The resounding victory in the recent by-election to the Warangal Lok Sabha seat by an astounding majority of over 4.50 lakh votes seems to have emboldened the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) to go for the kill and decimate opposition parties in Telangana.
TRS pulled off the victory, despite a high-decibel opposition campaign, which accused it of backtracking on promises, and reports in a section of the media about the ‘growing anti-incumbency’. Opposition parties were mauled so badly all their candidates lost their deposits. All credit goes to TRS supremo and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, who proved he is still the man of the masses.
After their ignominious defeat, the two major opposition parties — Telugu Desam Party and Congress — have surrendered so meekly that they have conceded four MLC seats to TRS in the ongoing elections to the Legislative Council under the local bodies’ quota. The Congress had no takers for its MLC tickets in Adilabad, Warangal and Karimnagar districts, while its candidate in Medak defected to the TRS on the penultimate day of the nominations! So was the case with the TDP, whose candidates withdrew from the contest in four north Telangana districts, paving the way for the unanimous election of the TRS candidates in six seats.
Next on KCR’s political agenda is the conquest of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), the fifth largest metropolitan city in the country. Cashing in on the demoralised Congress and TDP cadres, the TRS chief has focused his attention on luring as many city opposition MLAs as possible into his party fold.
“Operation Akarsh” of the TRS has been giving encouraging results with several opposition MLAs evincing interest in joining the party. The latest converts are Secunderabad Cantonment MLA G Sayanna and Congress MLC from the city MS Prabhakar. The TRS had already attracted four TDP MLAs from Hyderabad and adjacent Ranga Reddy district, including Talasani Srinivas Yadav from Sanath Nagar, Teegala Krishna Reddy from Maheshwaram, Manchireddy Kishan Reddy from Ibrahimpatnam and Madhavaram Krishna Rao from Kukatpally. At least three more TDP MLAs are ready to take the plunge. TDP’s staunch loyalist and former CBI director K Vijaya Ramarao’s resignation from the party ahead of the GHMC polls will further demoralise cadre.
The Congress, too, is in a bad shape in Hyderabad. Former minister and Greater Hyderabad Congress Committee president Danam Nagender had almost joined the TRS last week, but for the intervention of the high command in Delhi. This has, however, left the party cadre in a quandary, as many were getting ready to join the TRS. Now, they have no moral strength to fight the GHMC elections.
The TRS, thus, has emerged as an invincible force in Telangana. In fact, KCR has this remarkable quality of taking a setback as a challenge. During his 12-year long struggle for separate Telangana, he experienced several ebbs and flows and whenever the chips were down, rose like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes. There were times when he was written off as a failed politician, but ultimately, he achieved his goal of Statehood to Telangana.
After coming to power, there were skeptics who doubted his political and administrative abilities. People had high expectations, but they are aware of the difficulties in implementing all the promises he made before the 2014 polls overnight. But, the opposition failed to understand this logic and tried to underplay his aura of invincibility.
Interestingly, there seems to be a lot of change in the attitude of KCR after the Warangal bypoll. While silently working on his political strategy of eliminating the opposition, the CM is aggressively pursuing his development and welfare agenda, including construction of double bedroom houses for weaker sections, filling up of teachers’ vacancies, implementation of Kalyan Lakshmi and Shaadi Mubaark for women and minorities respectively, bringing Godavari waters to Hyderabad and expediting Water Grid and Mission Kakatiya works.
At the same time, he has decided to give up his confrontational attitude towards the Centre, displaying instead maturity in building a good relationship with leaders like Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu to benefit the State.
If KCR succeeds in winning the GHMC elections, it will be difficult to stop the TRS juggernaut in coming years. And it will be an uphill task for opposition parties to build an anti-establishment sentiment by next elections. However, as former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao said, the dynamics of governance require flexibility and purposiveness. In politics, winning elections is the only criteria. But governance is a different ball game and history will judge one only on the basis of the quality of governance, not political victories. KCR is not too naive to understand this.