TRS-TDP tangle to the fore

TRS-TDP tangle to the fore

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is holding its plenary in this week. Obviously enthusiasm will be at its peak as this is the first ever such meet...

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is holding its plenary in this week. Obviously enthusiasm will be at its peak as this is the first ever such meet after the party tasted remarkable victory in the first ever election in the new state of Telangana. The TRS plenary is certainly aimed at a show of strength at a time when the Hyderabad civic polls are round the corner. More significantly, the plenary is an event that focuses on converting the electoral victory into political organisational strength. But the strategy adopted by the TRS supremo and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao to emasculate the opposition, especially Telugu Desam Party (TDP), is creating many anxious moments in the Telangana polity.

Chandrababu Naidu has already started fire-fighting exercise to insulate the party from the possible attack from the TRS. The TDP legislators will be on a bus yatra to highlight farmers’ woes at a time when the TRS would be poaching the rivals. This is a tactical move by the TDP to put in the dock both the defectors and those who master minded any such defections.

K Chandrasekhar Rao’s strategy of Operation Akarsh has many dimensions and multiple objectives. The 2014 elections gave the TRS victory despite the fact that the party is politically and organisationally weak in many districts. The powerful Telangana sentiment has catapulted the party to power. But the TRS chief is fully conscious of the party’s vulnerabilities. The sentiment cannot bypass this weakness forever. Therefore, KCR’s first priority is to strengthen the party in the all the 10 districts. The transformation of the movement into a political party would be complete only when the TRS accomplishes this task. There are two routes to achieve this. First, a long-drawn effort was made to strengthen the party from the grassroots. But, KCR seems to be not prepared for this ordeal. Instead, the shortcut chosen was to import leaders from other parties to fill the critical gaps in the TRS strength. This strategy was put into action even before elections. Influential TDP leaders like P Mahender Reddy of Rangareddy district were attracted to the party. He was inducted into the State cabinet also. The TRS was weak in Rangareddy district even during the Telangana movement. The Telugu Desam Party was relatively formidable in this district.

Similarly, the TRS inducted TDP leaders from Adilabad district where it lacked political strength despite strong criticism. KCR did not hesitate to take the controversial Konda family into the party. All these politically tactical moves have yielded rich electoral dividends. Thus KCR continues to rely on the similar strategy in post-election period also. The TRS’ next target was Khammam district where the Telangana movement itself was confined to few pockets. The TDP performed very well in this district in the elections to local bodies. The exit of Tummala Nageshwara Rao was a massive blow to the TDP. Thus the TRS continues to inflict wounds on opposition in a bid to gain organisational strength. This strategy realises two objectives at a time. Apart from filling the critical gaps in TRS political and organisational hold, it cripples the opposition. A constant fear of defections haunts the opposition thereby disarming it from launching any strong campaign against the government. Telangana movement in general and the TRS in particular sold a grand vision for Telangana but the reality seems to be otherwise. Several promises still remain unfulfilled. The loan-waiver is yet to be implemented. The promise of KG to PG free education still remains a non-starter. The land for Dalits scheme is beset with many practical difficulties. The finances are dwindling with fall in commercial taxes and other revenues. The power crisis is acute. The opposition is slowly flexing its muscles as the period of honey moon comes to close.

With Operation Akarsh, KCR precisely aims at demoralising opposition. The TDP was always a prime target for the TRS even before bifurcation. The ambivalence of Chandrababu Naidu on the question of state bifurcation was fully exploited by KCR. The TDP was thoroughly embarrassed. Disillusionment gripped the party. The TRS could successfully portray the TDP as ‘Andhra Party’. Despite such an unprecedented onslaught, the TDP performed more than expected. The TDP’s significant electoral success was much to the surprise of TRS which expected the party to be decimated in post-bifurcation phase. Thus TRS renewed its hostile campaign on TDP. This campaign is two-fold. On one side, TRS continues to attack TDP, describing it as loyal to Andhra interests. The controversies between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have come in handy for the TRS. On the other hand, TRS seeks to weaken the TDP by encouraging defections. It is now a litmus test for Chandrababu Naidu’s political acumen. One has to wait and see how TDP, a veteran of several political battles, steers itself from this political crisis.

KCR is still investing in controversies woven around identity politics. Perhaps he still believes that this is a potent weapon to push the opposition to the wall. Here again the TDP lead by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister is a prime target.

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