Hyderabad: Over a thousand miles away from the corridors of power in Lutyen’s Delhi, something is brewing in Hyderabad. K Chandrashekar Rao or KCR, the chief minister of Telangana and founder of TRS, is making his own calculations.
His close aides feel that if there is a badly hung Parliament on May 23, KCR will try to form a coalition government with the support of all non-BJP parties. And KCR is also giving credence to such claims by already initiating a talk with the regional leaders across India.
Whether he succeeds in becoming the third south Indian Prime Minister or not, KCR is already in the big league in New Delhi. He has set his eyes on national politics.
If the BJP falls short of a simple majority, KCR will most likely extend support and stay as an important figure in national politics. With YS Jaganmohan Reddy of YSRCP in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, KCR has already formed an unofficial power bloc to increase his bargaining powers in the national capital.
KCR’s rise and rise in the last five years is a story in itself. KCR feels that 2019 would be good for him unlike 1999 and 2009.
The years 1999 and 2009 were the worst for him. In 1999, he won on a TDP ticket and expected a plum Cabinet portfolio, a promotion over the labour ministry he had earlier.
But his leader and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu poured cold water over his ambitions by making him the deputy speaker of the state Assembly. A heartbroken KCR reluctantly accepted for a few days, but swore to take revenge.
A year later, he quit the TDP on whose ticket he had won four times and revived a separate Telangana state movement by forming the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
The party became a success and won five Lok Sabha seats in 2004 elections. Naidu was decimated at the hands of Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy-led Congress. KCR became a union cabinet minister, handling the labour portfolio in UPA – 1 led by the Congress at the Centre.
But upset by Congress not making Telangana a reality, he quit the Parliament and again came back to Andhra in a high decibel by-election. In 2009, he was hoping for a bigger share and contested the Lok Sabha election in Andhra on his own. A day before the results, he joined the NDA led by LK Advani of BJP.
The next day, he was devastated. The TRS had won just two Parliament seats and the Congress had returned to power with 206 seats. In AP, Dr YSR was once again king.
Commenting on his plight, a well-known Delhi-based TV news anchor declared on air that it was the end of KCR and his Telangana dreams. He had said, “Mr. KCR now forget your party and Telangana. Both are gone”.
To this, his US-educated daughter K Kavitha, who had quit a lucrative job in New Jersey and returned home to fight for Telangana, replied, “We are not over. We will continue our fight and make Telangana a reality. My father is a fighter. Don’t underestimate us”. (Kavitha is now a Member of the Parliament from Nizamabad in Telangana and a popular face in both Hyderabad and New Delhi).
A few months later, the all-powerful chief minister YSR died in a helicopter crash and the AP Congress descended into chaos. KCR, who was biding time, sensed that it was the right opportunity to hit back. He came out of his self-imposed short exile to restart the Telangana movement.
His fast unto death for the new state brought what is now Telangana to a halt for a week and the panicked Centre agreed to divide Andhra Pradesh. The then union home minister, P Chidambaram, who had earlier dismissed KCR as a day dreamer, had to make that mid-night announcement at his office in North Block.
KCR had won round one handsomely.
To make that promise a reality, KCR had to work hard for the next four years. His young, articulate daughter Kavitha also chipped in, holding behind the scene negotiations in New Delhi. Their perseverance paid rich dividends and the UPA-2 passed Telangana Bill in the Parliament.
As expected he became Telangana’s first and founding chief minister on June 2, 2014.
KCR had showed that he is a fighter, a maverick who never shied from a challenge. And he is unpredictable. He loves taking risks.
For him, quitting the Congress to join TDP in 1985 was a risky thing. Revolting against Chandrababu Naidu when he was at his peak was riskier. Taking on YSR was tough. Dissolving the state Assembly nine months before its expiry was perhaps the toughest. But he faced every challenge thrown at him and finally won big.
Speaking to this reporter sometime in mid-2013, KCR had told that he was a supporter of Sanjay Gandhi and his death had made him quit the Congress.
“I was with the youth Congress then. Indira Gandhi was out of power and she had no one backing her. I had gone to the Parliament to support her. The moment Prime Minister Morarji Desai got off from his car, I shouted “Desh Ka Neta Kaun Hain? Desh Ka Neta Indiraji Hain” (Who is the leader of nation? Leader of the nation is Indira Gandhi). And the police took me away. I came back again shouted when Indira Gandhi arrived at the Parliament”.
He then joined the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) that was floated by matinee idol NT Rama Rao to uphold the “dignity” of Telugu people which he felt was undermined by the arrogant Congress in New Delhi. He won four straight Assembly elections on TDP ticket between 1985 and 1999. KCR has never lost any election, be it state Assembly or the Parliament in the last 34 years.
After he led TRS to a win in 2014 elections, KCR ran the state and party with an iron hand, brooking no criticism. A sharp observer of people, he quickly realised that welfare schemes would help him cement his position and unleashed several dozen “populist” schemes endearing himself to the poor, farmers and villagers.
A devout Hindu and a firm believer in astrology, KCR attributes his success to almighty. He also remained a true secular leader by conviction and never allowed his good relationship with the BJP come in the way of his liberal views on minorities, particularly Muslims.
He always maintained that he was keeping the Centre in good humour only for the benefit of Telangana and not for his personal gains. His standard reply to all those who questioned his commitment was “I am the best Hindu. I am the best Muslim. And I am also the biggest Communist”.
Ignoring advice from certain quarters, he continued to share a good rapport with AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi. Finally he was proven right.
KCR has national ambitions and his close aides feel that he will take the plunge at the right time by handing over chief minister’s post to his son KT Rama Rao. By winning Assembly elections in a landslide verdict in last December, KCR has shut the mouths of his critics and detractors. Both in state and at the Centre.