With the second round of meetings, Telangana Chief Minister and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president K Chandrasekhar Rao, has blurred the lines between political alliances. After breathing fire against the Congress party, particularly its president Rahul Gandhi, his latest overture towards the grand old party has taken many by surprise, befuddled some others.
But those who have followed KCR’s political trajectory will concede that the wily politician is often unpredictable but with careful calculations. And his second round of visits to regional satraps has almost sounded a death knell to his federal front dream, as many parties including Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is reported to have made it categorically clear that before May 23rd, they have no intentions of abandoning their ally, Congress.
Having established a clear domination in his home state, two assembly elections in a row, KCR is antsy to have a compelling role in national politics and is now looking at a possible alternative to being a relegated part of a powerful BJP.
KCR met Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan last week and after much persuasion, met with DMK president MK Stalin. And post that meeting, murmurs of KCR’s change in position vis-a-vis Rahul Gandhi has grown louder and sources in TRS have confirmed to Republic that owing to a number of factors-some dictated by domestic compulsions and some others ruled by national ambitions-KCR is now open to taking and giving support to the Congress party.
KCR believes a weak Congress party in power, at the helm of ruling coalition could be beneficial for a regional leader like himself feels that he won't be able to bargain much with BJP as Modi-shah will not yield. Possibility of seeking external support from Congress to a coalition of regional parties greater than same arrangement with BJP.
Within Telangana, KCR fears that any support or alliance with the BJP, especially with a hardline Hindutva identity in Telangana, will dent TRS’ image and might drive the minority, pro minority and backward classes votes towards his principal, although feeble, opposition party, the Congress. If he identifies with the Congress then KCR’s supremacy in Telangana will be complete.
But KCR will not be satiated with a peripheral, king-maker position in the ruling coalition. He has his eyes set on a larger goalpost. Sources close to him suggest that he hopes to put together a block of regional parties, led by him and with a greater negotiating power. Yuvajana Shramika Raithu Congress Party (YSRCP) chief Jagan Mohan Reddy has already publicly professed his agreeability to working with KCR.
Now, KCR has sought appointments with Karnataka chief minister, HD Kumaraswamy, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati. In a bid to increase his heft, KCR is aiming to put together a segment of 70+ seats and demand that the deputy prime minister’s post should be given to a regional party, preferably from the south, ostensibly KCR.
All these developments have disconcerted the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief Chandrababu Naidu, once friend and now political foe of KCR who is already a part of the UPA. In a meeting with Rahul Gandhi in Delhi last week, Naidu is said to have made it clear that he might still consider being part of the coalition along side KCR but will walk out if Jagan enters UPA.
Rahul Gandhi has reportedly assured Naidu the Congress party will honour the pre-poll alliance it has with TDP but sources in the Congress party tell Republic that if TDP fails to cross 6 seats in Andhra Pradesh and YSRCP can accrue close to 18 seats, then the Congress will abandon Naidu to accommodate KCR-Jagan duo.
That said, KCR's channel of communication with BJP is not closed and top sources in BJP believe that he might be also using these meetings with regional satraps to send a message to BJP to not take his support for granted.
KCR is considered one of the astute politicians in the country and if nothing else, his grabbing headlines in the run up to May 23rd will ensure that no party-national or regional-will take him lightly.