KCR – the vanquished Telangana icon who missed a historic hat trick

Hyderabad: After spearheading the separate Telangana movement and leading his party to significant victories since 2001, a third term in office eluded BRS supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao, as his party fell behind in the legislative assembly polls.

The setback could derail Rao’s ambitions to expand the BRS’s influence beyond Telangana and establish a national presence.

Rao, popularly known as KCR, rebranded his party, Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) as Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) last year.

He extensively campaigned in neighboring Maharashtra to bolster the BRS’s presence.

Transitioning from relative obscurity as a Congress supporter to becoming a symbol of Telangana pride, KCR adeptly navigated the complexities of state and central politics.

He gained prominence first with the formation of Telangana in 2014, followed by consecutive triumphs in the 2014 and 2018 assembly polls.

A shrewd politician, Rao took an early initiative by announcing 115 candidates for the 119-member assembly in August this year, well ahead of the November 30 polling date.

However, this strategy seemingly backfired as the party candidates grappled with anti-incumbency sentiments.

KCR often faces accusations of perpetuating dynastic rule, nepotism, and corruption, allegations that seem to have resonated with the electorate.

The 69-year-old leader, hailing from Chintamadaka village in Medak district, commenced his political journey as an ordinary member of the Indian Youth Congress.

Rao joined the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) founded by film icon N T Rama Rao in 1983. While his first electoral attempt in the same year resulted in defeat to the Congress candidate in Siddipet, he secured victory in 1985 and maintained his winning streak. Rao triumphed in Karimnagar, Medak, and Mahbubnagar Lok Sabha seats five times, including two by-polls.

Becoming a minister in the NTR government and subsequently in the government of his son-in-law N Chandrababu Naidu, Rao also served as the deputy speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly.

However, the aspiration for a separate Telangana persisted. Rao departed from the TDP in 2001, citing Naidu’s bias against Telangana. He founded the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, reviving the statehood movement dormant since the late 1960s.

Tying up with the Congress and pledging statehood for Telangana, he contested the 2004 Lok Sabha polls in alliance with them.

Securing five seats, Rao became a cabinet minister at the Centre but eventually parted ways, alleging the Congress’s lack of sincerity in creating Telangana.

In the 2009 assembly elections, TRS allied with the TDP after the latter pledged “unconditional support” for Telangana’s formation.

While Congress and TDP dominated the political landscape in undivided Andhra Pradesh, Rao’s relentless pursuit of Telangana bore fruit in the 2014 assembly elections, marking the birth of the new state.

As TDP lost its popular backing, TRS emerged as the dominant force in Telangana politics.

Following the poor showing in the current assembly polls, experts say the BRS must undergo a revival for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and gear up for a prolonged battle against the Congress.