KCR steps up efforts for a ‘third’ alternative

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Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has stepped up his efforts to foray into national politics by bringing together non-BJP and non-Congress parties for a third alternative at the Centre.

Series of developments over the last one month indicate that the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief is gearing up to play a key role in national politics despite not being successful in his maiden attempt before 2019 elections.

His recent meetings with the top leaderships of the Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), and last month’s meeting with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK leader M.K. Stalin shows that he is making a serious bid to take on the BJP.

In what is seen as another attempt to project himself as a national leader, Rao issued a statement earlier this week, urging people to root out the Narendra Modi-led government. His statement comes ahead of the Assembly elections in five states.

KCR, as the 67-year-old is popularly known, slammed the BJP government for what he calls weakening the rural economy and playing havoc with the farm sector. He said the increase in the prices of fertilisers will put the agriculture sector into a crisis and break the backbone of farming in the country.

Expressing anguish at removing subsidies on fertilisers, which were in vogue for several decades, KCR said the situation came to such a pass that the farmers had no option but to take up their ploughs and revolt against the Central government.

The same day he dashed off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging that the central government has burdened farmers by raising the fertiliser prices, increasing fuel prices and faulty fixation of Minimum Support Prices (MSP).

The TRS chief said that the government of India is not only contributing to the increase in the cost of cultivation to the farmers, but also defaulting on the promise of doubling farmers’ income.

These policies, coupled with the threat of proposed reforms in the agriculture electricity distribution sector by fixing power consumption metres, are causing great anxiety to the hard-working farmers of our country, wrote KCR.

The statement and the letter to PM came amid the continuing standoff with the Centre over the latter’s refusal to procure paddy from the state during the upcoming Rabi season. TRS has been staging protests over the issue and KCR had personally staged a sit-in along with state ministers, MPs, state legislators and other leaders.

By announcing compensation of Rs 3 lakh each to the families of 700-750 farmers reputedly killed during the nationwide protest against three farm laws and taking up the issues like 0MSP and proposed electricity reforms, KCR has already initiated the efforts to project himself as a national leader.

He has also declared that TRS is ready to lead the national movement of farmers on the burning issues faced by them.

This time, KCR’s son, TRS working president and a key cabinet minister K. T. Rama Rao, is also actively involved in the efforts to cobble up an alliance.

KTR was seen participating in the talks with leaders of CPI and CPI-M. Though the top leadership of the Left parties were in Hyderabad to attend their party meetings, KCR used the opportunity to invite them for luncheon meetings and discussed the plans to take on the BJP government.

This was followed by RJD leaders led by Tesjaswi Yadav flying down to Hyderabad to meet KCR. During the meeting the TRS chief also had a telephonic conversation with RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, who reportedly advised KCR to play an active role in national politics.

TRS leaders are also likely to meet Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Akhilesh Yadav soon. KTR has already stated that they see a trend in favour of SP in Uttar Pradesh.

During an interaction with Twitter users on January 13, KTR said that his party will soon take a call on campaigning for SP in UP elections.

On December 15, KCR and KTR met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin in Chennai. They believed to have discussed the plans for floating a front as an alternative to both BJP and Congress.

This was the first time KCR met Stalin after the DMK president assumed charge as chief minister in May this year.

It also came close on the heels of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee dismissing the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) as a viable opposition to the BJP.

DMK, which is in alliance with the Congress, had opposed the idea of non-BJP and non-Congress front in 2019. However, KCR is making fresh attempts to bring him on board.

The renewed efforts by KCR for a third front come at a time when BJP has gone aggressive against his government. Buoyed by the recent victory in Huzurabad Assembly by-election, BJP is turning the heat on TRS by taking up protest programmes on various issues.

The arrest of BJP’s state president Bandi Sanjay early this month during one such protest gave the saffron party an opportunity to launch another salvo against TRS government. BJP’s key national leaders made a beeline to the state to intensify attacks on KCR. BJP’s national president J. P. Nadda, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma were among the leaders who descended on Hyderabad and made scathing attacks on the TRS supremo.

Bandi Sanjay and some other BJP leaders also kept harping that KCR will be soon sent to jail for corruption. The state BJP alleged that KCR is trying to save himself by making fresh attempts to form a front.

Political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy believes that after eight-plus years in power, KCR is certainly under pressure over promises made to various sections. “Paddy procurement is the latest issue which is troubling the government and KCR needs a way out to ensure the blame entirely does not fall on his government. Raking up the issue of Federal Front is one of the many means KCR is using to take the fight to BJP’s doorstep,” he said.

“KCR is also looking for the right opportunity to transfer power to KTR, and yet is in no mood to hang his boots. Creation of a Federal Front is probably the most suitable narrative for KCR at this stage,” he added.

The analyst recalled that KCR had floated the idea of a front of regional parties before the 2019 Lok Sabha election. He was hoping that BJP will not get a majority and thus the regional parties will have a role in forming the government.

“However, nothing went in favour of regional parties then. Now once again KCR thinks Modi might not get full majority, and is an opportune time to raise voice in favour of a regional alternative to the national parties,” he said.

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