At a time when many non-BJP chief ministers including Pinarayi Vijayan, Mamata Banerjee, Amarinder Singh have opposed the CAA and NRC, the silence of Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has flummoxed many. That’s because his party, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti had opposed the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Parliament and his ally, Asaduddin Owaisi has been at the forefront of the protests inside the Lok Sabha and outside.
“His silence is rather surprising,” said a senior Telangana bureaucract.
On 26 December, Owaisi had led a delegation of representatives of 34 Muslim organisations to KCR to nudge him to stop all work relating to the National Population Register (NPR). Emerging out of the meeting, the Hyderabad MP said KCR will announce his position in a couple of days. But barring TRS Working President KT Rama Rao who has underlined the party’s opposition to CAA, KCR has not spoken on the subject nor revealed if Telangana will go the Kerala assembly way and pass a resolution against CAA.
Adding to this “what’s cooking” speculation in the corridors of power is the letter written by Pinarayi Vijayan to eleven non-BJP chief ministers urging them to go the Kerala assembly way. While the list includes Left rivals like Mamata Banerjee and even Nitish Kumar who rules Bihar with BJP as his coalition partner, it significantly leaves out KCR. Chhattisgarh is another state missed out though Vijayan has included all other Congress chief ministers on the mailing list.
This is surprising because in the run-up to the general elections last summer, KCR had visited Thiruvananthapuram and met Vijayan. It is significant that Vijayan wrote to YS Jaganmohan Reddy whose party voted for the CAA in Parliament but subsequently the Andhra Pradesh CM refused to conduct NRC in his state. Does this suggest a trust deficit vis-a-vis the Telangana CM or is it just an oversight?
One view is KCR with the photo-op with the Muslim leaders wanted to show that he is on the side of the minorities who are feeling insecure about what the CAA + NRC combo pack could do to their citizenship. But at the same time, by not going beyond the voting in Parliament and not taking part in the protests, the TRS perhaps wants to make sure it does not antagonise those who back the CAA.
Does this have to do with what happened during the election campaign in 2019 when KCR’s remarks against the BJP at a public meeting were construed as anti-Hindu? The fact that the BJP managed to win four Lok Sabha seats buttressed this perception that the saffron party’s whisper campaign against KCR-Owaisi dosti would have helped it polarise the vote.
Telangana votes for municipal elections in another two weeks and KCR would not want the CAA and NRC to be a factor in the local body polls lest it benefit the BJP in any way. Already the BJP has begun accusing him of working against national security for minority appeasement politics. That could be one reason for his strategic silence.
The next few days will reveal if KCR’s deft balancing act works well for him and the TRS.