KCR | The long road to Delhi

KCR | The long road to Delhi

Updated: 3 months, 4 days, 12 hours, 55 minutes, 50 seconds ago

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KCR | The long road to Delhi

Since everyone is on a yatra, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, who made his national ambitions evident by renaming the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) on Dussehra, is not one to be left behind. He is planning a road journey to Delhi, covering Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana among other states. What's left is the search for 'fellow travellers'—the biggest challenge in his grand plan to stitch up an alternative to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election.

KCR will be addressing a rally in the national capital on December 9. It's the eve of Human Rights Day, and hence the stated objective: to put a spotlight on the alleged 'suppression of rights and liberties' under the BJP-led Union government. However, the event is seen as a possible show of strength for both him and his BRS (the name change is yet to be formalised), which will soon have a party office at Vasant Vihar in Delhi. The choice of date is significant for another reason as well—it was on the night of December 9, 2009, that the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government accepted KCR's demand for a separate Telangana state, bringing to an end his 11-day hunger strike.

  KCR wants others to rally behind him to take on the BJP, but his national ambitions may face hurdles    

KCR wants others to rally behind him to take on the BJP, but his national ambitions may face hurdles

Thirteen years later, KCR is trying to position himself as the lead combatant of the Opposition against the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). For this, he has met and held deliberations with leaders of several regional parties over the past two years. He is also holding consultations with farmers's bodies, retired bureaucrats and civil society activists to prepare an agenda for his prospective alliance.

But the Dussehra day announcement has failed to evoke the desired response. Only the Janata Dal (Secular), led by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and based mainly in Karnataka, and the MP Thol. Thirumavalavan-led Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi of Tamil Nadu besides the CPI and CPI(M) have endorsed KCR's 'BJP-mukt Bharat' plan so far. The strategy is to get more parties on board by mid-2023. Even at the local level, the BRS has found takers only in isolated pockets of Karnataka and Maharashtra that border Telangana.

KCR had made similar efforts to build such an alliance ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. He had met prominent Opposition leaders across the country, but his 'federal, non-BJP, non-Congress' alliance did not materialise. "Any combinations and permutations for an alternative government in 2024 will be possible only after the election. But the BRS may play an active role in building an alternative narrative in the country," says G. Kiran Kumar, who works on issues of politics, policy and governance at the University of Hyderabad. KCR's 'alternative narrative', which is still in the works, has two key aspects: political and economic. At the political level, he wants all regional parties to come together to 'protect the democratic federal spirit of the country'. Meanwhile, his economic agenda is a mix of welfare and populist measures, mainly focusing on farmers and disadvantaged groups, and already tested in Telangana.

"Given his ability to comprehend and crunch numbers, propensity for doing extensive groundwork, and eloquence, KCR is a tad superior to most chief ministers of today," feels Harathi Vageeshan, who teaches political science at the NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad. However, he is quick to add: "To have a national appeal and bring together political parties, KCR has to cultivate a national vision. In this, he appears to be inadequate."

The Telangana CM will need more than a name change to execute his party's national makeover. For one, it is tantamount to eclipsing the party's distinct regional identity—the plank on which the TRS evolved and came to power. With the state set to go the polls in 2023, over six months before the Lok Sabha election, and the two-term-old KCR government facing the anti-incumbency challenge, its leader's national ambitions seem to be a high-stakes gamble. "With the rival Congress and BJP alleging that KCR has abandoned the Telangana identity, a new claimant for this identity cannot be ruled out," cautions political commentator K. Nageshwar.

KCR's prospective fellow travellers pose the other challenge, as they too are nursing national ambitions. His Bihar counterpart and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar was the first to mention a countrywide anti-BJP mahagathbandhan during KCR's visit to Patna on August 31. Then there are leaders like West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee who too had made similar efforts ahead of the previous general election. With multiple claimants to lead a non-BJP, non-Congress alliance, the Telangana CM might soon realise that the road to Delhi is long and winding, and a tad too crowded for any smooth progress.

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