With his politico-religious tour across South India, K Chandrasekhar Rao is emerging as a regional player to watch out for in the run-up to the 23 May Lok Sabha results. Filter Kaapi looks at the options on KCR’s table as he attempts to leapfrog from being a regional force in Hyderabad to a powerful voice at the Centre in New Delhi.
Plan A : Repeat 1996. Right from the time that KCR floated the idea of a Federal Front, keeping the BJP and the Congress out of power, his supporters have spoken of KCR becoming the Deve Gowda of 2019. KCR who has reportedly commissioned surveys in other states to get a first-hand feedback on the polling patterns, is convinced neither of the two national parties with their pre-poll allies will be in a position to form the government. His plan is to convince the regional satraps to stick together, bargain hard, chip away from the UPA and NDA blocs, form a United Front-like government, asking either the Congress or the BJP to extend outside support. In such a situation, his supporters say, KCR can even be PM.
Plan B : Be a part of the next government at the Centre. The BJP is likely to emerge as the single largest party though it may fall significantly short of the 272 mark. Leaders like KCR, Jaganmohan Reddy and Naveen Patnaik are likely to be on the BJP’s speed dial to cobble up the numbers. More so KCR who is seen to be close to the BJP-RSS ecosystem at least in terms of his God-fearing and religious nature, given to performing yagnas and pujas and belief in astrology. Though being part of a BJP-led parivaar will be tough explaining to his ally, Asaduddin Owaisi and the Muslim electorate in Telangana, it is certainly one of the options on the table.
The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) is expecting to win at least 15 seats from Telangana and KCR would like at least three to four of his MPs, including his daughter K Kavitha who contested from Nizamabad, to be part of the next cabinet.
Plan C : This will figure as prominently as Plan B. Should the UPA be able to rustle up the numbers and KCR is unable to convince the regional chieftains to do a 1996, then KCR would try to be part of the UPA regime. The problem with this arrangement however, is the bad blood between KCR and the Congress.
KCR has spared no effort to make Telangana Congress-mukt. Two, he called Rahul Gandhi “the biggest buffoon” in September 2018. Three, the manner in which he reportedly went back on his word to merge the TRS with the Congress in 2014 rankles. Four, Rahul Gandhi returned the compliment by calling KCR “chotta Modi” during the campaign.
The apprehension within the TRS also is that a Congress-led government in which KCR does not figure, would make matters difficult for the Telangana government. Joining the Congress at the Centre would be a win-win situation for it as it would kill the Telangana unit of the party. Telangana Congress leaders are clueless if its central leadership will agree to embrace KCR, privately pointing out that Delhi usually looks at everything from its prism, not from the point of view of the states.
Plan D : Keep bete noire Chandrababu Naidu out of the power game. The sub-plot of the political machinations going on in the country is the Telugu bidda rivalry that is playing out.
Naidu wants KCR to be a political untouchable for the Congress party, pointing out to Rahul Gandhi how the TRS chief after wrecking the Telugu Desam in Telangana is doing the same to the Congress legislature party. 12 of the 15 TDP MLAs had crossed over to the TRS between 2014-18 and within three months of the Telangana assembly election in December 2018, 11 of the 19 Congress legislators have migrated to the TRS tent.
KCR on the other hand, believes Naidu will be politically irrelevant post 23 May and is rooting for Jaganmohan Reddy to win in Andhra Pradesh. He is marketing the 35 seats he thinks TRS and YSRCP will win together as a package.
Plan E : Extend outside and issue-based support to whichever government comes to power. The view within the TRS has been that any coalition government that is formed in 2019 won’t have a shelf life beyond 2021. So another option for KCR is to wait it out without getting his hands soiled by the infighting that is likely to break out sooner than later at the Centre between different power centres.