Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao had long been talking of an alternative to both the BJP and Congress and even made efforts to bring regional parties together. But his roadmap has remained ambiguous.
His move to turn the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) into Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) to play a key role in national politics may lead to confusion among opposition ranks, especially in the absence of any clarity as to how the party plans to expand to states ruled by opposition parties and what it wants to achieve.
According to political observers, the public speeches made by KCR, as the Chief Minister is popularly known, in recent weeks indicate that he is trying to put forth an alternative national agenda with strong focus on the Telangana model of development.
The BRS chief on several occasions stated that he was not looking to form a front of some parties to come to power.
Stating that the country has seen many fronts in the past, KCR has called for an alternative agenda and a new political force for the country’s development.
An observer pointed out that there has been a contradiction in what KCR says. On some occasions, he blamed both the BJP and Congress for all the problems faced by the country due to their wrong policies over the last 75 years.
At times, he also underlined the need to bring like-minded parties together to throw BJP out of power.
In August last year, he even gave a call for a “BJP-mukt Bharat” by 2024 by throwing out the saffron party from the country and protecting the nation from its “religious madness”.
The opposition camp has however, remained suspicious about KCR’s real intentions. The Congress party dubbed him ‘B’ team of the BJP.
“KCR has been impacting the Congress-led UPA umbrella. Barring the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), all the parties he is trying to join hands with were either part of UPA or were considered friendly to Congress,” observed analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.
The analyst pointed out that KCR wooed parties like DMK, RJD, SP and JMM. This is seen as an attempt to isolate the Congress.
Last month, the maiden public meeting of BRS at Khammam was attended by the Chief Ministers of Delhi (Arvind Kejriwal), Punjab (Bhagwant Mann) and Kerala (Pinarayi Vijayan) as well as SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and CPI general secretary D. Raja.
While leaders from other parties praised KCR for taking the initiative of bringing together leaders of various opposition parties, there was no clarity if they are ready to work together. They were also silent on TRS turning into BRS to expand its footprint in various states.
Political observers say while all the speakers were unanimous on the need for the opposition parties to work together to throw the BJP out of power, they were not clear how they plan to achieve the goal.
KCR used the occasion to take the leaders to Yadadri temple to show the renovation works undertaken by his government. The leaders of other parties also attended the inauguration of an integrated office complex in Bhadradri Kothagudem district and KCR also explained them the ‘Kanti Velugu’ programme undertaken by his government for free eye screening of 1.5 crore people.
At the public meeting, he made some promises the BRS would fulfil after coming to power at the Centre or by playing a key role in the formation of the next government.
KCR was expected to unveil the national agenda of BRS but he told the gathering that this would be done soon. With focus on his slogan of ‘ab ki baar kisaan sarkar’, he gave a glimpse of the agenda.
There was no clarity on how BRS plans to expand its footprints to states where non-BJP parties are in power.
KCR is planning another public meeting in Hyderabad on February 17, his birthday. It is scheduled after inauguration of the new building of Telangana Secretariat.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, JD(U) national president Lalan Singh as representative of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar have been invited for the inauguration and the public meeting.
However, political analysts see this as another attempt by KCR to showcase the Telangana model to the state leaders.
The BRS government which named the new Secretariat complex after Dr B.R. Ambedkar, has also invited his grandson Prakash Ambedkar for the inauguration.
KCR had earlier stated that the new secretariat building will reflect the pride of Telangana and would stand as a role model for other states.
“KCR seems to be building a narrative for the Assembly elections scheduled to be held towards the end of the year. By inviting leaders of other parties and by organizing various programmes, he is trying to show that it is the Telangana model of development which everyone in the country is talking about. He apparently believes that this will ultimately help him win another term and at the same time project himself as pan-India leader,” says a senior journalist.
KCR hasd been planning a national foray since 2018. After retaining power in Telangana, he held a series of meetings with leaders of various parties including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to cobble up together what was proposed to be a federal front.
However, with the BJP returning to power at the Centre in 2019 with a clear majority, all his hopes were dashed.
KCR, who often came under attack from Congress for supporting demonetization and even the three controversial farm legislations brought by the Central government, revived his efforts to form an alliance in 2021 after turning a bitter critic of the BJP-led government.
He visited Punjab, Bihar and Jharkhand to distribute assistance to families of soldiers killed in clashes with Chinese troops during the Galwan face-off and also to the kin of farmers who died during the protests against the three farm laws.
KCR has been trying to build a narrative around his national aspirations. He is highlighting the failures of the Centre during the last eight years and the achievements of the BRS government during the same period.
T Raghavendra Reddy believes that KCR and some of his fellow aspirants for the Prime Minister’s post might realise that Congress cannot be wished away from a contest, and the Grand Old Party is the only counter weight to the saffron party across many states.
“KCR is in a dilemma where he can neither align with Congress nor bring others together without Congress being in the equation,” he said.
When KCR first mooted the idea of a national alternative, he was targeting both BJP and Congress, blaming them for the problems faced by the country. This stand was not in sync with other regional parties who see BJP as the number one enemy and were not averse to joining hands with the Congress.
Last year, the BRS chief appeared more critical of BJP than Congress. He had even dropped hints of softening his stand towards Congress by saying the priority of all parties should be to throw out the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.
However, he subsequently preferred his previous stand of ‘equi-distance’ from both the BJP and Congress. It was for this reason that the BRS stayed away from the meeting of opposition parties called by Mamata Banerjee to discuss the strategy for Presidential elections.
KCR made it clear that his party will not be part of a meeting where the Congress was invited.
Since BRS considers Congress as its main opponent in Telangana, KCR did not wish to be seen rubbing shoulders with the leaders of that party at the national level.
However, in the interest of larger opposition unity, KCR declared support to Yashwant Sinha, the joint candidate of the opposition parties in the presidential election.
KCR’s son and TRS working president K.T. Rama Rao along with party MPs was present when Sinha filed the nomination.
Though KCR held a series of meetings last year with leaders of various political parties including Shiv Sena, DMK, RJD, SP and JD (S), no consensus could be reached on forging a front as an alternative to both BJP and Congress.
The much-awaited meeting between KCR and his West Bengal counterpart did not take place and despite the attempts made in the past KCR could not have Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy on board as both the BJD and YSRCP continue to extend support to the Modi government on key bills in Parliament.