Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s recent visit to Bangalore to meet former prime minister and patriarch of Janata Dal (Secular) HD Devegowda was ostensibly undertaken to discuss his proposed political project of Federal Front. KCR’s proposed Federal Front is a national slogan with a local agenda. He vowed that he would campaign among Telugus in Karnataka for a JD(S) victory in order to defeat the ruling Congress party in the May 12 state assembly election.
This is KCR’s first electoral campaign outside Telangana. His party, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), celebrated the news of his campaign in Karnataka as a first step in his march towards New Delhi. Party members believe that KCR will tear into the Congress with his oratory skill and convince the Telugu people living in the Kanndada state about the need to defeat the party.
The TRS cadre strongly believes that Telangana bidda, or son of Telangana, is in the prime ministerial race, the opinion outside TRS is different. Given that the little-known Devegowda had become the country’s prime minister in 1996, the TRS cadre believe the same destiny is possible for KCR, who is the Telangana movement’s most popular and well-known leader. Non-TRS political circles, however, see more local than national in his decision to campaign for JD(S) among the Telugu people. They allege that KCR, in cahoots with his local ally, the Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (MIM), is planning to influence Telangana people in Bangalore and in areas falling in the Hyderabad Karnataka area, where Muslims are in a sizeable number against the Congress.
Buffering the home turf
KCR doesn’t want a Congress victory in Karnataka as that scenario is likely to create trouble for him in Telangana. A Congress victory in Karnataka is certain to embolden the Congress rank and file in Telangana. It is expected to boost the morale of the Congress, which is now going full throttle to regain lost ground in the state. Various Congress factions have pulled their act together to defeat the bigger enemy - KCR. Another development is the rise KCR’s once-close aide, Prof M Kodandaram, as a now fierce critic of the chief minister’s model of Telangana. The former political science professor and the once intellectual face of KCR has no hatred for the Congress. The former has floated a party called the Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS), and the two have been sailing together on many people’s issues. An alliance between the Congress and the TJS looks imminent. Other smaller opposition parties and mass organisations are also expected to join either of these parties, paving a path for a grand alliance against what many view as the rule of ‘KCR-son-daughter-nephews’.
In 2014, KCR rode to a victory on the wave of the Telangana sentiment. TRS had won 65 seats in a house of 119 while Congress won 21 and the TDP 15. The anti-Andhra sentiment which united every Telangana man to fight for statehood, has diluted with time even as KCR’s style of cozying up with the Andhra-rich (contractors, media barons and businessmen) in the last four years has engendered immense opposition. Kodandaram joining the opposing forces is therefore a telling political switch.
A victory for Congress in Karnataka against this backdrop will certainly boost the Telangana Congress morale. As Telangana is high on the agenda of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, a victorious Karnataka Congress will extend moral and material support to its Telangana counterpart. So ensuring Congress’ defeat in Karnataka is a paramount objective for KCR.
There is a widespread feeling among political circles that KCR is in league with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. CPI veteran K Narayana said KCR is working at the behest of BJP in Karnataka. “KCR has an understanding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There is nothing federal in his program except implementing BJP agenda,” says Narayana.
“KCR cannot directly ask Telangana’s Telugu people in Karnataka to vote for the BJP given the Andhra Telugu’s hostility towards Modi. So, KCR chose JD(S) as a safe bet to help BJP and scuttle the Congress’ prospects in the May 12 election. But, the design is too transparent,” says Racharla Madhushudan, an Andhra farmer settled in Raichur. Andhra Telugu Associations, he said, are planning to campaign against the BJP in the state. “We don’t advocate support to any party. We will ask Telugu people to defeat Modi and his BJP for his betrayal on his promise of according special status to Andhra. Modi has cheated Andhra Pradesh.”
On the other side, the Telangana Congress has devised its own strategy to counter KCR. “T-Congress will launch a campaign to expose KCR’s secret understanding with Modi to defeat the Congress in Karnataka,” says Prof Sravan Dasoju, chief spokesperson Telangana Congress. “We will organise meetings wherever KCR campaigns for JD(S). KCR thinks by helping JD(S) win more seats, he can at least ensure a hung assembly wherein he will broker a deal between the JD(S) and the BJP in the post-poll scenario. We will checkmate this.” The Congress, he adds, will win in both Karnataka and Telangana.