Telangana Assembly Election 2018: As KCR and Congress trade barbs, speculation grows about TRS, BJP 'friendship'

“Rahul Gandhi is the biggest buffoon in the country”

K Chandrashekar Rao raised quite a few eyebrows with this statement on 6 September. The caustic comment was also remarkable as it was made at a press conference rather than a political rally. This statement was possibly the most dramatic hint that KCR considers the Congress to be his principal opponent, and it left analysts wondering if he has a tacit understanding with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Most exit polls have predicted that the KCR-led TRS will defeat the Opposition alliance and secure another term in office.

While in the recent times, KCR has directed more firepower at Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu during the Telangana Assembly election campaign, speculation is rife about a tacit understanding between the TRS and BJP.

To be sure, his Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) had given hints of this approach earlier. In June, when chief ministers of four states held a joint press conference to express their support to their Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal in his agitation against Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, KCR was absent. The press conference was meant to be a show of Opposition unity, but the Telangana chief minister gave it a miss despite being in Delhi. This was a stark contrast to his approach not long before that, when he made a push for Opposition unity, saying that an alternative to the Congress and BJP would soon emerge to bring about a qualitative change in Indian politics.

Telangana caretaker chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao. PTI

Telangana caretaker chief minister and TRS chief K Chandrashekar Rao. PTI

Further, during the no-confidence motion in the Monsoon Session of Parliament, TRS MPs walked out of the House minutes before the voting began, which effectively benefited the central government.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi also alleged that KCR and the BJP are working together behind the scenes, remarking that Rao and Modi have a "friendship," and that the former supports any decision of the saffron party. Similar remarks were made by other Congress leaders.

For instance, The Telegraph quoted Telangana Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy as saying that KCR is a "despotic" and "corrupt" leader who is a puppet of Modi. Another party leader alleged that the state and Lok Sabha elections were de-linked because KCR wanted to secure Muslim votes for the TRS before he unveiled his pact with Modi.

The TRS chief has possible motives both for aligning with the BJP and Opposition alliance. On one hand, as this article points out, the BJP is not a significant challenger for the TRS in Telangana and may, in fact, help to split the anti-TRS vote in some urban constituencies.

In the 2014 Assembly election (before the state was bifurcated), the BJP won only five seats in the Telangana region. Moreover, TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu has now taken an initiative to meet Opposition leaders in a bid to forge a broad alliance. Considering that Naidu and KCR are known to be bitter rivals, it is not clear whether the TRS would want to be in the same camp at the TDP.

On the other hand, one factor that could lead KCR to gravitate towards the Opposition alliance is the possibility of becoming what an article on News18 described as “Rahul Gandhi’s Manmohan Singh.” The recent statement by senior Congress leader P Chidambaram that the party has not officially declared Rahul as its prime ministerial candidate can further serve to raise the hopes of regional parties. Earlier this year, Opposition parties — including the TRS — may also have viewed with keen interest the developments after the Karnataka elections, when the Congress gave up the post of the chief minister for the JD(S), despite securing far more seats than the latter.

In the course of campaigning for the state election, KCR has aimed most of his barbs at Naidu, and invoked Telangana pride. He has called Naidu a “traitor to Telangana” and dubbed the TDP an “Andhra party”. The TDP chief, on his part, has attacked the TRS in somewhat similar terms as the Congress, and alleged that KCR has "colluded" with Modi to target him.

With both the TDP and Congress making such insinuations about the TRS, it remains to be seen how the Telangana Assembly election result affects the BJP’s footprint in southern India, and national politics in general. What can certainly be said, for now, is that the bonhomie between the TRS and the TDP seen during the inauguration of Amaravati, when KCR described Naidu as his best friend, is far removed from the present circumstances.

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Updated Date: Dec 10, 2018 19:51:25 IST

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