Why Did 2 National Alliances Ignore 2 Telugu Chandras'?
DECCAN CHRONICLE | Sriram Karri
Hyderabad: As the dust from the political storms that arose simultaneously from New Delhi and Bengaluru settled, attention shifted to the fact missed in the din — that two national alliances, Congress-led INDIA and BJP-led NDA, had chosen to ignore two top leaders of Telugu states, Chandrashekar Rao and Chandrababu Naidu, both of whom are keen to play a role in the national politics.
Founder and chief of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) and Telangana state Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, and former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh and supremo of Telugu Desam (TD) N. Chandrababu Naidu have both been keenly trying to inveigle invitations from one of the two camps.
Chandrashekar Rao and Chandrababu Naidu, the two ‘Chandras’ of Telugu politics, have both been trying to play ambitious roles at the national level — while Rao is keen to be part of an anti-Modi alliance, Naidu is keen to be part of the Modi-led front.
Rao is facing his toughest electoral challenge in Telangana state yet. Aiming for a record consecutive third term, he is facing humongous and mounting anti-incumbency, after he decided to transform the TRS into the BRS, hoping to create national political optics and benefit from it in the state. It was the first of his strategies to backfire.
At a bottom ebb in perception terms, at both state and national levels, Chandrashekar Rao is not as much to blame for his strategy as his stars. It was unpredictably changing state-level compulsions that forced his hand in a bad way at the national level.
In the 2018 Assembly elections, the BJP won one of 119 seats. The Congress was his only but weak opposition. After he broke two-thirds of the Congress, crippling it further, the TRS had 100 seats in the House and was reigning supreme.
Then the BJP, out of nowhere, on a Modi wave, within four months, bagged four of 17 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. This included the prize scalp of Nizamabad, where Arvind Dharmapuri defeated K. Kavitha, Rao’s daughter. It set into motion several bypolls and the GHMC elections, where the BJP constantly rose and looked like his only rival, forcing his national moves to become rigidly anti-Modi.
The changing swing of fortunes on the political see-saw now has the BJP reduced to a weakling, after losing the Munugode bypoll and the Karnataka state elections. The Congress has bounced back in Telangana state in a near miraculous fashion, gaining an easily perceptible surge all around.
Meanwhile, Rao tried everything from touring the country and meeting leaders of most regional parties to creating a non-Congress and non-BJP front, but it did not work out.
Now, with both the Congress and the BJP gunning for him, Chandrashekar Rao has been forced to stay away from both fronts, willingly or unwillingly. Further, with ED and CBI cases against his daughter K. Kavitha in the Delhi liquor scam, his arms are further locked in choosing an anti-Modi front.
In any case, he can play a free hand only after the state elections. But the short time gap between state and national elections, besides the outcome, would largely decide the role BRS can play before the 2024 elections.
Chandrababu Naidu does not have the limited freedom and flexibility as Rao because, unlike in Telangana, the state elections in AP will be concurrent with the Lok Sabha polls, and the TD is in Opposition.
While AP Chief Minister and YSRC chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has taken a principled stance not to be part of any alliance, drawing some lessons from his senior and neighbouring counterpart BJD leader Naveen Patnaik, Naidu wants to be back into the NDA.
But all his moves for a ghar wapsi have been frustrating. He was not invited to the NDA meeting, though Tollywood superstar and chief of Jana Sena, K. Pawan Kalyan was, notwithstanding his desperation to gate-crash.
While Kalyan is keen to create a super-alliance of BJP, TDP and Jana Sena to challenge the YSRC, the recalcitrant BJP high command is pushing Naidu into a very tight corner.
If the TD loses in the next elections, a highly probable outcome, it would be very difficult for Naidu to play any significant role in politics, state or national. Without the BJP, or worse, a split in anti-incumbency vote, could facilitate a repeat win for Jagan Mohan Reddy.
The two Chandras are facing a lunar eclipse equivalent of politics, and need to win in their respective states to shine again. Or the dark night will be very long.