TRS going national appears to be a gimmick; KCR is unsure of how to take on Congress and BJP

“Desh Kay Neta KCR” – this was the slogan that reverberated in the Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC) at Madhapur in Hyderabad on Wednesday. The posters and banners that were put up all over the city also sent the same message.

The resolution proposed by KCR’s son and TRS working president K T Rama Rao stating that the party would play a decisive role in the national politics to show a new direction to the country gave an indication that KCR will soon take to national politics.

“Telangana will certainly provide that leadership to the nation and see that India would get a golden Telangana model, not the bulldozer model,” KTR said, as “Desh Kay Neta KCR” slogans raised by the 3,000-odd delegates of the party rent the air.

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KTR went on to say that there is a vacuum in the national politics and the TRS would fill the political void at the national level, to bring about a qualitative change in the country, as it had done in Telangana.

This is not the first time that KCR has revealed his ambition for entering national politics. He has been making such announcements since the TRS returned to power in December 2018 elections, floating the idea of stitching up a non-Congress non-BJP alliance of regional parties.

He had met several regional party leaders including DMK chief M K Stalin, Janata Dal (Secular) leader H D Deve Gowda, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Biju Janata Dal leader Naveen Patnaik and Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee between December 2018 and April 2019.

But with the Bharatiya Janata Party returning to power at the Centre with a thumping majority in May 2019 elections, KCR shelved his federal front plan and the other parties focussed on winning in their respective states.

The TRS supremo changed his strategy and tried to make friendship with the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. In October 2019, KCR met the Prime Minister and went head over heels to praise him. He even supported Modi, when the Centre imposed a nation-wide lockdown in March 2020 to prevent spread of COVID-19 and lashed out at the Congress leaders for criticising the Prime Minister’s call to the people to light candles, sounding of bells and conches and clapping.

KCR also welcomed the Atma Nirbhar package announced by the Prime Minister and was regularly attending Modi’s Zoom conferences with all the CMs. Subsequently, he met the Prime Minister in October 2020 to seek additional funds to the state which suffered huge losses due to Coronavirus pandemic and again in September 2021, seeking an increase in the number of IPS officers to the state, among others.

That was the last meeting KCR had had with the Prime Minister. After that they never had faced each other. Things have taken a dramatic turn in the last six months, to be precise after the debacle for the TRS in Huzurabad by-elections in November 2021, as KCR began an aggressive attack on the BJP in general and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular.

The reason was obvious: All these years, KCR was under the impression that the BJP was never a force in Telangana, as it had won just 2 seats in 2018 assembly elections losing deposit in nearly 103 seats and the by-elections in Huzurnagar and Nagarjunsagar.

Though the BJP wrested the Dubbak seat in the by-elections in November 2020, it was by a slender margin and even then, KCR was not worried. But when the BJP gave the TRS a run for its money in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections in December 2020, KCR started taking the BJP seriously.

Change of strategy

After the victory of the BJP in Huzurabad by-polls in November 2021, KCR decided to hold the saffron party by its horns. Instead of concentrating on the local BJP leaders, he stared directly attacking the BJP national leadership and particularly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In the last few months, the TRS took up a series of agitations against the Centre on various issues including paddy procurement, fertiliser prices, rising petrol and diesel prices, privatisation of LIC and Singareni Collieries. KCR himself took part in the agitations at Dharna Chowk in Hyderabad and Telangana Bhavan in New Delhi, where he called upon the people to throw the Modi government in Bay of Bengal.

Taking advantage of the defeat of the BJP in West Bengal and Kerala and BJP-backed AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, the TRS chief revived his federal front plan. He started giving hints about his entry into national politics again and raised the issue at a couple of public meetings at Jangaon and Yadadri Bhongir district.

He flew down to Chennai again to hold talks with Stalin, to Mumbai to meet Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar and to Jharkhand to meet chief minister Hemanth Soren to discuss the federal front plan.

He also arranged a special flight to bring Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejaswi Yadav from Patna to Hyderabad to discuss his strategy.

But nothing worked out for KCR, as he realised that all these parties are in one way or the other, associated with the Congress. So, the TRS chief has slightly changed his plan and gave hints that he is ready for accommodating even the Congress into his scheme of things.

He came in defence of Rahul Gandhi to attack BJP’s Assam chief minister Hemanth Biswa Sarma who questioned whether the Congress leader was born to Rajiv Gandhi. The TRS leaders also attended a meeting convened by Congress floor leader Mallikharjun Kharge at his residence to oppose unilateral suspension of the Congress members from Rajya Sabha.

Yet, there were no takers for KCR at the national level. He went to Delhi twice in the recent past, but no opposition leader evinced interest in meeting him. Recently, when leaders of 13 non-BJP parties including Sharad Pawar and Mamata Banerjee issued a joint statement to express their concerns at incidents of communal violence in different parts of the country, they did not include KCR in the list.

Yet another change of strategy

So, KCR changed his tactic again. Apparently realising that the other regional parties are not interested in joining hands with him, he has started giving the impression that he will directly take on the BJP at the national level.

That is why the TRS chief announced at the party plenary that there is no use of any fronts or political regroupings as an alternative to the national parties. “What India requires now is not formation of political fronts or realignment of political parties with the sole agenda of pulling down the BJP from power at the Centre. So many fronts have come and gone in the past but they failed to provide any alternative governance to the people,” he said.

Strangely, KCR changed his tune on defeating the BJP, saying it was not his priority. It was only till recently that he has been giving a call to the people to dump the BJP into Bay of Bengal and pull it down from power to save the country.

But at the plenary, the TRS chief said defeating the BJP is not his priority but to provide an alternative national agenda to the people. He said some political parties, including the Communists, requested him to join hands with them to pull down the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party from power,
Describing it as a meaningless and bad agenda, KCR said he was interested in dislodging somebody and make Yellaiah or Mallaiah as the Prime Minister. “We shall strive to come out with an alternative people’s agenda that can lead the country into the path of progress and development. It is with this agenda that there is a possibility of a new political power emerging,” he said, adding that the TRS would take the initiative in that direction.

He indicated that there is a possibility of the TRS converting itself into a national party with Hyderabad as its base. “Some young MLAs have suggested that we should float Bharatiya Rashtra Samithi (BRS). We should come out with our own alternative agenda at the national level. We should find ways to make it a reality. If the new proposal, new agenda and a new philosophy emerges on this platform from Hyderabad and spreads to the entire country, it’s a matter of pride for us,” he said.

KCR said with the same spirit of the achieving the statehood, the Telangana could show a path for the entire country by projecting an alternative development agenda. “Let us make a beginning in this direction,” he said.

How can TRS become a national party?

First of all, one should understand what a national party is. The TRS cannot become a national party just by changing its name to BRS. The Election Commission of India has defined that a registered political party is recognised as a national party only if it fulfils any one of the three conditions:

a.     It should win 2% of seats in the Lok Sabha (11 MP seats) from at least three different states (or)
b.     It should poll 6% of votes in any four or more states in a general election to Lok Sabha or state legislative assembly, besides winning four Lok Sabha seats from any state or states(or);
c.       It should get recognition as a state party in four or more state.

So, has TRS has fulfilled any of these three conditions to become a national party? After converting itself into BRS or any other name, it should contest the elections in four or more states and win a good percentage of votes.

“There are only 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana and the TRS has a chance to a win a maximum of 16 seats, leaving the remaining seat to the MIM. In which other state KCR can expect to win? Karnataka? Andhra Pradesh? Tamil Nadu? Kerala or Maharashtra? How can he project his national political agenda in other states? It may not be impossible, but it is a long process and requires great efforts,” said a political analyst.

One also wonders whether regional satraps in other states would ever accept KCR’s entry into their domains. “Already, they have not evinced any interest in his federal front plan. And KCR himself described their agenda as trash. At a time when the BJP is fast expanding its footprints across the country, it may not be that easy for a southern leader like KCR to make his presence felt in other states,” he observed.

Is it just a political gimmick?

According to this analyst, the talk of floating a national party or projecting national agenda could be part of a clever strategy of KCR to hoodwink the people and return to power in Telangana for the third consecutive term in 2023 assembly elections.

The TRS has to fight with two major national parties in Telangana – the Congress and the BJP. Till the other day, KCR was of the view that he has to fight only with the Congress, as BJP is not a big force. But with the saffron party emerging as a powerful entity, he has sensed that there is a chance for him to come to power again.

KCR knows that the Congress and the BJP can never fight the elections together; he wants these two national parties to be in the fray and it will help the TRS.

But he has a strong feeling that the BJP might pose a threat to him. So, he has to give an impression that he is fighting against the Modi government at the national level. However, since no other party is willing to join him, he is trying to project the theory that the TRS itself will become a national party and fight against the BJP, as there is no use of any fronts or political realignments.

“That is why he is talking about the communal politics of the BJP and its anti-people policies at the national level, so that he can stall the BJP in Telangana. So, the whole agenda of KCR is not national, but purely local – to return to power in the state for the third term,” the analyst said.

If at all he succeeds in bringing the TRS back to power in 2023, then KCR may think of his national agenda. “But at least till the next assembly elections in Telangana, KCR will not float any pan India party. It will be no surprise if he dumps his national party plan after the TRS victory in the state assembly elections,” he added.

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