Senior TRS leader and Rajya Sabha MP Keshava Rao has been authorised to hold talks with the striking unions of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC). This comes after concerns in the ruling party that the two suicides could create a momentum that could go against it, also affecting its electoral fortunes in the Huzurnagar byelection on 21 October. It has also realised that the arbitrary action of sacking 48000-odd employees in one stroke without even giving a showcause notice has created a perception of being authoritarian.
The advantage with Rao is that being a senior leader, he commands respect. Two, he had drafted the manifesto of the TRS before the assembly elections and therefore has a command over policy issues. The union leaders have responded positively to the possibility of Rao talking to them.
But while he has asked the RTC employees to call off the strike before talks can commence, he has made it clear that merger of RTC with the state government, which is the main demand, will not be on the discussion table.
The decision to put Rao in front also means that the ministers like Ajay Kumar, Prashanth Reddy or Dayakar Rao who were so far holding forth on the RTC strike, command little respect or have political heft with the unions. It is however surprising that the CM did not think of using Finance minister Harish Rao, who headed one of the RTC unions till January 2019, to broker peace.