A couple of decades ago, they faced Maoist bullets and landmines, moving through the hinterland of northern Telangana, convincing and sometimes coercing people to stay away from banned revolutionaries. Now, former Indian Police Service (IPS) officers R.S. Praveen Kumar and K.R. Nagaraju are campaigning in the Sirpur Kagaznagar and Wardhannapet constituencies, respectively, seeking the voters’ mandate to become MLAs. They are representing different political parties.
An IPS officer of the 1995 batch, Mr. Kumar was Assistant Superintendent of Police of Bellampally in undivided Adilabad district, under which the Sirpur Kagaznagar Assembly seat falls. When left wing extremism (LWE) was at its peak in Telangana, then a part of undivided Andhra Pradesh, it was difficult to mingle in public without gun-toting security personnel around him. As a young officer determined to crush the armed revolutionaries, who were mostly members of People’s War Group of Naxalites, Mr. Kumar extensively toured the constituency, albeit protected by several layers of security, to win over people and dissuade them from supporting Naxals by providing the latter food and shelter.
That interface of the yesteryears is bearing fruit for the police officer in his second innings. “In Dahegaon village of the constituency, many recalled how during my campaign as a police officer, I set them free after they were detained for allegedly providing food to Naxalites,” Mr. Kumar, who joined the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) after taking voluntary retirement in 2021, said. He became the BSP’s State president and is contesting as its nominee.
The constituency’s present Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) MLA Koneru Konappa won the seat in 2014 on a BSP ticket. He later quit BSP and joined the BRS.
Another curious poll battle is on at Wardhannapet, 250 km south of Sirpur Kagaznagar, on the outskirts of Warangal city, where Mr. Nagaraju is in the fray as Congress’ nominee. Mr. Nagaraju’s success as a police officer is extraordinary as he joined the department as a Sub-Inspector in 1989 and got conferred his position in the IPS (a rarity in the police wing), having secured accelerated promotions for the work he did in Naxal affected areas.
During most of his tenure as a police officer, Mr. Nagaraju worked in Warangal district, then a hotbed of Naxal activity. LWE militants planted nearly 70 landmines to kill him while he was working in Mulugu as Inspector. His young gunman, a constable, had a twin brother working as a medical executive. Naxals shot the youth down in their plan to attack Mr. Nagaraju, mistaking him to be the gunman at Mulugu. Mr. Nagaraju, a hockey player who competed at the national level, recalled that there had been numerous such experiences of escaping from the jaws of death, which occurred alongside social service, including supporting youth in pursuing sports of their choice.
Having plunged into politics soon after his last assignment as the Nizamabad Police Commissioner, he is confident of winning the Wardhannapet seat. “Politics is not new to me. My wife Mallishwari’s grandfather Muddamalla Ramaswamy was Gunfoundry MLA in Hyderabad. Being a member of the National Students Union of India in [my] college days, Congress was a natural choice to join,” Mr. Nagaraju said.
Police officers testing their luck in politics, post-retirement or after resigning, is not unheard of in Telangana. Some, including former IPS officer of the 1955 batch, P.V. Rangaiah Naidu, tasted meteoric success — he joined politics after taking voluntary retirement in 1991 and went on to become a Union Minister in late Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao’s Cabinet after winning the Khammam Lok Sabha seat. Even more unusual is the story of P. Balram Naik, who quit his job as a police constable to enter the real estate business and later, politics. As a Congress nominee, he contested from Mahbubabad Lok Sabha seat in 2009 and won over the Communist Party of India (CPI) nominee. Interestingly, a retired IPS officer, D.T. Naik, who was at one time Mr. Naik’s superior and contested on a Praja Rajyam Party ticket, secured the third position in that election. Mr. Balram was inducted into the Union Ministry in 2012.
The list of police officers turned politicians from undivided Andhra Pradesh, which included the Telangana region till it was carved out as a separate State in 2014, is long. Their efforts, however, took different directions. Mr. Kumar became the Director of Telangana Social Welfare Educational Institutions Society and worked in that position for nearly a decade. Under his guidance, students of social welfare schools achieved multiple distinctions in securing seats in prestigious national and international colleges, and Poorna Malavath, youngest Indian and woman to scale Mount Everest, has said Mr. Kumar was reason behind her success.
Both Mr. Kumar and Mr. Nagaraju hope to unlock new political careers, the keys to which are in the hands of the voters.