Thursday, November 30, 2023

Ratna Column: KCR needs support from TDP, YSRCP for settlers’ votes

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Bharat Rashtra Samiti chief and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, a staunch critic of his political guru and former chief minister of combined Andhra Pradesh N. Chandrababu Naidu, has been intriguingly silent over the arrest of the latter in connection with the Rs. 371 crore skill development scheme scam that allegedly took place during the Telugu Desam Party regime. KCR’s stoic silence for three weeks, with Naidu’s judicial remand entering the third week, has raised eyebrows. For, KCR has criticised Naidu on several contentious issues, including the moving spirit behind the development of Hyderabad city and specifically the setting up of Cyberabad as the hub of IT industries in the capital city. KCR has disdainfully brushed aside the view in many quarters that Naidu was instrumental in initially bringing several IT behemoths to Hyderabad. KCR has gone to the extent of describing Naidu as an ‘outsider’ in Telangana.

KCR’s cryptic silence now is attributed to the BRS’ eyes on the sizeable vote bank of TDP, including those of settlers across TS. Besides, the arrest of Naidu has drawn widespread condemnation from people across the globe with protests being reported from at least two dozen countries. Considering Naidu’s arrest, apparently at the behest of AP Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy, the TS Chief Minister was expected to extend at least moral support to Naidu. But KCR played it cool. He did not want the fallout of Naidu’s arrest in Telangana, considering the upcoming Assembly elections in the state. Since the political equation has changed in the wake of Naidu’s arrest, KCR is watching the situation closely without making derogatory remarks against Naidu or condemning his incarceration.

It was during the Congress regime in the combined Andhra Pradesh that then president of YSR Congress Party YS Jaganmohan Reddy was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation in connection with the disproportionate assets (DA) cases and he was in jail for 16 months before getting bail a decade back. Jagan surprisingly will be completing his full term of five years as Chief Minister while being out on bail. The irony is that the person in the hot seat of administration is out on bail, while another person striving to return to the same seat is exploring options to obtain bail.

As for settlers spread across Telangana State, they are going to play a crucial role in the forthcoming T-elections. Given the sympathy factor expected to work in favour of Naidu over the manner of his arrest, it is now believed the Andhra people are one in TS, particularly in the case of the politically influential Kamma community. There are no stakes for TDP in TS; so, the BRS leadership is believed to have come to an understanding with the TDP leadership for shifting the vote bank to the ruling party. During the 2018 elections, the settlers chose to back BRS (then TRS) in their own interests. That trend continued in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation polls — the biggest local body in the two Telugu states — captured by TRS.

BRS emerged victorious in the GHMC polls because of the support extended by non-local people living in Hyderabad. The TDP got good results in the 2014 general election via seat sharing with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which got a lion’s share of the seats.

With his strategic silence, KCR is now trying to impress TDP cadre for his possible hat-trick win in TS. No wonder, TS Assembly Speaker Pocharam Srinivasa Reddy has condemned the arrest of Naidu as an undemocratic act on the part of the YS Jaganmohan Reddy government. BRS leader and five-time MLA Motkupalli Narasimhulu also condemned the arrest of Naidu. He questioned whether Naidu, who had spent Rs. 8 lakh crore for the people during his 14-year-old regime, would have indulged in the scam. These leaders of BRS would not have spoken positively about Naidu without reading the mind of KCR. It is a different matter that Narasimhulu is unhappy with the attitude of KCR towards him. The TS Speaker’s home turf i.e. the combined district of Nizamabad is crucial when it comes to settlers’ vote bank. That is why the ball rolled from there.

The powerful Reddy community in TS is influenced by settlers from the Rayalaseema region of present Andhra state. They comprised a solid vote bank for the Congress in the erstwhile undivided AP. During the 1999 elections, voters from the Rayalaseema settled in Hyderabad had rallied behind Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy, then APCC president. So, they voted against even then Congress Legislature Party (CLP)leader P. Janardhan Reddy in the Khairatabad constituency. If the community shows such unity again, both Congress and BRS might vie for their support. In such eventuality, Jaganmohan Reddy might extend support to KCR by influencing the Reddy community of Rayalaseema origin settled in TS. If his sister and YSRTP president YS Sharmila merges her party with the Congress in time, she will have to garner support from the same group for the Congress! That is a different story.

If KCR manages to achieve a hat-trick, it would clearly only with the support of settlers’ vote bank. Voters in Telangana State may respond to political parties in a mixed way because of their perception about the BRS’ rule. But the settlers’ response is predictable. That is why KCR badly needs the support of settlers.

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