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Vani Devi's Candidature: Power Move by KCR or Late Attempt to Harness PV's Legacy?

TRS leader K. Chandrashekar Rao has named P.V. Narasimha Rao's daughter as his party’s candidate in the MLC elections.

Hyderabad: Vani Surabhi Devi, daughter of former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, has made her debut in politics in her 70s after the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leader K. Chandrashekar Rao named her as a candidate in the MLC elections for the Mahabubnagar-Rangareddy-Hyderabad Graduates’ constituency in Telangana.

Narasimha Rao, as an architect of economic reforms as the prime minister, is regarded as the son of the soil in Telangana. He was born in a tiny village, Vangara, in Telangana’s Warangal district.

Vani, as she is popularly known in her home state, largely remained aloof from active politics even though her father was the country’s first prime minister from outside the Nehru-Gandhi family. Of Rao’s three sons and five daughters, only Ranga Rao and Rajeswara Rao took to politics.

Ranga Rao was a legislator and minister while Rajeswara Rao served as a Lok Sabha member. The eldest of the five daughters in the family, Vani is an artist, social activist and founder principal of Sri Venkateswara Group of Institutions which runs fine arts, pharmacy colleges and a school in the state capital.

She was named TRS candidate in the last minute. The choice comes in the backdrop of attempts by the TRS government to claim the legacy of P.V. Narasimha Rao by announcing his year-long centenary celebrations and passing a resolution in the state assembly urging the Centre to honour the Telangana’s “muddu bidda” with the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award.

Initial reports in the media suggested that KCR plans to send Vani to the council through the governor’s quota or any ‘safe’ seat.

K. Chandrashekar Rao. Credit: Facebook

The move is seen as a bid by KCR to stem the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on his home turf by rekindling regional sentiment with the help of PV’s legacy.

But The Wire spoke to AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) MLC and analyst Syed Amin Jafri and RSS ideologue Raka Sudhakar and both felt TRS will not be successful with their respective supporter bases by using P.V. Narasimha Rao’s legacy.

Checking the rise of BJP

After winning the Dubbak assembly segment in the by-election and making inroads with the elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), the saffron party is determined to challenge the authority of KCR in the upcoming MLC elections for the two graduate constituencies due on March 14 and the by-election in Nagarjuna Sagar assembly constituency, elections to Khammam and Warangal municipal corporations and three other major municipalities in Telangana.

Also read: Is BJP’s By-Poll Win in Telangana’s Dubbak a Political Game-Changer?

The Mahabubnagar-Rangareddy-Hyderabad Graduates’ constituency is currently held by the BJP’s Ramachandra Rao. The TRS failed to win the seat even when the statehood movement under its leadership was very strong. Though the party came to power for the first time as the champion of Telangana in the state elections in 2014, BJP’s Rao won the seat in the council elections held the next year.

The announcement of Vani’s candidature drew instant jibes from the opposition parties. BJP’s former minister D.K. Aruna spoke of “hidden” motives behind her fielding and commented that KCR is using PV’s daughter a “sacrificial lamb” in the MLC elections.

Some have asked as to why KCT did not send Vani to the state legislative council straight through a safe seat as he did in the case of his daughter Kavitha Kalvakuntla if he really had special respect for PV’s family. Kavitha was elected to the council from the Nizamabad local bodies’ segment through a captive vote bank in October, 2020.

The TRS chief also fuelled suspicions of his party’s hidden support to professor K. Nageswar, an independent candidate backed by Left parties. But Nageswar, who had won the seat in 2009, has vowed to lend his voice against what he said were the three “broken promises of KCR: neellu (water), niyamakalu (jobs) and nidhulu (funds).”

“There has been no notification for Group-I jobs through the State Public Service Commission and no notification for even teacher recruitment since the formation of Telangana state,” Nageswar recently told a TV channel.

KCR’s party faces significant unrest among employed youths and government employees, Shaik Jakeer, an analyst, told The Wire. “The government employees are angry over delayed implementation of recommendations of the Pay Revision Commission (PRC) and KCR’s failure to extend the age limit for retirement of employees in keeping with his promise,” Jakeer said.

Also read: In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, New Social Dynamics Accompany Brutal Caste Killings

The TRS patriarch will be facing a series of elections which will cover more than 70 of 119 assembly seats in the state. If TRS fails to check the rise of BJP in these elections, it may be difficult for KCR to keep his flock.

“After all, Narasimha Rao was a diehard Congress man till he breathed his last. His soul must be crying over his daughter Vani embracing the TRS,” Telangana Congress spokesperson Sravan Dasoju told The Wire. He, however, stated that the Vani’s presence in the election fray would no way hurt the prospects of the Congress candidate. The Wire could not reach Vani for her response.