Tamil Nadu

The Tamil Nadu challenge for KCR

Does K Chandrasekhar Rao face a trust deficit when it comes to regional satraps? Or is it that the Congress and friends have managed to gain the upper hand over KCR’s efforts to cobble together a non-BJP, non-Congress Federal Front?

A combination of the two is what seems to have led to uncomfortable vibes from Tamil Nadu. The Telangana chief minister was scheduled to meet DMK chief MK Stalin in Chennai on 13 May. The KCR camp was in an ebullient state of mind, going public with the fact that Stalin and HD Kumaraswamy, officially friends of the Congress, were more than keen to meet the Telangana Rashtra Samiti president. 

KCR meeting the late M Karunanidhi in April 2018 in Chennai

Did someone immediately work the phone lines or did Stalin decide to be cautious, one would never know. But a day after the Stalin-KCR meeting date was put out, the DMK put it out that nothing had been fixed yet. The excuse was that Stalin was campaigning in the four assembly constituencies that face bypolls on 19 May. 

“Meeting is neither confirmed nor ruled out. Scheduling issues. We will know by 10 May,” was the message from Team Stalin. 

It was not complicated for Pinarayi Vijayan to meet KCR for the simple reason that within the Kerala political ecosystem, the Congress is the CPM’s principal rival. Rahul Gandhi had made it more direct by taking on the LDF candidate in Wayanad. 

KCR with Pinarayi Vijayan in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday

It is not the same with Stalin who was the first to come out in the open, endorsing Rahul Gandhi’s candidature for PM. Meeting KCR whose agenda is to keep out both the BJP and the Congress, would suggest Stalin is having second thoughts over Rahul and is also keeping his options open.

Also with two more phases of polling to go in the north India belt, a key Congress ally meeting a leader who seeks to keep the Congress out, will send the signals that the national party is on a weak wicket. As an experienced politician, Stalin will be more than aware of the messaging the optics of a meeting will send.

In the limited context of Tamil Nadu politics, with the electoral contest still on, Stalin can ill-afford to disturb the rainbow coalition with the Congress, VCK, CPI, CPM, IUML, MDMK, IJK and KMDK. It is interesting to note that the Left parties are floating with the Congress in Tamil Nadu while fighting them across the border in Kerala. 

Two, right from the time KCR began his Federal Front exercise, his critics have accused him of trying to split the secular formation in order to benefit Narendra Modi. Why is it that he did not meet the Shiv Sena, the Akalis or even Nitish Kumar or Ram Vilas Paswan, is the question asked. Why is it that he is only targeting those parties who have a friendly equation with the Congress. KCR’s biggest challenge will be to bridge this trust deficit. 

“Many of the regional leaders are not serious about him. All of them are with us,” a senior TDP leader told Filter Kaapi

In the specific instance of Tamil Nadu, this perception that he is batting for the BJP damages KCR’s pitch. Within the state, the BJP is seen as a Hindi, Hindutva party that is at loggerheads with the Dravidian political mindset. Though the DMK under M Karunanidhi has done business with AB Vajpayee’s BJP, the DMK has Stalin has all along adopted a shrill anti-BJP position and cannot change its colours overnight. 

KCR at MK Stalin’s residence in Chennai in April 2018

But it is not as if the KCR-Stalin meeting is completely off the table. Stalin if he returns to Chennai over the weekend may still meet KCR. 

“KCR will be in Tamil Nadu and Chennai, visiting temples. It is courtesy to meet someone who is in town and with who you have a cordial relationship. Stalin, if he meets KCR, will reiterate that the Telangana CM should consider supporting Congress over anyone else,” a senior DMK source told Filter Kaapi. 

Significantly, when Chandrababu Naidu travelled to Chennai in mid-April, he too could not meet Stalin as the latter was away campaigning. TRS sources say too much should not be read into the inability to schedule a meeting.

Both KCR and Stalin are expected to win a majority of the Lok Sabha seats in Telangana and Tamil Nadu respectively and emerge as key figures in the formation of the next national government. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.