KCR’s Poll Strategy – Sullying Congress & Playing the ‘Common Man’

KCR is taking a leaf out of Modi’s book, and sullying Congress’ image, before the Telangana Assembly Elections.

4 min read
Hindi Female

The Insider vs the Outsiders.

That, in a nutshell, will be the political strategy that the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) will employ in the assembly elections in the state. The insider is K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), the Telangana bidda who claims that he alone can best represent the interests of the youngest state in India. The outsiders are the Congress, who KCR dismisses as a ‘Delhi party’, and the Telugu Desam, that he dubs as an ‘Andhra party’.


An Attempt to Sully Congress’ Image

With this, KCR has rewound the clock back to pre-2014 when he evoked the Telangana sentiment. At the time, the targets were Andhra political and business interests who, KCR alleged, stymied the progress of the Telangana region. To win a mandate four years later, KCR is banking on the insecurity of the people of Telangana about mortgaging their interests to non-locals.

It is also an attempt by KCR to reinforce his stature as the man who delivered Telangana.

It is a strategic move because the Congress campaign emphasises that it was the party that decided to carve out Telangana state despite suffering a huge political loss in Andhra Pradesh (where it did not win a single MLA or MP seat in 2014). KCR's ploy is to ensure the Congress gets no credit for the decision.

KCR is dipping into history to sully the Congress image. Almost as if borrowing a leaf out of Narendra Modi’s book, KCR tore into Jawaharlal Nehru, albeit in the Telangana context.

He blamed India's first prime minister for having decided to merge the then Hyderabad state (present-day Telangana) with Andhra state on 1 November 1956, despite the misgivings of the Telangana region. Likewise, he blamed Indira Gandhi for not granting statehood to Telangana despite a fierce struggle in 1969. The narrative is to paint the Congress as the “villains of Telangana'”, claiming that the present Congress Chief Rahul Gandhi has inherited the legacy of the Delhi Sultanate.


Reinforcing the ‘Pappu’ Narrative

‘Sultanate’ is an interesting word because it attempts to position KCR as a commoner. In the minds of the rural and semi-rural folk, it creates an image of someone who has risen through the ranks versus a Rahul Gandhi who KCR wants to suggest, has led a privileged existence.

It is a localised version of the naamdaar versus kaamdaar narrative that Modi has constructed.

Will it click – is the question. Especially when KCR is accused of having splurged Rs 40 crore on building a palatial bungalow for the CM's official residence, throwing austerity to the winds. Will people buy the rhetoric that Telangana Congress leaders are slaves in Delhi, having to wait for hours to secure an audience with Gandhi? This is because KCR is himself seen as inaccessible and accused by the Opposition of displaying a feudal mindset, behaving like a modern-day Sultan.

KCR is aware he has no competition among the Telangana Congress leaders. His only challenge is likely to come from Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi.

Which perhaps explains the rather pungent attack on the Congress president, even calling him a “buffoon”. Even TRS leaders have not been happy with the choice of words, more so when it was not an election public meeting. But the strategy clearly is to reinforce the ‘Pappu’ narrative to show that Rahul Gandhi cannot be trusted to protect Telangana’s interests.


Congress & TDP’s Practical Politics

When it comes to pinch-hitting, Chandrababu Naidu remains a favorite target of KCR. There is a hint of worry if the alliance between the Congress and the Telugu Desam could upset the TRS applecart.

Which is why KCR’s son and Telangana IT minister KT Rama Rao was quick to dub the mahagatbandhan as a maha ghatiya bandhan.

This is hypocrisy. In the past four years, the TRS has poached 12 of the 15 MLAs who were elected on the TDP ticket. One of them, T Srinivas Yadav was even made a minister. If embracing the TDP legislators was fair, does it make sense to call the Congress’ embracing of the TDP, a ghatiya move?

The TRS criticism is also about the unethicality of the TDP allying with the Congress, when the party itself was founded by NT Rama Rao in 1982 on an anti-Congress plank. But what the Congress and the TDP are doing is practical politics. With both parties fighting with their back to the wall, they have found common cause in forging an alliance. Both parties are no longer a threat to each other. The Congress, thanks to its decision to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh, is a political zero in the state, and the TDP is no longer the force it used to be in Telangana.

KCR is looking at Telangana going the Odisha and Tamil Nadu way – where national parties are reduced to vestiges, and a regional party holds sway.

He has taken a gamble by advancing elections, buoyed by the surveys that predict a victory. Which makes the period from September 2018 to May 2019 extremely critical, given that KCR will face two elections within a few months of each other.

The ‘bodyline’ series starts now.

(The writer is a senior journalist. He can be reached at @Iamtssudhir. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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