Is Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao a trusted friend of Narendra Modi or an unadulterated foe? While some sections and political parties oppose whatever the BJP does regardless of merits, KCR is different. He unexpectedly extended full support to some of the most controversial decisions taken by the Centre like demonetisation, GST and the reading down of Article 370, but is now opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR). He has gone to the extent of adopting an Assembly resolution opposing the new format for capturing NPR data, asserting its updation will be allowed only if it is done using the old format. KCR even threatened to launch a nationwide stir with all like-minded chief ministers on the matter. The NPR exercise is scheduled to begin anytime between April 1 and September 30 across the country if the Coronavirus outbreak does not put it off.
“If you are not making the bread, why are you kneading the dough?” he asked, delivering an iron-fisted punch on the BJP while speaking in the Assembly on the resolution. In fact, moving the resolution in the Assembly was a long time coming. He maintained stoic silence even in the face of the BJP’s taunts over whether the TRS’ opposition to the CAA in Parliament was just an eyewash. The BJP’s game plan was to force KCR to commit himself to his anti-CAA stand, which it hoped would polarise Hindus in its favour in the municipal polls held a few months ago. The BJP argued that KCR wanted to keep the issue simmering as he was not sure how Hindus would react if he took to the streets with his anti-CAA stand.
Though Muslims would rally behind him, it could ruffle the sentiments of the Hindus, which he was wary of ahead of the municipal elections, particularly at a time when the anti-incumbency luggage was slowly piling up.For, one unguarded comment by him ahead of the Lok Sabha elections had cost the TRS four seats in the state, including that of daughter K Kavitha in Nizamabad, who went down to the BJP as if pole-axed. Criticising the BJP’s Hindutva agenda, he had used the phrase ‘Hinduvulu Bonduvulu’ (nincompoops), which riled the Hindus though it was a dart aimed at the BJP. KCR later tried to make amends by saying there could be no greater Hindu than himself and recounted the many yagnas he had performed, but the damage was done.
After KCR changed tack with his anti-CAA resolution, the BJP initially ran for cover to unscramble his googly. It then claimed that KCR is positioning himself as a messiah of the Muslims because elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation are due and the city has over 40 per cent Muslim population. Till the municipal elections were over, the TRS had stayed silent on the CAA so as to mobilise Hindus, while ally AIMIM tore into the BJP, thus consolidating the Muslim votes. Wherever the MIM was in the fray, the TRS worked for it, and vice versa, with the common intention of arresting the BJP’s rise.
KCR, as any other politician, would naturally look for electoral benefit in every decision that he takes.
Since Muslim population is about 12 per cent in the entire state and over 40 per cent in Hyderabad, he chose to strategically time his anti-CAA stand. Politics apart, when the Muslim community is agitated, as a leader of the state, he probably thought he should defend their rights. While TRS calls him a champion of secularism, the astute politician knows when to play up an issue and when to lie low. He knows how to get the best of both the worlds while protecting the interests of the largest segment of the electorate.
Interestingly, a senior BJP leader has filed a PIL in the Hyderabad High Court challenging the Assembly resolution against the NPR. It remains to be seen how the NPR politics eventually plays out. Also, the fallout of the state government stalling a Central programme would be anybody’s guess.
Ch V M Krishna Rao
Resident Editor, Telangana