HYDERABAD: ‘Unfettered’ and ‘undeterred’ are perhaps two of the words that can aptly describe the temperament of K Chandrasekhar Rao, popularly known as KCR. It is this temperament of his that has brought him immense success, first as a Telangana statehood protagonist and then as a politician who is looking at a third successive victory in State elections.
Starting his political career as a Youth Congress leader in the late 70s, it is this temperament of Rao that has now made him the president of a national party which hopes to challenge the hegemony of the BJP and the Congress on a pan-India level.
It was an unfettered Rao, who had no qualms about dumping the Youth Congress for the TDP founded by NT Rama Rao in 1983. However, he faced a defeat in his first attempt to enter the Assembly from Siddipet in 1983. It was an undeterred Rao who went on to win from the same constituency four times and get a Cabinet berth in the NTR-led TDP government.
Having backed N Chandrababu Naidu when the latter dethroned NTR in a family coup, KCR then parted ways with the former to quit as Deputy Speaker of the State Legislative Assembly to launch his own regional party, the TRS in 2001.
Trudging his own path
While Naidu was left ruing his mistake of not inducting Rao into his Cabinet, the TRS supremo stayed determined in his fight for statehood. Attempts to destabilise the TRS by the Congress by luring away MLAs were met with stoic silence, but not forgotten.
Rao showed that he was not someone who would be bogged down by temporary setbacks nor would he allow politics to deter him. He took several political decisions to sustain the statehood movement and ensure the survival of the TRS.
Rao forged an alliance with the Congress and his party went on to win 26 Assembly and five Lok Sabha seats. Rao himself joined the UPA Cabinet.
Citing the abnormal delay in granting statehood, Rao quit as a Union Minister, severed ties with the Congress and forged an alliance with the TDP in 2009, after the latter party extended its unconditional support to separate Telangana.
However, the Congress, led by the redoubtable YS Rajasekhara Reddy, retained power, and Rao’s plans went awry. As fate would have it, YSR passed away in a helicopter crash, and politics in undivided Andhra Pradesh changed forever.
Rao renewed the push for a separate Telangana, and on December 29, 2009, launched his indefinite fast. The UPA government blinked, and Telangana was officially formed on June 2, 2014, and Rao became the new State’s first Chief Minister. Refusing to be held back by his own promises, Rao changed tack immediately after the formation of the State and declared that TRS was no more a party for the movement but has transformed into a political party.
In his first term as Chief Minister, Rao started several welfare schemes like Rythu Bandhu, free power to farmers and also took up the construction of massive irrigation projects. Buoyed by the reception to these schemes, and perhaps realising that sooner or later he would have to face anti-incumbency, he set his sights on the pan-India horizon, announcing the evolution of the TRS into the BRS.
The Telangana question
However, his old pals are pained as the word ‘Telangana’ has been dropped while changing the name of the TRS. These former associates also worry that, as a national leader, Rao would not be able to favour Telangana when fighting for river water sharing and other issues. “The very existence of Telangana is a question mark now. Those who participated in the Telangana movement are pained to see the dropping of Telangana,” said TJS chief Prof M Kodandaram. He wondered who would fight for Telangana on issues like sharing of Krishna waters or Polavaram.
He, however, believes that Rao is trying to derive two benefits by floating a national party. “If the BRS wins a couple of more seats, Rao would then get some bargaining power at the Centre. The other benefit is that he could divert the attention of the people of Telangana to Delhi, so that the focus shifts from his failures or shortcomings in the State. He will tell one lie and try to prove it as a fact,” said Prof Kodandaram.
Analyst and former MLC Prof K Nageshwar said that it would be a historic effort to launch a national party from south India. He pointed out that south Indian political parties have been so far unable to emerge as a strong force at the national level. Only some political leaders from south India became popular at the national level, Prof Nageshwar said.
However, TRS leaders are confident an undeterred Rao would succeed in his national mission. “BhaRaSa (Bharat Rashtra Samithi) is Desh ka Bharosa (confidence for this country),” a TRS leader said. Senior TRS leader L Ramana, who worked with Rao in TDP, exuded confidence that the TRS supremo would muster the support of the people of the country with his secular ideology and succeed in national politics.
“In the larger interests of the country, we have to stop the onward march of the BJP. KCR has the capacity to stop the BJP,” G Jagadish Reddy said. “With the support of the people, Rao implemented various schemes and made Telangana the No. 1 State in the country. Rao will develop the country as well with his systematic planning,” Planning Board vice-ch-airman B Vinod Kumar said.
5 LS seats
won by the TRS in 2004, in addition to 26 Assembly seats, propelled KCR to the national stage; he became a Union Minister in the UPA-1 govt
A lifetime of struggle
Started political career as a Youth Congress leader in the late 70s
Joined TDP in 1983
Started TRS on April 27, 2011, with the sole aim of achieving separate Telangana
Started his famous indefinite fast on December 29, 2009
Separate Telangana was formed on June 2, 2014
Declared BRS in consideration during the TRS plenary on April 27, 2022
Spent the last six months meeting farmers, irrigation experts, economists and others, discussed the agenda for the BRS
TRS becomes BRS on October 5, 2022