KCR on shaky wicket

Telangana Chief Minister and founder of the new national party Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) appears to have stirred a hornet’s nest. His decision to release the first list of 98 candidates sparked dissidence within the party, which is becoming uncontrollable as the day passes.

Those who figure in the list are also not confident of getting the B-form knowing well their leader’s unpredictable mindset.

Already, sitting MLAs like Mynampalli Hanumantha Rao (Malkajgiri) and former MLA from Khammam Thummala Nageshwar Rao have openly declared a banner of revolt against the party leadership. The disenchantment is just not confined to these two leaders, but the number is multiplying as more and more ticket aspirants are trying to desert the party and explore options before them – either joins the Congress or BJP.

Added to that, KCR picked up the courage to release the first list of the party nominees, most of them sitting MLAs, to keep his flock together, the Congress and BJP appear in no great hurry to compete with the ruling party as the upcoming polls are still three months away. While many genuinely felt that the BJP had lost its momentum after the state leadership change, it appears not so now.

It is being proved as a calculated move by the party leadership to pull back a bit with the state unit chief’s change if one has to believe former party MP from Chevella in Rangareddy district, Konda Visveshwar Reddy. In a candid interview with a regional TV channel recently, Reddy dismissed the rumors that the Central leadership has struck a deal with KCR as far as graft cases or other cases are concerned. It is no secret that he was one among those who were upset that the Central agencies refused to take Kavitha into custody after making so much noise about her involvement in the multi-crore Delhi excise policy scam.

Although he did not elaborate on the reasons behind the Central agencies, I in fact in my earlier write-ups did mention that the Central agency’s decision to go slow on Kavitha was for two reasons – although they could establish her role in the excise scam, yet they are pursuing other alleged graft cases against her to ensure that once she is arrested she should not be let off-the-hook on getting bail in one of the cases. This is the strategy that the Central agencies appear to have adopted, if the classic cases like two Aam Admi party leaders like Jain and Sisodia are concerned, or the NCP members and ministers of the erstwhile Maharashtra Aghadi Vikas (MAV) government headed by Shiv Sena, or the TMC former ministers in West Bengal.

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Added to that the upcoming G20 concluding session where India’s Presidency comes to an end, next month, was another factor that the Central agencies ‘go slow’ policy under the garb of gathering more evidence before closing in on accused leaders like Kavitha or other KCR family or his party members. While KCR dared to re-nominate those sitting MLAs who were allegedly involved even in murder cases, facing charges of ‘conspiracy’ in the MLAs poaching case in which he obtained videos even before the police could complete the probe. As a result, the case has to be handed over to the CBI as per the state high court orders, after getting convinced that the state police goofed up. In that case, KCR tried his best to fix none other than the BJP’s most powerful general secretary Santosh Kumar, to make it an issue with an eye on the Munugode by poll. Yet, the gap of just 10,000-plus votes was good enough to be a warning signal to the ruling BRS of the national party’s rising influence in the state.

Before that the BRS suffered reversals in the assembly by-polls at Dubbak (Medak) and Huzurabad (Karimnagar), besides some humiliation in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) polls, which indicated the state electorate’s phenomenal shift towards the saffron party, than the so-called nationalist Congress.

The reason is simple. The traditional voters of the Congress felt deceived on both occasions in the past – 2014 and 2018 – when those who won on that party symbol deserted to the ruling party. What appears to be more humiliating was that the shameless Congress even lost the principal Opposition status in the assembly after the 2018 polls and paved the way for insignificant AIMIM with 7-8 members occupying that space. This is also another factor of the Telangana voter’s growing displeasure against KCR for bringing back the notorious erstwhile Nizam’s rule with whom the people have to battle out against Razhakars and face their wrath.

His government policy decisions to give all sorts of concessions to the minority Muslims, also further agitated the majority Hindus’ minds.

This despite his effort to do a balancing act of luring all communities, including SCs and STs with Dalit Bandhu and Girijan Bhandhu, or Rythu Bandhu to lure the peasant community in a bid to wean them out from the two Communist parties, or such doles to almost all sections of the society, including Brahmins. KCR feels that they all would help him and his party win another election, which may prove otherwise.

That he lacks confidence in his leadership is evident from the way these doles are rolled day in and day out. Yet, the anger among the people is visible and palpable too. Thanks to social media, several of those who are unhappy with the way KCR is trying to promote his family members, have become major irritants to them as they openly express their displeasure through videos.

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Some of these videos have also gone viral. In one such video a man, who boasts that KCR used to borrow cigarettes from him today has become crorepati and become arrogant that he can purchase votes as he did in the past two elections. “No way,” he screams and says ‘People have become more intelligent in accepting money from the ruling party and cast their vote for whomever they trust. He identifies as an electorate from Ramayanpet in Medak district.

Against that backdrop, KCR’s over-dependence on the minority vote bank of 4-5 percent in as many as 20-30 assembly segments may likely boomerang.  Other majority sections, belonging to the Hindu community like the SCs and STs, who hold around 15-17 percent vote share in every constituency, besides OBCs of 48 percent, may tilt scales against the ruling party, this time around. As I explained earlier, the Congress suffers from a trust deficit, and their dependence heavily on the Muslims, who helped them win the polls in neighboring Karnataka, not so long ago, may not be replicated in the state of Telangana. However, they are working hard to lure SC and ST vote bank, citing that for the first time in their party history, the Gandhis were magnanimous to make a Dalit the party’s national president in the form of Mallikharjun Kharge.

And, the state leaders expect Kharge to make a big announcement to ensure hike in reservations quota of both SC and STs, besides Rs 12 lakh each to the family for their empowerment.  How far these communities fall a prey to these ‘guarantees’ one has to wait and see, in the wake of that party of misusing them as ‘vote banks’ since independence.

As a result, the state BJP leadership hopes their poll fortunes are set to blossom once the Central agencies get back into their work, to prosecute the KCR family and some of that party’s leaders who were involved in heinous crimes like murders and money laundering. This is evident from the leader like Konda Visveshwar Reddy, who with all humility admitted that his joining the Congress was accidental and not with conviction and his faith in Modi’s leadership or his entire illustrious family’s nationalism remains unchanged.

“I do admit I come from a regional party (TRS) as I wanted my state to prosper. But, it did not happen under KCR leadership. Hence, I chose to join the BJP, which is truly a nationalist party.

It alone can ensure the state’s overall growth, if it is voted to power in the state,” was his uncompromising submission made in his free-wheeling interview with a TV channel. In the same breath, he revealed that he is not interested in contesting assembly polls and he will only contest LS polls from Chevella, from where he lost in 2019 LS polls as he contested on Congress ticket. And, Konda is not an ordinary person. He hails from an influential family. While his father served as the Chief Justice of the High Court, his grandfather, Konda Rangareddy, was a seasoned politician. The Rangareddy district was named after him during his son-in-law Dr. Marri Chenna Reddy’s tenure as the state chief minister. Added to that is the former MP, Visweshwar Reddy, a postgraduate in engineering, also declared himself as an individual worth over Rs 3000 cr in the Lok Sabha affidavit and became the richest MP during that time.

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Interestingly, even Marri Shashidhar Reddy, son of Dr. Chenna Reddy, joined the saffron party and sought the Sanathnagar assembly seat, which he won thrice in the past.

The affluent Reddy community has a greater hold in state politics, though they form little over 4-5 percent, yet enjoys the acceptance of the rest of the predominant SC, ST, and other backward sects. This, despite knowing well of their feudal mentality as in the case of another affluent community in the state, Velamas, who form a negligible 1-2 percent. When both these communities’ mindsets weighed, others reposed more faith in the Reddys rather than Kammas. This way, every political dispensation wanted to rely more on the Reddys to lead their party, rather than any other community members. Unity among them is unassailable. BJP is hoping against hopes that under G Kishen Reddy’s leadership, more than his community members from the other parties like the Congress and ruling BRS are likely to join them ahead of elections. Kishen Reddy’s advantage is that he is not only docile but a true loyalist of the party, besides his honesty. And, the central leadership is banking on these qualities of his to rope in several influential leaders of his community in other parties like some disgruntled Malla Reddy (Malkajgiri district), Indrakaran Reddy (Adilabad), or others from various districts, to join the party on the eve of polls and spring a surprise on KCR and his family.

But, many feel that BJP should not be hasty in inducting or encouraging all and sundry from that community, who may carry the baggage of graft into the party, with an objective to somehow grab the power in the state. Yet, some of the Reddy community members in the ruling party cannot have a better excuse for them to desert the party, if the central agencies close-in and prosecute Kavitha and KCR for their alleged involvement in excise and poaching episodes in the coming days?  It looks like this time around the voters will keep all the parties on tenterhooks and the results look dicey with politics in Telangana inviting strange bedfellows in each other’s party.