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NDA, INDIA Bloc, or 3rd Front: As BRS Loses Telangana, What Lies Ahead for KCR?

Is a third front still in the offing? Will he join the INDIA bloc or NDA to regain ground in the state?

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The new Telangana Cabinet headed by Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy took charge on Thursday, 7 December – and its first order of business was to remove the barricades and fencing that blocked the entrance of Pragathi Bhavan, or the chief minister's camp office, in Hyderabad's Begumpet.

This fencing was a part of the former chief minister and Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao's nine-year legacy – and it was at the centre of the Congress' campaign narrative that KCR has been 'inaccessible' to the people of Telangana.

Is a third front still in the offing? Will he join the INDIA bloc or NDA to regain ground in the state?

Fencing outside Pragathi Bhavan, now Jyotirao Phule Praja Bhavan, being removed.

(Photo: Screengrab/Accessed by The Quint)

Now, the Pragathi Bhavan has been renamed the Jyotirao Phule Praja Bhavan, removing any and all traces of KCR. The Congress, in line with its poll promise, has also launched a Praja Darbar, wherein citizens can air their grievances to the CM directly at the Praja Bhavan.

But what of the former CM? As he grapples with the unprecedented defeat at the hands of the Congress (as well as the BJP in his 'safe seat' Kamareddy), KCR is at a political crossroads. His relevance as a tall regional leader is actively being erased, and his national ambitions still hang in the balance. 

The leader is also suffering from ill health and would need to undergo a major surgery after he had a fall on Thursday night.

Is a third front still in the offing? Will he join the INDIA bloc or NDA to regain ground in the state? 

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What's Next for KCR?

While his health is the priority right now for the Kalvakuntla family, politically speaking, KCR's focus would be on building a strong Opposition in the state, according to BRS leaders.

Speaking to The Quint, BRS leader Dasoju Sravan said: "KCR is a fighter. He has immense resilience to face any political turbulence. There have been many successes and failures in his career, especially during the Telangana movement. The fact that he lost this time will not deter him."

"His understanding of Telangana would certainly make him play the role of a constructive Opposition. The Congress has made promises, and his job would be to ensure that they are implemented."

Sravan, who was a senior Congress leader, defected from the party in 2022 over alleged disagreements with Revanth Reddy.

But speculation is rife among political commentators that KCR would leave the job of being an Opposition leader to his son and former IT minister KT Rama Rao – and instead focus on the Lok Sabha polls. 

"KCR's focus would be to win as many Lok Sabha seats as possible in the state. Right now, the support for the Congress is high, so he would have to wait before making any move against the party. He may also start his efforts to poach leaders from other parties before the campaigning for 2024 kicks off," opines senior political journalist Roshan Ali. 

Senior journalist SK Zakir tells The Quint that the parliamentary polls could make or break KCR. "The BJP is getting stronger in Telangana. In the Assembly elections, it was BRS versus Congress, but in the LS polls, it is going to be a triangular fight."

He added that if the BRS doesn't up its game, the state would largely witness a bipolar fight between the Congress and the BJP, further diminishing KCR's relevance.
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What About KCR's National Ambitions?

Last year, KCR had changed the name of his Telangana Rashtra Samithi to Bharat Rashtra Samithi so as to make inroads in Maharashtra. The party fought the municipals polls and even won over 50 gram panchayats in the state.

There was also speculation that KCR chose to contest from Kamareddy this time owing to its proximity to the border.

But some experts opine that KCR's focus on his national dream may have adversely affected him in his homeground. Political analyst R Pridhvi Raj tells The Quint:

"If you want to be a national leader, you need the backing of a solid party with a pan-India ideology. That party should have been there for a while, and it should have been entrenched in Indian soil. Narendra Modi and Congress leaders – they emerged from such parties. But here, it's not like that. The BRS is a small party limited to Telangana, and here too, it has been cut to size." 
R Pridhvi Raj

Before going national, KCR had called for a federal front or a third front comprising non-BJP and non-Congress parties. However, it did not take off. Experts attribute this to two factors: one, the regional parties' lack of trust in KCR, who had sided with the NDA in Parliament in the past, and two, his supposed efforts to be the leader of the front were not well-received.

"Whether it is in Telangana or otherwise, KCR wants to run a 'one-man show'," opines Zakir. "He wanted to change the political system by being the third front, but now that he has lost his homeground, he might become a non-entity in national politics."

"Since he is no longer the CM, he cannot meet other regional party CMs as often as he could earlier. His access to Delhi is also limited. How will he make inroads by being just an MLA? Southern leaders going to north India and finding acceptance there is difficult. NT Rama Rao had done it, [Chandrababu] Naidu had tried it, but look at where he is now."
SK Zakir
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Roshan Ali, however, opines that the people of Telangana did not have a problem with TRS being BRS – but it was other factors that brought the party down in the state.

"A majority of people still wanted KCR as the chief minister, as per poll surveys. There were other factors like Congress' guarantees, the 'family party' narrative, anti-incumbency against MLAs, issues with Dharani portal etc that contributed to the BRS' loss."

NDA or INDIA?

"KCR wanted to use the Telangana elections as a springboard and emerge as a national leader. That is not an option anymore. But the thing about a politician like KCR is that he keeps all options open; he can align with anyone and still justify it," opines Pridhvi Raj.

The INDIA bloc, experts say, may not be open to having him on board – especially after the Congress' Telangana win. "Rahul Gandhi had previously said there would be no alliance with the BRS because they were fighting the Assembly polls against each other. Now, if KCR goes with INDIA, he would be ceding ground to the Congress. He won't do that," explains Roshan Ali.

A more 'natural ally' would be the BJP and the NDA, analysts point out. There were allegations of a BJP-BRS tie-up this Assembly elections – a narrative that may have helped the Congress win anti-incumbency votes.

Take, for instance, how Chief Minister Revanth Reddy's recent controversial comments on KCR having 'Bihar DNA' played out. BJP leaders were quick to come to KCR's support.

But while the option of going with the NDA is plausible, it may not be very beneficial to KCR.

"If the BJP hadn't won four states this time, then KCR might have had a bargaining chip. He could say that there's some anti-incumbency against BJP and could have offered support to the party in Telangana in the Lok Sabha polls."
Roshan Ali

But now that the BJP is also gaining ground in the state – by winning eight seats – he may not have that advantage. "If at all he wants to go with somebody, it will be Modi. But if he goes with Modi, the BJP will want LS seats in Telangana. Meaning, if he joins the NDA, his national dreams will collapse. He will be confined to just Telangana, he can't make a national party, and he won't be able to call the shots," Roshan Ali adds.

BRS leader Sravan, however, said that KCR has shown no inclinations towards joining either of the alliances. "There have been no such discussions so far," he said.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  K Chandrasekhar Rao   Telangana 

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