Chief ministe K Chandrashekhar Rao. (Photo: Twitter)
HYDERABAD: The launch of the Bharatiya Rashtra Samiti (BRS), a national party, the successor to the regional TRS, (which will now be erased and replaced as a brand), is a disruptive step, with big moonshot gains on the upside and a high risk politically as a downside but, irrespective of subsequent outcomes, it is one of the most black swan events in Indian politics.
It comes as a product of the visionary of a leader who has now ensured that he will be recorded in Indian political history as one of its most enigmatic risk-takers, someone who can think more tangentially than anyone else ever in politics before him.
An immediate consequence is that Andhra Pradesh now has three regional parties fighting for power — the ruling YSRC, the principal opposition Telugu Desam and the fledgling Jana Sena — whereas in Telangana there are now three national parties vying for public validation: The Congress, BJP and the BRS. The two main national parties are struggling for a foothold in AP, while regional and smaller "start-up parties" have no traction or significance in Telangana.
"It is hard to predict all the consequences and results of what will happen with the launch of the BRS because it is a black swan event in Indian politics. But anyone who wishes to write off the BRS must go back a little over two decades ago, when KCR sir launched the TRS and an agitation for separate statehood," said a TRS leader.
Another leader, speaking of the anxieties and apprehensions within the party, quipped, "The strongest appeal of our party was Telangana sentiment, our name. By giving it up, we are embarking on an unfamiliar journey, without a map. There is an undeniable element of risk in the endeavour."
Most TRS leaders are hoping the continuity of symbol and colour will reduce the risk of the move within the state.
The BRS move has not brought too much reaction from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, but parties will watch with keen interest the actual moves of the pink party. Rao, formerly a TD leader before starting the TRS, has deep connections in the yellow party and may begin to poach its key leaders strategically.
The approach towards the BRS by Chandrashekar Rao is as crucially different from Arvind Kejriwal’s approach to expanding his party, the Aam Aadmi Party, as the two leaders are different. Both are risk-takers, and both are cautious; but their caution and risk propensities, and other facets of personality, are significantly diverse, despite several similarities.
Interestingly, both Kejriwal and Chandrashekar Rao see a huge vacuum in national politics as a consequence of the Congress weakening increasingly, and losing election after election, giving the BJP a near walkover in many an electoral battle.
But whereas Kejriwal, after his disastrous stint in extreme adventure — resigning as CM, contesting against Narendra Modi directly in Varanasi Lok Sabha in 2014 — has moved towards a Rahul Dravidesque approach of winning a state here and a foothold in another there.
Experiences being different, Rao wants to harness the economic and social differences between the south and rest of India, wants to offer the "Telangana" model, based on over eight years of governance, and the results, especially in the irrigation and farming sector, besides some of the welfare programmes, as a basis to reach out to the deep, agrarian crisis in the country.
As of now, neither Rao nor Kejriwal, wishes to be part of a front against the Narendra Modi-led BJP; whereas several other senior national leaders, including Nitish Kumar, Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray, M.K. Stalin, Mamata Banerjee and Akhilesh Yadav, besides others, believe in some kind of a front, with minor differences on the role of the Congress in such a composition.
The other crucial difference between the two mercurial Chief Ministers is while Kejriwal is chipping away at the Congress vote bank — with early surveys predicting a big BJP win in Gujarat and Himachal owing to the AAP foray — the BRS wants to take on the BJP and cut into its vote bank, especially amongst the farmers.
Interestingly, both the national parties have undergone a similar exercise but for vastly different reasons. The BJP itself used to be the Jana Sangh; hence a name change as a precursor to a successful entry into national politics cannot be dismissed.
The larger state-level concern is whether the BRS will distract the party, and its Telangana setup, from a crucial attention to the Assembly elections in a little over a year, with reports of growing anti-incumbency.
Here again, none of the big regional satraps have to face a state election before the Lok Sabha poll — the domestic test of Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee, Stalin, Kejriwal or Thackeray lies after the national exam; but Rao must face Assembly polls before the Lok Sabha elections.
And the Munugode byelection, where the TRS may fight its last elections in that avatar, might point to things ahead. In any case, the BRS led by Rao has jolted the politics of the Telugu states, yet again, and holds within its potential, to make a big impact on national politics.