Telangana political scene, thanks to its loyal base among backwards castes (BCs). Though opponents call TDP a “Kamma party” (after a rich, dominant caste), it has also earned the moniker of a pro-BC party because of founder NTR’s carefully chosen strategy. NTR was successful in winning the hearts of BCs who were marginalised in the Reddy-dominated Congress.

Political scientist KC Suri, a retired professor from the University of Hyderabad, summarised NTR’s strategy in his Democratic Process and Electoral Politics in Andhra Pradesh, India, published by Overseas Development Institute, London. 

“A feeling of resentment among the BCs in the state grew against the Congress Party during the 1970s…Due to such resentment, the BCs, it is said, voted overwhelmingly for the TDP in the 1983 elections. The TDP also accommodated BC candidates in good numbers—there were 61 MLAs from BCs in 1983 and 59 MLAs in 1985…Congress leaders tried their utmost to attract the BC vote by organising meetings of various backward caste associations…In order to counter the Congress’ moves, the TDP government accepted, in July 1986, the Muralidhara Rao Commission Report on reservations for backward castes in education and employment and raised the reservations for the BCs from 25% to 44%,” he wrote.

Also read: Get-together of two daydreamers: Sushil Modi on Nitish Kumar-KCR meet

The campaign against Andhrollu

Essentially, the target of KCR’s campaign against Andhrollu was the TDP and Naidu. Realising the futility of fighting with KCR in Telangana, where he has properties and CBI and ED cases, YSRC leader and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy made a graceful exit after the 2014 elections.

But Naidu’s TDP, with a loyal base among the BCs, won 15 Assembly seats and refused to budge. That forced the Telangana Chief Minister to employ all tricks of the trade to lure TDP MLAs into TRS. Finally, the TDPLP merged with TRS with no trace in the House.

In 2018, Naidu tried to strike back — this time, in the company of Congress. But KCR intensified his campaign, showing “Andhra Naidu” as a monster trying to gobble up hard-earned Telangana. The campaign was successful. Naidu ended up winning just two MLAs, who also merged their party with TRS later, closing the TDP chapter in Telangana history.

The surmise among political pundits is that KCR might not oppose TDP as he used to earlier since he also wants to enter Andhra. Will it happen?

“TDP comeback difficult”

According to noted commentator Dr Pentapati Pullarao, a second coming for TDP is difficult in Telangana, as the support base has shifted to TRS and BJP. He is also sceptical of the notion that BRS would weaken KCR’s magic in the state.

Also read: BJP at doorstep: Time for TRS to look beyond milking ‘Telangana sentiments’

“Just changing the name of TRS to BRS won’t affect the image of K Chandrasekhar Rao in the state in this era of personality-driven politics. The personality cult is so strong that a change of name will have little impact on KCR’s image. This has been historically proven. Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar, and Lalu Prasad flourished even after launching parties with new names and symbols. The same was the case with Indira Gandhi: she won with new names and new symbols. Reason: it’s not the party’s name but the personality of the leader that matters in Indian politics,” Pullarao said.

Katragadda Prasuna is hopeful that Naidu will realise the importance of having the party revived in Telangana, as it would also help the party in Andhra because of the connections of TDP-supporting families.

TDP supporters cannot speculate whether Naidu, who stopped visiting Telangana barring his residence in the posh Jubilee Hills area in Hyderabad, would summon the courage to take advantage of the situation unfolding in post-TRS Telangana.

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