Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Raos ‘secret visit to Delhi has created a buzz in the political circles that he is renewing attempts to play a role in national politics by forging an alliance against the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre.
KCR, as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief is popularly known, had left for the national capital on November 21 with some state ministers and top officials to meet some Union ministers to mount pressure on the Centre to come clean over the issue of paddy procurement from the state.
KCR had declared before leaving that he would also try to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While his cabinet colleagues called on Central ministers Narendra Singh Tomar and Piyush Goyal, KCR returned to Hyderabad four days later without meeting the Prime Minister or any other Union minister.
State Minister for Panchayat Raj and Rural Development, E. Dayakar Rao, alleged that the Centre humiliated Telangana by not giving appointment to the Chief Minister or a delegation of ministers led by K.T. Rama Rao. They were forced to wait for four hours in New Delhi, he claimed.
BJP leaders, however, denied this and claimed that KCR did not seek an appointment from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
State BJP President Bandi Sanjay Kumar said that nobody knows why KCR went to Delhi. He alleged that the CM went to the national capital to divert public attention from the failure of his government to procure paddy from the farmers. He also claimed that KCR went to Delhi for his personal work, but was trying to malign the BJP government.
Telangana Congress chief Revanth Reddy also slammed KCR for his visit to Delhi, and wondered why he was sitting in the national capital for four days rather than giving confidence to the farmers battling with damaged and sprouted paddy due to heavy rains.
He also alleged that the Chief Minister was in the national capital for a secret deal with the BJP government.
While KCR is yet to respond to the allegations, his visit definitely set off a fresh debate on his ambitions to play a role in national politics. The visit came close on the heels of KCR declaring a war on the Modi government over paddy procurement and other issues related to the farmers and the state.
The TRS chief not only dashed off a letter to the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, but also led a ‘dharna’, demanding the Centre to procure paddy from Telangana, announce a procurement target for the entire year and also clarify whether it will procure the produce in the coming Rabi season.
Hinting at his national ambitions once again, KCR sought to link the paddy issue with the farmers’ agitation over the three controversial farm laws and other issues. He expressed solidarity with the farmers protesting in north India since the past one year, and declared that TRS is ready to lead the national movement of farmers.
As the announcement by the Prime Minister to take back the three farm laws came a day after KCR’s dharna, some leaders of TRS even tried to project it as their victory.
Though the TRS chief did not make any such claim, he stepped up his attack on the Centre.
A day before leaving for Delhi, he announced Rs 3 lakh financial assistance each to the families of 700-750 farmers, who were killed during the nation-wide agitation against the three farm laws.
Terming the Centre’s decision to repeal the three farm laws a great victory for the farmers, he also demanded withdrawal of all cases booked against the farmers. He told the Modi that a mere apology will not help, and that the PM should announce withdrawal of all cases against farmers.
The TRS chief demanded that the Centre should bring the Minimum Support Price (MSP) Act in the ensuing Parliament session.
KCR also demanded the Centre to take back the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, and warned that if passed, it will trigger nationwide protests by the farmers. He claimed that the proposed law will harm the interests of the farmers as meters will be installed for their electricity connections.
Political analyst Telakapalli Ravi believes that KCR’s visit to Delhi was aimed at building bridges with the Centre.
“All these are futile attempts to build bridges with the Modi regime and show some achievement on the Delhi front. Modi never allowed him to do that,” he said.
The analyst pointed out that KCR has the national ambition, but he is ambivalent on strategy and steps
“Nobody can play a national role without some understanding or without an alliance with others. Seats in his kitty are very limited. Deve Gowda-like situations are rare, and he (KCR) doesn’t even have those numbers,” he said.
“Telangana has just 17 seats in the Lok Sabha, and TRS certainly cannot win all. Even if it does, it will remain a small player in the overall scenario,” observed another political analyst, Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.
Aiming for a clean sweep, TRS could win just nine seats in 2019 as the BJP and the Congress bagged four and three seats, respectively. The AIMIM retained the Hyderabad seat.
TRS and KCR had come under flak from the Congress and others for taking U-turn on the three contentious farm laws after initially backing the farmers’ agitation.
“His stand on the farm laws kept changing. He might have joined for local reasons after taking up the paddy issue. But he appears better than Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy on this score. KCR’s future course depends on the response from the BJP. His target as of now is his home turf,” said Ravi.
On the announcement of Rs 3 lakh for the kin of each farmer killed during the agitation in north India, Raghavendra Reddy pointed out that KCR is known to make such announcements.
“But, will not the Congress or the BJP prepare a list of Telangana farmers who died under the burden of debt, and demand compensation? Such politics are double-edged swords, and can prove to be counterproductive at times.
“KCR has done this again and again. By talking about national politics, they hope it will help deflect public attention away from Telangana politics. There is a growing talk about more TRS MLAs leaving the party, and may go in for bypolls. Talking about national politics is a means to dominate prime time space,” he added.
Reddy believes that with Mamata Banerjee making rapid political moves, and winning traction across many states, KCR might have to align with the Trinamool Congress to build a narrative for his core audience.
“He can always claim that it was his initiative in 2019, which has now motivated Mamata to expand,” he said.