Since KCR became the Chief Minister of the newly-formed state–Telangana in 2014, he has steadily withdrawn from public spaces and suddenly he shows interest after a long time to support farmers. This makes to think a while before taking as a political strategy or Stunt to grab the eyeballs.

K Chandrashekhar Rao’s road to Chief Ministership was through agitations and protests. But since he became the CM of the newly-formed state Telangana in 2014, he steadily withdrew from public spaces (except during election campaigns) and had not been seen staging a single protest. That changed on November 18, 2021, when he staged a one-day protest in Hyderabad against the Union government over the paddy procurement issue. So what forced KCR to finally step out from the comfort of his camp office? Political beleaguerment, say observers and sources in TRS.

For the last seven years, KCR’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has managed to consolidate its position in the state, with no real Opposition to speak of. And the Congress, which has so far been the principal Opposition party, has been steadily diminished, partly because of KCR and partly because of its own issues. But since the BJP started making a mark, first with their performance in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections in December 2020 and then the Dubakka Assembly bye-elections and the prestigious Huzurabad elections, they have become a force to reckon with in the state.

A TRS insider told #KhabarLive that internal surveys have reported that the anti-incumbency has been on the rise in rural areas. KCR’s daughter, K Kavitha’s defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Nizamabad was an indication of the same, many party leaders believe. Some even voiced their displeasure at KCR being inaccessible, increasingly authoritarian and unfair to many old-time leaders of the Telangana movement. But even after that, KCR refused to address complaints against him or anyone close to him. In addition to this, the Telangana Congress president Revath Reddy has been taking on KCR in a far more aggressive manner than before.

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Prestige battle

But what finally shook KCR from his complacency is not the BJP but loss of a personal, prestige battle. “Everyone knows that Eatala Rajendra winning the bye-elections is not BJP winning but Eatala. Even if he was in Congress, he would have won,” says C Vanaja who is a senior journalist.

“KCR is not able to digest Eatala’s win because it has hurt his ego. He could not crush Eatala, politically,” she adds. “If you see his press conferences, he is just scolding people. He seems so angry. After he removed Eatala from his position, KCR started coming out from the CM camp office after many years. He went to a hospital in Warangal.” Vanaja is referring to KCR laying the foundation stone for a multi-super specialty hospital proposed to be constructed in Warangal in June. This event was just over a month after Eatala Rajender was sacked as the Health Minister of Telangana by KCR.

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“Eatala Rajendran was a part of the Telangana movement for a long time. Along with leaders like M Kodandaram and others, he fought for Telangana. When he could not finish the political career of Eatala, KCR could not digest the personal insult. So now he is trying to go back to people. He removed Dharna Chowk as soon as he came to power and now he is using the same place,” she adds.

TRS insiders say that KCR worries that with Eatala’s victory, others who are unhappy in the party too might feel encouraged to up the ante. Eatala had spoken against KCR even before his exit from the party. In 2019 too, he had lashed out against KCR, accusing him of diluting the Telangana movement by turning to leaders who had opposed the bifurcation for Cabinet minister roles. His narrative, after his ouster, of a wronged OBC leader yielding results through the Huzarabad victory can set a dangerous precedent in the party, say insiders.

‘KCR taking on the BJP is just posturing’

In the past, while the TRS and BJP have been seen at loggerheads ahead of elections, the TRS has supported the BJP on many issues in the Rajya Sabha. From demonitisation to abrogation of Article 370, nationally the BJP has relied on TRS to support them on many contentious issues. The acrimony seen in the state, especially ahead of elections, is just for show, say political observers.

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“Nationally, most regional-party formed governments are potential allies of BJP. TRS has been a major supporter of everything that the Union government did. So this is just posturing,” says Padmaja Shaw, professor at the Osmania University in Hyderabad.

“The idea is that TRS vs BJP is a better option. For the BJP too this works, for them it should be either TRS or themselves, not the Congress in power. This is the game plan and has been done in several states,” she adds.

Padmaja also criticised KCR’s latest announcement of solace for farmers who died during protests against farm laws. “KCR has reacted to farmers’ issues now. Where was he all these years? When there were farmer protests in the state, permissions were not given,” she adds.

Anti-incumbency

The paddy procurement issue has been gathering steam for a while in the state. And the farmers are upset not just at the BJP-led Union government but also at the TRS government in the state.

“There is anti-incumbency in many sections against KCR. Not just farmers but even the general middle class,” says Vanaja. “His strength is the rural voters. He thought that the schemes he gave like Rytha Bandhu and Kalyana Lakshmi would help him. But that has not happened. Voters are giving credit for Dalita Bandu to Eatala Rajendra,” she adds. #KhabarLive #hydnews