TRS working president KT Rama Rao — son of Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao — calling upon YSR Congress chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy on Tuesday has huge political implications, especially for Andhra Pradesh. The TRS' strategy is clear: Openly embracing the YSR and forgetting the bitterness of the movement for a separate state.
During the Telangana movement, the TRS had strong words for Jaganmohan, even calling him a "traitor". However, as the adage goes, in politics there are no permanent friends or foes. In the changed political milieu post bifurcation, YSR Congress is no longer the political rival of the TRS. As the YSR Congress refrains from contesting in Telangana, the TRS is expected to be a clear beneficiary of this new arrangement.
In Telangana, the YSR Congress party won an MP seat and three MLA seats — all in Khammam district — in 2014. But all of them defected to the TRS, thus largely weakening the party. The YSR Congress has now declared it will not be in the fray in Telangana until 2024. Interestingly, in Khammam and the adjoining Mahabubabad parliamentary segments, the TRS failed to secure a lead over the Congress-led alliance in the recent Assembly polls.
The TRS hopes to benefit from its bonhomie with YSR Congress in undivided Hyderabad and Khammam districts, where there are traditional supporters of Jaganmohan. Therefore, KCR is politically justified in taking this step. Despite expressing reservations during the Telangana polls, the TRS has now extended its support to the demand for special category status for Andhra Pradesh. Speaking after the meeting with Jaganmohan, KT Rama Rao said the TRS wholeheartedly supports the demand of Andhra people for special status, as promised by the then prime minister in Rajya Sabha.
Speaking on the relationship being forged with the TRS, Jaganmohan said Andhra Pradesh has 25 MPs and Telangana has 17 MPs, and together they can force any central government to honour its commitment to Andhra Pradesh. The TRS has declared its support for special status during the meeting with Jaganmohan to fulfill two political objectives. It gives the YSR Congress grounds to strengthen its relationship with the TRS. The special status support plays well with voters from the Seemandhra region, which now constitutes Andhra Pradesh.
On the other hand, YSR Congress sources said there are specific reasons for their decision to respond to KCR's call to join his proposed third front. The people of Andhra Pradesh are desperate for the Centre's support due to the losses it suffered during bifurcation. Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Andhra Pradesh chief minister and TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu has been busy jockeying for position.
In 2014, Naidu joined hands with then prime minister candidate Narendra Modi, who was all set to win. Now, he is supporting the Congress-led front. Thus, the YSR Congress is handicapped in this regard, as it only said it would support anyone at the Centre based on its demand for special status. The YSR Congress feels that this cuts no ice with the electorate.
Thus, by joining the KCR's third front, Jaganmohan can raise his national profile. The north coastal Andhra has sizeable presence of people from the Koppula Veluma caste, who have much in common with those from the Veluma caste: to which KCR belongs. During KCR's recent visit to Visakhapatnam, the Veluma Sangam made elaborate arrangements to welcome the Telangana chief minister. This caste, which largely favours the TDP, gives the party a strong hold over north coastal Andhra. YSR sources said any shift in this vote is crucial for its victory in several constituencies, which will affect the 2019 mandate.
Meanwhile, the TDP has already launched a virulent attack on Jaganmohan, describing his parleys with TRS leaders as a "surrender of Andhra pride to the Telangana chief minister". Thus, the TDP plans to rouse Andhra sentiment to reap electoral dividend. A number of TDP ministers led by Nara Lokesh (Naidu's son) criticised Jaganmohan, calling the TRS-YSR Congress tie-up as "Andhra betrayers club".
KCR executed a similar political strategy in the recent Assembly elections in Telangana when Naidu played a lead role in the campaign for Congress-led People's Front, in which TDP was also a partner. The Congress certainly paid the price. KCR portrayed it as a fight between himself and Naidu, much to the embarrassment of the Congress. Now, in a tit-for-tat, TDP is using Jaganmohan's parleys with TRS as a weapon to counter the Opposition leader. If KCR ventures to campaign for YSR Congress, TDP would certainly take an advantage.
Meanwhile, both KTR and Jaganmohan tried to give the developments a national tint: calling the TRS-YSR Congress tie-up a part of the third front. But with both parties opposing the Congress more than the BJP, the TDP has enough ammunition to fire. Naidu has been alleging that Modi is behind Jaganmohan, KCR and even Pawan Kalyan: though these days, he isn't mentioning Pawan as Naidu is hoping for a possible tie-up with the Jana Sena. The coming together of YSR Congress and TRS —strange bedfellows indeed — will only add to the spice of the political rhetoric in Andhra Pradesh.
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Updated Date: Jan 17, 2019 17:43:57 IST