Telangana: To bolster Delhi dream, KCR gives national touch to TRS
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), who is planning to storm into national politics in the run-up to the 2024 General Election, has rebranded Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) as Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS). He is likely to announce the party’s new name on Vijayadashami (October 5). In recent months, KCR has been jet-setting to state capitals to meet his counterparts and hold parleys with them over the possibility of forming a federal front to counter Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A month ago, a veteran Hindi journalist who visited Hyderabad, reportedly stayed in Pragati Bhavan, the official residence of the CM, as the latter’s guest for two days. The journalist, who shot to fame by filing a PIL in the Supreme Court against the CBI for the tardy progress in its investigation in a Hawala case, had reportedly been asked to organize a series of meetings with senior journalists, professors and intellectuals in Delhi for KCR.
Parleys with Delhi intellectuals
The Telangana CM wants the nation to debate his proposed anti-BJP political crusade and the contents of the agenda he is preparing to deploy against PM Modi. The journalist is believed to have conveyed KCR’s aspiration to many senior mediapersons and professors. KCR is expected to hold a series of meetings with prominent intellectuals in Delhi on his national mission after launching the party on Wednesday.
This was the strategy KCR adopted to garner national support for Telangana movement after the launching of TRS in 2001 and he did succeed in that. Winning over the hearts and minds of the national capital’s intellectuals paved the path for the endorsement of Telangana identity at the national level. In a similar vein, KCR now wants to shake off his hard-earned Telangana identity to become a national alternative to PM Modi and his Hindutva politics from Delhi.
For KCR, a couple of meetings with Delhi intellectuals are more important than what is written and debated in Telangana media. According to sources, he is expected to address a meeting or two in Delhi on October 9; his admirers are hopeful that the meetings will elevate their regional leader to the stature of a national leader. The question is whether KCR can outgrow his regional Telangana identity and become accepted in various states, where regional identities matter more than the national issues?
Political opponents dismiss KCR’s national mission
While a section of intellectuals is sceptical about KCR’s national mission, his political opponents are rather dismissive. Professor Kodandaram, KCR’s confidant-turned-critic, says that the TRS supremo would find little acceptance outside Telangana. “In many states outside the Hindi heartland, it is the strong linguistic-cultural identity that worked as the barrier to the surge of Hindutva forces. We can see it in states like Bengal and Kerala. For the opposition parties, extending support to KCR’s national party by suppressing their regional identity means weakening their resistance against the BJP. This won’t happen in these states,” he asserts. According to Kodandaram, who is now heading a regional party called Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS), KCR is using the anti-BJP and anti-Modi rhetoric only to divert the attention from a recent trend that began in Telangana politics after the 2018 Assembly elections.
“In the past, criticism was confined to the TRS party and government policies. Opposition parties had never targeted KCR as an individual. After 2018, a new trend has begun. The criticism has centred on KCR and KCR alone. This cannot be countered with Telangana sentiment like in the past. So, KCR now wants us to debate New Delhi politics and the issue of national alternative to PM Modi rather than the inconvenient question he is facing,” Kodandaram said.
Is KCR’s national party a historical necessity?
However, Tankasala Ashok, an advisor to the CM, said KCR’s national party was a historical necessity. Ashok, also a noted political commentator, has written a series of articles in Namaste Telangana, a mouthpiece of the TRS, on political developments in the country that formed the background for KCR’s idea of a new alternative to the BJP.
“It is the historical necessity that has forced KCR to come out with a new agenda for the nation amid the failure of the Congress and the challenges thrown up by the right-wing BJP. His agenda is his strength and he would help unite like-minded groups and people,” Ashok, told The Federal and added that Telangana identity would help rather than becoming a hurdle.
Citing the support extended by sarpanches from Dharmabad Taluka of Nanded district in Maharashtra, a TRS MLA said that this was indicative of the shape of things to come. “As many as 40 sarpanches, led by their association president Surekha Patil Hotte, have extended support in writing to the proposed party. They handed a letter to minister A Indrakaran Reddy yesterday. This will become a trend in the near future,” the MLA said, adding that the KCR was determined to become a rallying point for all anti-BJP forces.
Professor E Venkateshu of University of Hyderabad (UoH) holds that the Telangana identity would militate against KCR’s own objective of forming a national party. He said KCR’s Telangana identity is inerasable and a disadvantage in building the party network in other states. “Without organizational presence, once cannot be expected to take the party to the masses. Where is the organization for KCR’s BRS? Can a Telangana leader build a party in a state where politics are commanded by strong regional leaders?” Prof Venkateshu, who has been studying politics of Telugu states for decades, questioned.
Will it split anti-BJP votes?
Prof Venkateshu, however, underlines that there is a way out. “A national level front is the best option to forge an anti-BJP coalition. In a front, you need not erase your regional identity; instead, you can leverage it to your advantage,” he said. Telangana Congress senior vice-president and two-term MP Dr Mallu Ravi also expressed similar sentiments. “KCR’s national party looks more like an attempt to fight local elections with national slogans and issues rather than a serious attempt to counter the growing menace of Hindutva forces. His party is bound to end up helping the BJP by splitting the anti-BJP votes,” he said.
Neutral observers from the neighbouring Telugu state of Andhra Pradesh also feel that KCR’s Telangana identity might pose a problem for his party. “As the Chief Minister of Telangana, he wrote to the Centre to oppose many irrigation projects in Andhra Pradesh, including Polavaram and Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme. How would Andhra people see the Telangana CM as a tall national leader?” said Makireddy Purushottama Reddy, an activist from the backward Rayalaseema region of the state.
According to Dr A Chandrasekhar, a human rights activist from Anantapur, national parties have little role in states like Andhra Pradesh. “In Andhra Pradesh, neither the BJP nor the Congress exists. While the Congress has been rejected by the people, the BJP is unwelcome here so far. This is the state of two strong regional parties. There is no space whatsoever for a national party in Andhra Pradesh,” Chandrasekhar said.
Brushing aside the divergent opinions on KCR’s national party as cynical, TRS sources said since KCR is fluent in Hindi, he would be concentrating more on New Delhi and other Hindi states and the very purpose of purchasing an aircraft is to make frequent trips to campaign in the Hindi heartland.