Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Running government won’t be a smooth affair for Cong in TS

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Of course, the Congress is enjoying blissful moments for coming to power in Telangana, India’s newest state that was granted by the grand old party a decade ago despite stiff resistance shown by people in the residual Andhra Pradesh.
Whatever be the reason for granting statehood to Telangana, the party, wittingly or unwittingly, ruined its own interests in the process. Against odds, the Congress leadership stood by the people of Telangana. The Congress then merely had an assurance from the erstwhile Telangana Rastra Samiti (now Bharat Rashtra Samithi) to merge with the Congress out of gratitude for creating the separate state. The TRS went back on the assurance after the passage of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act -2014 in Parliament. Subsequently, the two parties contested separately on the plank of being ‘achievers’ of Telangana State. People reposed confidence in TRS and gave it the reins of power in the first ever elections of 2014 in TS. In subsequent elections too, TRS utilized Congress-TDP alliance as a weapon and whipped up Telangana sentiments, saying the tie-up would throw up rulers with Andhra roots whose actions would be detrimental to the interests of TS. So, people again believed TRS in the 2018 polls.
Over two terms, BRS had to face several challenges resulting in anti-incumbency factor, including tell-tale flaws in the Kaleswaram LIS, whose costs had escalated abnormally from Rs. 30,000 cr to Rs.1.00 lakh crore. The sinking of the pillars of the Medigadda barrage of KLIS confirmed people’s worst fears.
The Congress is once again in the limelight, after languishing politically for a decade. The party was in such state that it could not confidently project its CM face. Nor did the Congress high command take a call on picking the chief minister immediately after receiving the one-liner resolution sent to it by the Congress Legislature Party, though TPCC president A Revanth Reddy had been regarded as the natural choice for the position. Talking of party tradition, Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy was selected as CLP leader when the Congress came to power in 2004 in the combined AP. He was Leader of the Opposition in the previous term and the party allowed him to continue in the same post. Normally, CLP leader will be the chief minister when the party is in power. The presence of Backward Class leader D. Sreenivas as PCC chief did not give scope for caste equations. Discounting talk that a BC leader may be given chance to take the reins of the state to address statehood demand for Telangana, YSR sought clarification from Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi, who then cleared all suspicions in his mind. In Karnataka also, then PCC president SM Krishna was made CLP leader after the party’s victory in the 1999 elections. Assembly elections were held in Andhra Pradesh along with the Lok Sabha polls. The Congress made it in Karnataka by securing 38% of the votes polled in the state; while in AP, the party could not come to power despite getting 43% of the votes, leaving YSR and party cadre in deep distress. In Kerala, during the 2001 elections, then CLP leader A. K. Antony was allowed to continue in that post only to head the government there. In the recently concluded Karnataka Assembly polls, as PCC president D.K. Siva Kumar led the Congress party to an impressive victory. Contrary to expectations, due to the presence of former chief minister Siddharamaiah in the race, DK was convinced to wait for his turn in due course. DK settled for Deputy Chief Minister’s post.
Telangana Rashtra Samithi also got a similar mandate in 2014, bagging just three seats more than the half way mark (60). To avoid instability, the TRS leadership subsequently attracted TDP and Congress legislators. So, the slender margin that that the Congress now has (four seats more than the half way mark) may be quite inspiring for the BRS, should it aim to destabilise the Congress government. The ‘wait and watch’ attitude of the newly elected BRS legislators suggests that they are not yet ready to be only the principal opposition in the TS Legislative Assembly. KCR may make his son and former IT Minister K Taraka Rama Rao or nephew and former Health Minister T. Harish Rao as Leader of Opposition in TSLA. BRS will thus become the biggest opposition party in TSLA with its strong contingent of 39MLAs. In the combined Andhra Pradesh also both Dr.YS Rajasekhara Reddy (Congress) and N. Chandrababu Naidu (TDP) had played the role of LoP with 90+ seats each.
Now that the Congress has an opportunity to rule Telangana, it should create a conducive atmosphere to make people feel that Telangana is in the safe hands of a national party. KCR would do well to remember the Karimnagar LS byelection in 2006. Exactly on 4th December, 2006, Karimnagar LS bypolls was held, making KCR subsequently a hero for T-movement. He won the election with a huge margin of 2 lakh votes. Fast forward to 2023, KCR had to lose power besides facing defeat at the hands of a new candidate from BJP in the Kamareddy Assembly seat. He managed to win in Gajwel, but tasted electoral defeat after 40 years. In a way, KCR’s fate is similar to that of his political mentor NT Rama Rao, who lost power and his Kalwakurthy seat in the 1989 polls.
Despite odds, KCR will have a chance to play politics with the Congress government in TS. He might contest in the Lok Sabha polls in 2024 and prefer to be in national politics more prominently, even if the BRS notches up a single-digit tally then.

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