KCR enters national political arena
Considered a demigod at home for his contribution to the Telangana statehood movement, KCR is treated with equal disdain on Andhra soil.

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

Derided in Andhra for the rancour he created during the Telangana movement, KCR also shares a strained relationship with AP over water sharing and ties with NDA at Centre

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Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, who has embarked on the path of national politics, may face challenges in introducing his rebranded Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) among the Telugus of Andhra Pradesh. He is getting no help from his ‘anti-Andhra image’ and his government’s strained ties with the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy regime in the neighbouring Telugu state.

Considered a demigod at home for his contribution to the Telangana statehood movement, KCR is treated with equal disdain on Andhra soil for the alleged rancour and derision he used as a tool against fellow Telugus for political mobilisation at that time.

Also read: To bolster Delhi dream, KCR gives national touch to TRS

Andhra being the home turf of Jagan-led YSRCP makes it even tougher for KCR to whitewash his anti-Andhra image with the repackaged BRS (formerly Telangana Rashtra Samithi).

Sources reveal KCR’s intentions to hold mega rallies in Amaravati, north coastal Rayalaseema and other states like Karnataka and Maharashtra to increase the footprint of the party, but he is likely to receive stiff resistance in Andhra.

KCR-Jagan ties at stake

Considering KCR’s intentions to enter Andhra, it is unlikely that he will maintain the same degree of bonhomie that he has with his AP counterpart Jagan. Signs of such a turf war had become visible much before KCR’s foray into national politics. 

Also read: Jagan-KCR bonhomie to reset ties between sibling Telugu states

The TRS government has been displaying a holier-than-thou attitude by juxtaposing the ‘Telangana model of development’ with that of Andhra under Jagan’s rule. KCR and his cabinet colleagues used every opportunity to dwell at length on how Andhra has been playing second fiddle to Telangana on the issues of power, realty, civic amenities, infrastructure like roads and financial situation. The recent comments of Telangana’s Finance Minister T Harish Rao, also the nephew of KCR — on the “deplorable” status of teachers in Andhra when compared with those in Telangana —  triggered backlash from the Jagan government.

Jagan skips BRS show

Although KCR in the past has called Jagan his “foster son”, the latter’s absence was conspicuous at the launch ceremony of BRS, even though it was attended by leaders of neighbouring states including JD(S)’s HD Kumaraswamy.

While over the years, the facade of the KCR-Jagan bonhomie has shown signs of cracks, the fissure became evident when both parties took a different stand on political ties with the NDA government at the Centre. 

Interstate issues concerning the sharing of river waters and building major irrigation dams such as Polavaram in Andhra and Kaleshwaram in Telangana have also forced KCR and Jagan to speak up for their respective states, pushing friendship to the backburner.

NDA creates wedge in relations

Political analysts say KCR is caught up in a dilemma from which there is no escape. To please the people of Andhra, if he sheds his image as a champion of his home state, playing an ombudsman for settlement of disputes, he will earn the fury of the people of Telangana. But if he continues as a regional leader, it would mean forgetting his national aspirations. 

“It’s like the devil and the deep blue sea,” said Hyderabad-based political analyst Raka Sudhakar.

KCR and Jagan are pursuing divergent politics with respect to the BJP, said Sudhakar. In his second innings as chief minister, KCR turned belligerent against the saffron party, seeing it as a formidable challenger to his authority in Telangana. He initially tried to rally regional parties against the Modi government in the name of a Federal Front or Third Front, but after an unsuccessful attempt has now launched the BRS. 

KCR needs to undo his earlier image of being an “invisible friend” to the NDA and cross swords with the Modi government to check the surge of saffron politics in Telangana.

Jagan, on the other hand, has an entirely different relationship with the BJP and faces no threat from the saffron party in Andhra. The BJP is almost non-existent in Andhra with less than 1 per cent vote share. So, there is hardly any need for Jagan to pursue a militant stand against the BJP.

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

Political observers say that Jagan, who has been jailed in money laundering cases, is driven by certain compulsions to be soft with central powers to keep the skeletons in the closet.

Such a clash of interests prodded KCR and Jagan to adopt different stands in the recently-held Presidential elections. While KCR backed Opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha, Jagan supported NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu.

Water sharing disputes

The simmering water conflict between the two Telugu states may also act as a hiccup for KCR in entering Andhra’s political domain, said  Vijayawada-based irrigation expert T Lakshminarayana.

The KCR government recently demanded steps from the Centre to save the temple town of Bhadrachalam from floods by downsizing the height of the Polavaram project. The Andhra government contends that the dam’s height has to be maintained at 45.72 metres to realise its very objective of linking the Godavari with the Krishna, besides supplying water to Visakhapatnam to meet drinking water and industrial needs.

The Andhra government has accused KCR of constructing the second phase of the Kaleshwaram project to draw the Godavari waters in excess of the quota stipulated by the Bachawat Tribunal. The Central Water Commission has allowed the Telangana government to utilise its stipulated quota of 160 tmcft through the Kaleshwaram project. But the Telangana government went ahead with the second phase of the project to exploit 280 tmcft, the Andhra government alleges.

Also read: Polavaram project, Andhra’s lifeline, caught in a bureaucratic maze

KCR, in his latest avatar as a national leader, is tasked with finding a lasting remedy for the demand of special category status for Andhra Pradesh, which the NDA government has denied. In addition, his party is expected to spell out its stand on the need for a capital for the truncated state of Andhra Pradesh. 

The denial of a state capital for Andhra has been attributed to the KCR lobby’s insistence on retaining Hyderabad exclusively for Telangana. The capital project in Andhra is gathering dust for want of financial support from the Centre. When Jagan took over the AP government, the Amaravati project lost momentum, with the new concept of three capitals for the state.

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With so much dissent so close home, KCR has several impediments to address before he can move to the national arena.

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