Can Praveen Kumar become Telangana CM banking on Dalit votes alone?

. Sources close to him said his immediate target is 2023 assembly elections; and that is precisely why he resigned from the government service.

When IPS officer Dr R S Praveen Kumar announced his voluntary retirement from the Telangana government service on Monday, six years ahead of his superannuation, it led to immediate speculations that he would soon enter politics.

There were reports in a section of media that Praveen Kumar would be contesting the by-elections to Huzurabad assembly seat on the Telangana Rashtra Samithi ticket. He quickly denied the reports of contesting the by-elections, though he did not rule out joining politics.

There was also a talk that he might join the Bahujan Samaj Party, which has little presence in Telangana, and develop it into a major political force. Another speculation in the media was that he might float a new regional party with an objective of achieving political empowerment to the marginalised sections.

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Though there was no clarity from Praveen Kumar yet on what he wants to do, but it is evident that he definitely has high political ambitions. But after listening to his speech at a meeting of his followers at Sangareddy on Friday night, one would understand that the retired IPS officer has bigger plan up his sleeve – of becoming chief minister of Telangana in the coming years.

It was an aggressive speech, if not rabble-rousing, from Praveen Kumar, castigating the present TRS government directly and chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, indirectly. The way his fans and followers were raising slogans: “Future CM, Zindabad” all through his speech clearly indicated what he is aiming at ultimately.

The politician-in-the-making told the audience that he had resigned from the government service only to fight for securing power for the Dalits. “All these years, we have been viewed as a vote bank for the upper castes. There is a need to change this. We should grab power from upper castes. If not now, we can never get this opportunity, not even after 1,000 years. Only when we come to power shall we get to see real development in our lives,” he said.

Praveen Kumar accused the upper caste-dominated parties of hoodwinking the marginalised sections with false promises and offering lollipops. He took a dig at TRS supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao, albeit indirectly, for making false promise that he would make a Dalit as the chief minister and launching Dalit Bandhu scheme only to garner the votes of the Dalits in the Huzurabad by-elections.

He explained that it was not enough to elect the Dalit MLAs only from reserved constituencies. “What are these Dalit MLAs doing, except serving the interests of the ruling party? The real empowerment to Dalits can be achieved only through capturing power in the state,” he asserted.

So, Praveen Kumar is nurturing the ambition of becoming the chief minister in future. Sources close to him said his immediate target is 2023 assembly elections; and that is precisely why he resigned from the government service two years ahead of the elections and has begun touring different parts of the state in the right earnest.

“He is presently working out his plan of action. Once his plans crystallise, he is planning to take out a padayatra across length and breadth of Telangana, starting from Adilabad and ending at Alampur, his native place. During the course of his padayatra, he would announce his political plans,” sources said.

Praveen Kumar has already developed an extensive network of Swaeroes, an army of old students of Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society (TSWREIS), all over the state with committees at state-level and district-level. He is now planning to develop such committees at constituency-level and mandal-level soon.

These Swaero committees have, in turn, are associated with the parents’ committees at the grassroots level. During his tenure as the secretary of the TSWREIS, Praveen Kumar actively involved the parents of the students in the school/college activities by organising various programmes and extending them various benefits. Thus, he ensured that they have become a part of the Swaero movement.

He, now, hopes that this vast network of students, their parents and old students leading the Swaero Movement would rally behind him during his political journey. Since he has developed a lot of affinity with every one of them, he is confident that they would turn into the potential cadre for his new political venture.

However, it is easier said than done. If one were to study the political history of Telangana or for that matter any state, one would notice that the Dalits and other marginalised sections have not been politically polarised. Though Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party could achieve polarisation of OBC and SC votes respectively in Uttar Pradesh, it was only to some extent, but not totally.

In Telangana, for that matter also in Andhra Pradesh, the marginalised sections have always backed the traditional upper-caste dominated parties like the Congress, the Telugu Desam and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi. Though the BSP contests the assembly elections from selected constituencies, it never proved a potential political party in the state.

In 2014, the BSP won two assembly seats – Koneru Konappa from Sirpur constituency and A Indrakaran Reddy from Nirmal, but the fact was that they won the seats on their personal image, rather than the party’s strength. Both of them later switched over to the TRS.

Though it is premature to make a comparison, but Praveen Kumar’s political ambition resembles that of Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti (MRPS) leader Manda Krishna Madiga, whose movement for achieving categorisation of SC reservations to benefit Madiga sub-sect, rocked the state politics for over two decades.

Like Praveen Kumar now, Manda Krishna’s movement was a sensation among the Dalit community and wherever he went, he used to get roaring reception. With just one call, he used to draw huge crowds for his public meetings. Such was his clout among the Dalits that TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu and Congress leader Y S Rajasekhar Reddy made desperate attempts to woo him into their parties.

But when Manda Krishna actually entered into electoral politics, it was a different experience for him. In 2004, for the first time, he contested as an independent candidate from his native Madhira assembly constituency in Khammam, but secured only 17.2 per cent votes, losing to CPI (M) candidate Katta Venkata Narsaiah, a Kamma.

In 2009 assembly elections, his vote share went down to 13 per cent and he lost to Congress candidate Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka. In 2014 assembly elections, Manda Krishna shifted to Wardhannapet assembly constituency in Warangal and contested on behalf of his newly-formed political party Maha Jana Samithi. But he got around only 11 percent of votes, losing to Aroori Ramesh of TRS.

The bottom line is that it is not so easy for Praveen Kumar to come to power by trying to polarise the votes of only the Dalit community, but he is required to get acceptability among all sections of people.

It would be interesting to watch his political journey and see what he achieves and he loses.

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