Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s attempt to catapult the Telangana Rashtra Samiti to the centre stage of national politics by renaming it is being watched by political pundits.
Some see it as a move that could help increase his stature nationally, while others fear it could turn into a misadventure.
In a politically-significant development in the regional political landscape, the two-decade-old TRS was rechristened on Wednesday as Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS), with an aim to establish KCR as a national leader.
The name change resolution was passed by the party general body meeting in Hyderabad as party workers cheered and banners with slogans like ‘Desh ka neta KCR’, ‘Dear India, he is coming’, and ‘KCR is on the way’ were prominently displayed around the venue of the meeting.
Several analysts also surmise the idea as an exercise to fortify his party base in the state — where the Bharatiya Janata Party is making inroads and intensifying political activity ahead of 2023 assembly polls — by shifting focus to national issues.
However, a big question remains whether TRS — founded in 2001 with a single-point agenda of creating a separate Telangana state — will manage to capture any space in national politics; whether KCR’s leadership will be accepted in other states, especially in the north.
“KCR is not a politician who does things without a reason. His plan to enter national politics stems from his ambition to fill a vacuum caused by a lack of formidable opposition to the BJP-led ruling National Democratic Alliance at the centre,” said a political analyst.
In addition, the 68-year-old leader of Telangana believes his party’s success in winning the support of women, farmers, and marginalised groups with several welfare schemes.
Some of the major schemes are: ‘Rythu Bandhu’ which takes care of the initial investment needs of every farmer; ‘Dalit Bandhu’ — under which one-time capital assistance of Rs 10 lakh is provided for every SC family to set up a suitable income-generating business; ‘KCR Kit’, a Rs 12,000 aid for pregnant women to take care of herself and the newborn child and ‘Aasara’ pensions to all the poor.
In renaming TRS and repositioning it as a ‘national’ party, KCR is also eyeing a pole position in opposition politics ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
As the main opposition Congress party struggles to reverse its slide in the country’s electoral politics, major regional parties across the country are trying to forge a united front that can take on the ruling BJP.
KCR, who has long championed the idea of a non-Congress, non-BJP opposition, would want to play a pivotal role in such an alliance.
However, not all share that optimism.
M Kodandaram, the founder of Telangana Jana Samithi and political analyst, feels: “It is for the first time, a state-recognised party like TRS is renaming itself as BRS. It is going to be a misadventure.”
He further added that Telugu Desam Party, which had a strong presence in united Andhra Pradesh, is a registered national party but has not made any headway at the national level and a similar case is with the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, which is primarily based in the city of Hyderabad.
Both TDP and AIMIM did not rename their parties, he added.
“KCR has an identity as chief minister at the national level, but it is not sufficient to build a national party,” he observed.
As the BJP intensifies its political activity in the state, KCR wants to divert focus on national issues, another analyst said.
“It is a ‘gamble’ that he is plunging directly into the national arena,” the analyst from the well-known Kautilya Institute of Public Policy (KIPP) said on condition of anonymity.
Given that the country’s politics changed after the 1980s with the emergence of regional forces, parties like the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Janata Dal-United, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and others have been playing a national role either through alliance building or by forming pressure groups.
KCR is trying to work on the sentiment that individually the small regional parties have not been able to assert themselves effectively at the national level but collectively they can and will replace the traditional Opposition to become a formidable opposition.
In the recent past, KCR has met several regional party leaders including Janata Dal-Secular chief H D Deve Gowda, Nationalist Congress Party’s Sharad Pawar, Trinamool Congress’s Mamata Banerjee, Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal and others, and has been rooting for a ‘non-BJP, non-Congress’ alliance.
However, most of these parties have maintained that there cannot be any united opposition without the Congress as it may end up only helping BJP.
Talking about KCR’s national aspirations, political commentator K Ramachandra Murthy said either poaching a national leader or merging with small parties was one of the ways to become a national party.
“However, I don’t think any party will be keen to merge with TRS. Even JDS will not do that and will only have an alliance. In Gujarat also, a former CM came and met the TRS chief. He may have an alliance but will not merge with him,” said Murthy, who has been an editor of several Telugu and English newspapers.
Some political analysts are optimistic about KCR’s move. Another
analyst from the KIPP said: “Everybody can come and put a political alternative. Who knows whether they will win or not?”
It may or may not bring a ‘significant benefit’ for KCR at the national level, but it will certainly help ‘improve his image’ from a regional to a national leader thereby helping him and his party in Telangana to consolidate his position in view of BJP’s strong move to launch ‘operation Telangana’, the analyst said.
Irrespective of the outcome at the national level, it is a win-win situation as he has nothing to lose, the analyst added.
To achieve his national ambitions, KCR is also banking on Dalits, tribals and farmers’ votes. In his state, he has increased reservations from 6 to 10 per cent for scheduled tribes.
He also financially helped the kin of some farmers from Delhi and Punjab who had lost lives during the agitation at the Delhi-Haryana border in 2020-21, projecting himself as a pro-farmer leader.
He is also considered to be a pro-Muslim leader because of his close alliance with AIMIM. A lot of ministers in his cabinet are Muslims.
The pro-Muslim and anti-BJP votes might come to him, an analyst said, adding there is also a good 14 per cent Muslim vote bank in the country.
Time will tell whether KCR’s ‘gamble’ of renaming his party will help in achieving his ambition or become a mere ‘misadventure’.
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