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Hyderabad: Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao’s current vigour against the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance brings back memories of the 14 years of struggle for statehood under KCR’s leadership.
KCR was notably alone when he resigned from the post of deputy speaker in the Telugu Desham Party-led government in 2001 to take the plunge into the statehood movement. He not only had to take on his mentor Chandrababu Naidu, but also the mighty Andhra forces backing the powers that were then.
Yet, KCR’s steely resolve saw the struggle to its end. The formation of Telangana brought to fruition five-decade-old efforts by the like of Marri Chenna Reddy and many others.
KCR had displayed shrewd and effective organisational skills then. He constituted sector-wise Joint Action Committees and drafted in political parties, government employees, members of the intelligentsia, artistes, industrial workers, representatives of trade and commerce groups, and students. He also got over 100 lawmakers from all parties from the Telangana region to quit their elected posts in favour of the statehood demand.
“All this history is a fitting reply to people who are taking our leader’s plans regarding a national party with a pinch of salt,” said V. Prakash, TRS spokesman and chairman of Telangana Water Resources Development Corporation.
‘Modi is a giant with a clay foot’
KCR hinted at floating a national outfit, which is likely to be named the Bharatiya Rastra Samithi (BRS), at the Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s Hyderabad plenary on April 28. Many were sceptical at his suggestion, and with reason.
KCR is heading a young and comparatively small state with 19 seats in the 545-member parliament. The idiom of regional identity and regional pride is the guiding principle of his political presence. Will he be able to take on the Modi-led NDA at a time when the Congress itself is struggling at the prospect?
“Modi is a giant with clay foot. His eight-year rule has triggered strong anti-incumbency among all sections and his party wants to flourish on a communal divide. All this leaves a big vacuum and the Congress party, steeped in leadership crisis, has failed to come up with an alternative agenda. This is where our leader will come to the fore,” said Y. Satish Reddy of TRS’s social media wing.
V. Prakash, quoted earlier, says TRS plans to counter BJP’s communal hatred – “shown by introducing draconian laws such as the Citizenship Amendment Act” – by showcasing the progress “Telangana has made in agriculture, irrigation, education, industries and IT in the last eight years.”
Ostensibly as part of this showcasing drive, the KCR government on June 2, coinciding with the formation day of Telangana, advertised in the national media outlets its flagship schemes of Kaleswaram, a mega irrigation dam built across the Godavari, Mission Kakatiya, the Mission Bhagiradha and Rythu Bandhu.
KCR appears to be taking a leaf out of the book of his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee to halt the onward march of the Modi-led BJP.
Ahead of the Bengal polls in 2021, as the BJP was discussing religion and immigrants, Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress stuck to promoting welfare schemes. This helped her party come back to power. KCR’s plans seem similar.
Syed Aminul Hasan Jafri, a journalist-turned-lawmaker from AIMIM told The Wire that the NDA government under Modi’s leadership has been providing “a conducive environment” for emergence of viable political alternatives.
“Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation and Income Tax departments have been misused to target political rivals like never before. The feeling of north-south divide is growing rapidly. In the devolution of central grants by the finance commissions, the spirit of federalism is getting diluted too. The Centre imposes curbs on borrowings by states in the name of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, casting a shadow over the latter’s welfare and development programmes. This disturbing trend gives scope for regional parties to play a key role in national politics,” Jafri said.
BJP-TRS showdown in offing
The BJP brass, including Modi, Amit Shah and party president J.P. Nadda, are scheduled to descend on Telangana’s state capital for the national executive meet in the first week of July with an ambitious plan to storm into KCR’s citadel in the forthcoming state election.
But the TRS patriarch, at the same time, is getting ready for a similar showdown of sorts. KCR has invited Yashwant Sinha, the opposition-sponsored presidential candidate, for a campaign in his home state. Sinha is scheduled to interact with lawmakers from TRS, Congress, AIMIM and other parties in Telangana. KCR’s party has Chevella MP Ranjith Reddy on the 11-member committee comprising opposition parties for the presidential election campaign.
KCR’s daily preoccupations now involve the fine-tuning of his national party, a source in the Chief Minister’s Office told The Wire, asking to remain anonymous.
KCR along with AAP’s Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal paid tributes to slain soldiers and protesters killed in the anti-farm laws agitation, in May. In an attempt to showcase his Rythu Bandhu scheme, which aims to end distress in agriculture by offering a financial assistance of Rs 8,000 per acre per year in Telangana, KCR has also extended financial assistance to the kin of farmers killed in the agitation against the NDA government’s farm laws in Punjab.
KCR, when heading the statehood movement, had built contacts with activists struggling for the creation of 14 smaller states. A TRS leader even recalled how KCR was instrumental in floating the Bundelkhand Rajya Samithi and Vidarbha Rajya Samithi in 2003. During his stint as Union labour minister during the United Progressive Alliance government, KCR also developed contacts with labour activists. “We have been trying to build our national party in different parts of the country with the help of these contacts,” V. Prakash said.