Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Ratna Column : Will KCR be able to sustain any anti-Modi front?

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Although Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) president and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao is making all-out efforts to bring anti-Narendra Modi forces together, there is a question mark over his ability to sustain such a front, whatever be its form ultimately. Given KCR’s oratorical skills in English, Hindi and Urdu languages, expansion of BRS may not be a difficult task when it comes to garnering the support of like-minded parties. After nearly four decades, he is the first leader from south trying to make an impact in north India. Thespian NT Rama Rao, founder of Telugu Desam Party and four-time chief minister of combined Andhra Pradesh, was the first political leader who could mesmerise even people in north India. Those days NTR addressed several election rallies in Haryana in support of Devi Lal during the Assembly elections of 1987.

KCR addressed his first ever public meeting beyond TS in Nanded (Maharashtra) recently for promoting BRS. Former chief minister of Odisha and former Lok Sabha member from Koraput (ST) constituency Giridhar Gamang also joined BRS recently. Gamang had drawn the nation’s attention by voting in favour of the no-trust motion against the Vajpayee government in 1999, necessitating fresh General Election.

Historically speaking, Andhra Pradesh was formed on the basis of the linguistic policy of the thirties that was given final shape in 1956. Andhra Pradesh, meant for Telugu-speaking people, comprising the Telangana region of the erstwhile Hyderabad State and the state of Andhra that had been carved out of the composite Madras state in 1953, came into existence on 1 November, 1956. The original Telangana movement started in less than a decade and peaked in 1969. The 1971 General Election reflected the mood of people seeking a separate state for Telangana region. Yet, then PM Indira Gandhi rejected outright the demand for a separate state of Telangana. Successive governments could rule the state for nearly six decades with the original T movement in limbo.

KCR launched Telangana Rashtra Samiti solely for the purpose of achieving statehood for Telangana in 2001, after differences with his political guru N. Chandrababu Naidu. During the regime of Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy, KCR faced rough weather politically with the latter’s attempts to destabilize TRS by attracting its MLAs into Congress’ fold. After YSR’s demise in 2009, KCR got an opportunity to rebuild TRS. He fanned Telangana sentiment so much so that even national parties, Congress and BJP, had to adopt a soft corner towards the demand for separate Telangana. With just two of his party’s members in Parliament, including himself, KCR realized his dream of separate statehood for Telangana. Later, as CM of the new state, KCR adopted ‘anti-Andhra’ approach to get closer to people of his state and retained power in the 2018 elections in which TDP had truck with then principal opposition party Congress.

Now, KCR is going to face third consecutive election amid anti-incumbency factor. BJP has since emerged stronger in Telangana State. During the days of combined Andhra Pradesh, the influence of Muslims was confined to some pockets in the state. Muslims have since become a considerable political force.

During his first term (2014-18), KCR was in the good books of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. BJP won only one Assembly seat in 2018, though it won four Lok Sabha seats exactly four months later. BRS’ political friend MIM has since won its second Lok Sabha seat from Aurangabad (Maharashtra).

MIM has to work directly against BJP in TS tomorrow for its own existence. KCR may have soft corner for the Congress party in the larger interests of his goal of defeating Modi.

If KCR wants to sustain himself in any anti-Modi front, he must have a flexible approach towards the Congress. In Karnataka also, KCR’s task of bringing anti-Modi forces together is not easy with both Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) playing politics. KCR has good relations with former CM of Karnataka H. D. Kumara Swamy, who once shared power with BJP as its coalition partner.

TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu also is a very good friend of father-son duo H. D. Deve Gowda & H. D. Kumara Swamy. Since Naidu has a soft corner for BJP now, it is difficult to assess who will join hands with whom.

It will be interesting to see the approach of various political players before and after polls. KCR’s ‘anti Modi front’ hangs by this slender thread.

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