The poll debacle and huge number of party members’ exits, Telangana KCR has faced flak for being ‘inaccessible’ even to team members. He’s now bringing about a change in behaviour and adopted a new strategy of ‘socialising In Public’.
Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao is on “repair mode”, according to his colleagues in the Telangana Rashtra Samithi. The party founder, who has faced flak in the past for being “inaccessible” to his own team, has taken time out for several appointments in the past few weeks.
KCR’s recent engagements have not just included meetings with MLAs and MLCs, but he has even been attending weddings.
These “frequent” meetings come at a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is emerging as a challenge to the TRS’ dominance in India’s youngest state. The BJP defeated the TRS in the Huzurabad assembly bypoll last month and had put up an impressive show in last year’s Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation polls. The TRS had also lost the Dubbaka assembly bypoll to the BJP last year.
“Every move of KCR’s has a strategy behind it. He is a very shrewd politician. I will not say he is scared of BJP and that is why he is doing all this. But he is being cautious, so that the situation does not deteriorate further after recent setbacks,” senior political analyst Bhandaru Srinivas Rao told ThePrint.
“Even if the election is slightly closer and he feels he needs to be more visible, his body language, his mannerisms change immediately,” Rao added.
Last Thursday, KCR met two MLCs — Banda Prakash and Ravinder Rao — in separate meetings. He also met Rao’s family at Pragathi Bhavan, the CM’s sprawling office-cum-residence in Hyderabad.
The Telangana CM also attended the wedding ceremony of TRS MP Prabhakar Reddy’s son last Wednesday.
Earlier this month, KCR travelled nearly 200 km from Hyderabad to Jogulamba-Gadwal district to console TRS MLA Bandla Krishna Mohan Reddy and his family following the demise of the MLA’s father. In early November, KCR had visited cabinet minister Srinivas Goud in Mahabubnagar to offer his sympathies following the death of the latter’s mother.
Late last month, on 28 November, KCR met Telangana State Khadi and Village Industries Chairman Mohammed Yousuf Zahid, who had come to invite him for his daughter’s wedding. The same day five MLCs met the CM to thank him for their election to the Legislative Council.
On 17 November, KCR had attended three wedding ceremonies — that of party MLA Mynampally Hanumantha Rao’s son, that of a family member of V. Mamatha, president of the Telangana Gazetted Officers Union, and that of the daughter of Telangana Backward Classes Commission member Juluri Gowrishankar. Gowrishankar had written three books on KCR in 2019.
KCR also attended the wedding of Deputy Speaker Padma Rao Goud’s daughter in November.
The CM has been meeting not just those from his party or government. He also met senior Congress MLA Komatireddy Raj Gopal Reddy last week, when the latter dropped in to invite him for his son’s wedding.
On 16 November, KCR held a party legislature meeting to discuss the ongoing paddy row with the Centre. In his first protest against the Centre since becoming CM in 2014, KCR and his party colleagues had taken to the streets last month on the paddy procurement issue. Addressing the gathering of protestors, the CM personally introduced each MLA by name, before inviting him or her to express their views.
KCR’s recent attempts at being more ‘social’ are not entirely new for him. The leader is known to be more outgoing and someone who amps up his outreach before every election.
“He has been on repair mode right after Dubbaka, but after Huzurabad, it kind of picked up more because the setback was a little big to handle,” a TRS leader told #KhabarLive on the condition of anonymity. “There are changes in his style — I am a new entrant into the party and yet I am made part of the meetings. I believe there are going to be more organisational changes in the coming days.”
TRS leaders from Khammam district, who did not wish to be identified, also spoke of discontent among party cadres against KCR and the way the party was functioning.
Late last month, two senior TRS leaders quit the party over the MLC polls. One of them, former Karimnagar mayor S. Ravinder Singh, penned an emotional note to KCR while resigning, pointing out how the attitude of some “arrogant” leaders was hurting the party’s performance. Singh had left the party after being denied an MLC ticket. The other leader to resign was Gattu Ramachandra Rao, a prominent party face.
In June, Eatala Rajender, once a close aide of KCR and former health minister in his cabinet, left the party, after his portfolio was taken away by the CM over land grab allegations. Following his exit from the party, Rajender had said being a minister in KCR’s cabinet was worse than being a “slave”, owing to the CM’s allegedly autocratic rule. The former TRS leader had also pointed out how even ministers could not meet the CM without prior appointments, and how he had been turned away from the gates by the CM a few times.
Rajender had then gone on to contest the Huzurabad bypoll on a BJP ticket and won the seat, despite KCR leading the TRS campaign from the front.
“The reason why Huzurabad was a major setback was that KCR could not handle Eatala standing up against him and winning,” said Srinivas Rao. “He also knows that there is dissent among internal cadres and if he just lets it go this way, it might lead to an exodus in the future. It’s like when there’s a thorn in your foot, there is little damage, but a prick in the eye will hurt more. That is the situation.”
The first setback for KCR was the loss of the Dubbaka bypoll to BJP last year. The BJP followed up on that victory with increased numbers in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal poll, while TRS failed to secure a majority.
The BJP has just has three MLAs in the 119-member Telangana Assembly, where the TRS has more than 100 MLAs. Experts said the BJP’s win in both bypolls were because of strong candidates, and are not a reflection of the party’s position in the state. But it has still created a perception that there is a scope for a strong voice against the TRS or KCR in Telangana, where the ruling party has enjoyed being almost unopposed for a long time now.
Recently, BJP MP Dharmapuri Arvind claimed that a few more elected representatives of the TRS are in touch with him about joining the BJP, and that the party is open to inducting them. #KhabarLive #hydnews