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K. Chandrasekhar Rao | In search of an alliance
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The Telangana Chief Minister wants to counter the BJP at home and build a federal front of regional parties at the Centre

January 22, 2023 01:21 am | Updated January 26, 2023 10:06 am IST

“He (K. Chandrasekhar Rao) is the only leader in Telangana who has got the commitment and perseverance to carry on the movement for statehood and rebuild the State after achieving it, in spite of he having some shortcomings”, Telangana ideologue Prof. Kothapalli Jayashankar observed at an event during the thick of the agitation for statehood in 2010.

True to late Jayashankar’s reading, Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao, popularly known as KCR, has exhibited resilience from the day he quit as the Deputy Speaker of Legislative Assembly and an MLA of the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) on April 27, 2001 in united Andhra Pradesh to the recent public meeting of non-Congress and non-BJP parties in Khammam.

KCR continues to make headlines and hog limelight with his innovative initiatives, controversial comments and surprising policy decisions such as going for early Assembly elections in 2018. He floated the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) with the objective of achieving statehood for Telangana on the day he quit the TDP in 2001. Announcing its arrival on the political landscape of Telangana, the TRS registered an impressive performance in the rural local bodies elections in Siddipet in 2001.

Political setbacks

Beginning his political career with the Youth Congress in the late 1970s in the erstwhile Medak district, KCR was among those first to join the TDP, launched by matinee idol N.T. Rama Rao in 1982. He was unsuccessful in his first shot at the Assembly election from Siddipet in 1983. However, after that, he has not tasted defeat — either in the Assembly or Lok Sabha elections.

Like any of his peers, KCR faced several political setbacks in the early years of the TRS. In 2006, half of the 26 party MLAs deserted and allied with the Congress. In the 2008 by-election from the Karimnagar Lok Sabha seat, he struggled to take a wafer-thin majority victory. In the 2009 Assembly elections, the TRS won only 10 out of the 45 seats it contested in an alliance with the TDP.

However, the setbacks didn’t stop KCR’s political rise. He made use of the opportunity of a weak leadership following the death of Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in a chopper crash in 2009 to resurrect the movement for statehood, by going on a fast-unto-death on November 29. The Centre first gave in to the TRS’s demand with an announcement that the process of state formation would begin soon, but only to backtrack two weeks later.

The Centre’s decision to go back on its December 9 announcement triggered mass protests in support of statehood with KCR being at its helm. The TRS, which had only two members in the Lok Sabha, garnered support from three dozen political parties for its cause with the Congress-led UPA Government finally getting the Bill passed in in February 2014.

When the new State was formed, KCR became its undisputable leader and Chief Minister. Almost nine years after he assumed office, KCR retains a strong grip on both the party and the government. “KCR has no other vocation but politics. He thinks about development and welfare of Telangana and plans and executes schemes and projects like a Chief Executive Officer,” said B. Vinod Kumar, Vice-Chairman of the State Planning Board.

In recent years, the Chief Minister has started showing interest in national politics as well. In 2019, he floated the idea of a Federal Front as an alternative to the Congress and the BJP. His party won nine out the 17 seats it contested that year. Last year, KCR changed the party’s name to Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), openly stating its national ambitions. Last week, he brought together three other Chief Ministers — Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal, Punjab’s Bhagwant Singh Mann and Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan — for a mega rally in Khammam. Akhilesh Yadav, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, and D. Raja, of the CPI, were also present. At the rally he slammed the BJP, which won four out of the 17 seats from the State in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections . KCR’s goals are clear — he wants to counter the BJP at home and build a federal alternative at the Centre. Whether he would be successful remains to be seen.

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