Telangana’s Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao released a chargesheet against Naidu, accusing the Andhra Pradesh chief minister of working against the interests of Telangana. Rao cited 19 instances when the Naidu regime in Amaravati had written to the Centre raising objections to irrigation projects in Telangana.

“Naidu does not want Telangana to be self-reliant in power. He wants to show Telangana is not the place to set up industries and divert them to Andhra,” charged Harish Rao.

‘KCR vs Nobody?’
There is a reason why the Telangana vs Andhra rhetoric is being raised at election time in Telangana. Naidu’s Telugu Desam is part of the Mahakutami or the grand alliance with the Congress, the CPI and the Telangana Jana Samiti.

If the vote transfer between these parties takes place efficiently, the arithmetic of the alliance can pose a serious challenge to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and its leader, K Chandrasekhar Rao, popularly referred to as KCR.

When the Telangana assembly was dissolved on 6 September, the TRS had come up with the slogan ‘KCR versus nobody’, The intention was to be arrogantly dismissive of the opposition. But with the realisation of the formidable math dawning on the TRS, the party strategists have decided to make the Telangana election a `KCR versus Naidu’ contest. This despite the TDP contesting just 14 of the 119 seats, with the Congress taking the lion’s share of over 90 seats.

Why is TDP Still a Threat?
But why focus on the junior partner of the Opposition instead of the Congress, the principal rival? After all, the Telugu Desam is no longer a force to reckon with in Telangana. 13 of its 15 MLAs in the Telangana legislature deserted the party between 2014 and 2018, making the TDP look like a poacher’s delight.

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It is also strange for the TRS that boasts of winning 100 of 119 seats in the 7 December assembly election to make Naidu and his “0.5 per cent vote share party” (to quote KCR) the centrepiece of its campaign.

This is because the TRS is consciously working on a narrative that positions Naidu as the brain behind the alliance, the man who is moving the levers of the campaign, both financially and strategically.

KCR has accused Naidu of funding the cash-strapped Telangana Congress with Rs 500 crore besides arranging for three helicopters for campaign by the opposition leaders.
The aim is to play on the fears of the common man and woman of Telangana that with Naidu lurking in the shadows, Telangana will be a separate state only in name because Andhra leaders will rule it by proxy. Telangana pride is being invoked once again with the Congress accused of “sleeping with the enemy”.

Asaduddin Owaisi, the friendly ally of the TRS, dipped into history to underline the point better. “Mahakutami is the East India Company of 2018,” he said, asking if the decisions of Telangana will be made by Naidu who sits in Vijayawada.

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KT Rama Rao, the chief minister’s son calls Naidu the “storywriter, scriptwriter, director of the Mahakutami”. On the campaign trail, KCR called the TDP chief “a `Telangana drohi’, traitor, thief, backstabber, wicked person.”

What made matters worse was the allegation that intelligence cops from Andhra were snooping around in Telangana trying to conduct poll surveys in the garb of journalists and in a couple of cases in Dharmapuri and Mancherial, accused of distributing cash.

Not the First Attack on Naidu
Not that this is the first KCR and co are targeting Naidu. In the run-up to the 2014 elections, KCR had similarly attacked Naidu, accusing him of standing in the way of statehood for Telangana. But when KCR re-uses a weapon four years later, it makes people suspect if he fears that his developmental work report card is not good enough to win the election.

The TRS is confident that the Target Naidu policy will fetch electoral dividends, especially in the northern districts of Warangal, Karimnagar and Nizamabad where the Telangana sentiment is strong. The flip side however is that this could affect the TRS chances in more urban pockets like Hyderabad where a significant native population from Andhra lives. Keeping this in mind, the opposition alliance is likely to allot more urban seats to the TDP.

The Grand alliance is aware that the TRS attempt to focus on Naidu could hurt its chances. Which is why the strategy would be to highlight the Telangana sons of the soil of the alliance and let Naidu campaign only in areas with a significant Andhra population.

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Interestingly, the bashing Naidu gets in Telangana may end up benefiting him in Andhra.

The more number of times TRS leaders say Naidu wants to take Telangana’s water to Andhra, it will create a positive impression about him back home.
With elections due in Andhra in six months, Naidu won’t mind the charge of Andhra love thrown at him by his rivals.

TRS’S Internal Power Struggle
There is also a TRS subtext to this ferocious attack on Naidu. The air has been thick for several months with a power struggle within the ruling party, between KTR, the son and Harish Rao, the nephew.

Even though the latter is senior in politics and within the TRS, it is obvious to everyone that it is KTR who is calling the shots and would succeed KCR eventually.

Also while Harish Rao has been confined to campaigning in his Siddipet constituency and in KCR’s Gajwel constituency, KTR is leading the campaign touring all over Telangana. With the Congress and TDP constantly claiming that Harish Rao has been talking to KCR’s rivals, the chargesheet against Naidu is seen as the nephew’s effort to endear himself to his uncle and prove his loyalty. #KhabarLive