Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends And Influence People is old hat. The book that is waiting to be written is How To Influence People and Win Elections. There is already a walking copy of it. I'’s in the form of K Chandrashekar Rao or KCR, the Telangana chief minister.
Four months ago, KCR swept the state Assembly elections. He wants to do an encore in next month's Lok Sabha polls. He knows there is the danger of voters asking him or themselves why, since they have already installed him in power in the state, they can't vote for the Congress in the Lok Sabha. KCR also knows enough about India's electoral history to be aware that a Lok Sabha election result can differ from the voting trend in an Assembly election held either simultaneously or a few months earlier.
Not taking chances, he has come up with a new spin for the Lok Sabha poll. It came by way of a slogan delivered first through his son KT Rama Rao (KTR), who holds an MBA in marketing from the City University of New York and is KCR's heir apparent. The slogan is: Karu, Saru, Padaharu, Delhi lo mana sarkaru.
Karu refers to car, the election symbol of TRS. Saru is 'Sir', a reference to KCR. Padaharu is 16 in Telugu. Delhi lo mana sarkaru means: Our government in Delhi. With 16 seats in Telangana, KCR is dangling before voters the possibility of a "key role" for himself in the new government in Delhi and hence, more projects and progress for Telangana. The wily KCR can be depended upon not only to think up clever strategies but also to concoct snappy slogans to sell them to voters. He is sure this will deliver votes and seats, and it just might.
In the 7 December Assembly election, his Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) won 88 of the 119 seats. His ally, the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), bagged seven. KCR was mighty upset because he lost the rest of the seats. But never mind that, he told himself. He got nearly a dozen of the newly-elected Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MLAs to defect to his party. These defections helped him alter the Assembly tally — or settle the 'score'. They also helped him nearly decimate his rivals and, more importantly, strengthen his party in the only two Lok Sabha constituencies where it appears weak: Khammam and Mahabubabad.
The smile on the Telangana leader's face is now broader. He seems pretty sure of winning 16 of the state's 17 Lok Sabha seats. Before you allow yourself to be overawed by his magnanimity in conceding one seat to the Opposition, you must know that he wants his ally AIMIM to win that 17th seat.
100 percent strike rate?
You can't find another chief minister or party president who is sure — or even almost sure — of a 100 percent strike rate in the impending Lok Sabha election. Nobody likes to lose elections, yes. But there is nobody who hates losing more than KCR. Yet he knows that getting a dozen turncoats into the party alone won't get him what he wants.
He won the Assembly election for different reasons. The first masterstroke was to delink the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls and avoid a mix-up of the Narendra Modi factor with local issues. In the December campaign, he spoke of his achievements — of which there are many, besides a rash of populist schemes. What also helped him significantly was his lament about saving Telangana's "self respect" from Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu whose Telugu Desam Party contested the election in alliance with Congress.
But that was another election at another time, albeit only four months ago. Now he has found a new theme to hook voters. KCR is aware that for the voters of the two Telugu states a friendly government at the Centre is a key influencer. So he is adding it in good measure to the claims about his achievements.
But how real is the possibility of KCR having a role in Delhi? In the first place, how possible is it to have a non-BJP, non-Congress government at the Centre? That's a question the Congress must ask as part of its counter-narrative. But then KCR has made sure that there isn't much of the Congress left in Telangana to ask questions.
In KCR's calculation, the BJP won't get more than 150 Lok Sabha seats and the Congress will barely cross 110. He apparently believes that the burden of forming the next government would fall on parties excluding the BJP and Congress.
TRS leaders also drop a hint or two to claim that KCR could either become the prime minister or deputy prime minister, or the party, at the very least, will usurp "key" portfolios in a new government. What they don't talk about is the possibility of a government without at least the support from either Congress or BJP being very remote. Even in the unlikely case of that happening, why would KCR with 16 MPs, if he gets that number, become a top player when other regional parties can possibly muster more? Will his tally be impressive enough even if he takes into account the seats of the friendly YSR Congress Party of Andhra Pradesh?
Nobody in the TRS is in the mood to answer such questions. The only thing that continues to make logical sense is that KCR will prefer to back a government led by the BJP rather than Congress, his main rival in Telangana.
What KCR is selling to voters is a dream. And his supporters don't mind buying it — or so it seems.
The author tweets @sprasadindia
Updated Date: Mar 29, 2019 18:00:32 IST