The import of PM coddling TRS
BJP in Telangana appears to be on a sticky wicket Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling KCR a leader who showed maturity unlike N Chandrababu Naidu after the division of the state in 2014, has sent a signal loud and clear that both the BJP and the TRS are on the same page
BJP in Telangana appears to be on a sticky wicket. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling KCR a leader who showed maturity unlike N Chandrababu Naidu after the division of the state in 2014, has sent a signal loud and clear that both the BJP and the TRS are on the same page.
Till recently, BJP treated the TRS as its rival. When KCR brought up anti-BJP and anti-Congress federal front idea to the fore at a farmers convention in Karimnagar in February this year, the BJP state unit had thought the picture was clear that it would have to take the TRS by its horns.
Accordingly, it had planned several agitations and yatras to brand the TRS as one inimical to the religious freedom, a political strategy whose implementation is as easy as taking the morning cup of coffee for the BJP, in the wake of externment of Swami Paripoornananda from Hyderabad for his decision to lead a procession to Yadadri in protest against the comments of film critic Kathi Mahesh on the Ramayana.
KCR had first banished Mahesh for his critique of Ramayana, thus gaining the support of Hindus but then he sent the Swami to his Kakinada ashram, probably after he got the second wind that it is easier to polarise Muslims than Hindus in his favour. When KCR shunted Mahesh out of Hyderabad, it appeared the Chief Minister wanted to ensure that peace would not become a casualty as by then tempers were already running high.
But, when he shipped Paripoornananda out, even after the latter had said he would conduct a padayatra without any entourage, it became clear that KCR was intent on getting some political mileage out of it, as a rub off.
The BJP was quick enough to see the unfolding opportunity to gain the sympathy of Hindus and, accordingly, it took out rallies and organised protests. The leaders of the party described KCR as an authoritarian leader and thought by doing so they were doing the best thing ahead of their leader Ami Shah’s arrival in Hyderabad.
While this is so, developments that took place at Delhi, made the BJP leaders frown, wondering if KCR and their central leadership were on the same side. Apart from doing everything that the Telangana government had asked, including according all clearances for Kaleswaram Project, Narendra Modi received KCR when he called on him ahead of NITI Aayog’s meeting with wide open arms and discussed several political issues with him including the most crucial one, advancing elections to Lok Sabha and whether the TRS was in favour of advancing assembly elections too. After his tete-a-tete, KCR announced that he was game for early polls to Lok Sabha and Assembly. At the NITI Aayog’s meeting too, Narendra Modi was visibly happy to have KCR around.
Though he was a little reluctant to even shake hands with sibling state Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, he sat with KCR and had once again discussed all and sundry with him. Taking everyone by surprise, the Prime Minister was all too happy to receive KCR’s son and IT Minister K T Rama Rao and assured all help to him when he put forth a proposal to move iron ore from Bailadila in Chhattisgarh to Bayyaram through a pipeline for use by a steel factory which the states wanted the centre to set up.
Then, more recently, BJP chief Amit Shah, after arrival in Hyderabad, did not interact with media persons obviously to evade answering uncomfortable questions about the BJP-TRS relations. On top of this, he cut short state leaders when they raised the subject of increasing the heat on KCR by exposing irregularities in the implementation of Rythu Bandhu scheme, and asked them to first strengthen the party at grassroots level.
He was categorical that the party presence should begin from villages and there could be no other programme better than appointing booth-level committees for this purpose. He, in fact, wondered how the BJP in the state had lagged behind in this all too important endeavour at a time when Odisha was stealing a march over it.
This political demarche in his line of argument signalled that the central leadership was handling KCR with kid gloves, strengthening the suspicion that it was banking on TRS support not only in the election to the vice-chairman of Rajya Sabha but also for formation of government at the centre after the 2019 elections, should the need arise.
Scales fell off from the eyes of the BJP state leaders when Narendra Modi, during his reply to the debate on the motion of no-confidence in Lok Sabha on Friday, praised that KCR had shown maturity in governance after the division of the state. He may have said this to cut Chandrababu Naidu down to size, which he did anyway, but it also served as a window on his thinking of what KCR is all about.
According to sources, if the initial momentum that KCR had built up for his federal front initiative is fast losing its steam, it is because of his electoral compulsions, since he also needs BJP to help him come back to power in the State. Since Muslim minority population is quite high in Telangana, KCR probably may not go in for pre-poll alliance but would want the BJP to help him in a way no one would suspect that the BJP is helping him. This would be possible if the BJP stays in the fray and cuts into the anti-TRS vote bank.
Though the BJP presence is not much in the state, it has the ability to make or mar the chances of others in some pockets. In fact, one vote is enough to decide the fate of a contestant. It was this one vote that sent AB Vajpayee’s government to the cleaners on April 17, 1999.
As patterns in the political kaleidoscope keep changing, the Telangana BJP is trying to figure out who is its friend and who is its foe.