With his 'Rahul Gandhi is the biggest buffoon in the country' comment, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) dealt a fatal blow to the already angst, elusive ‘united’ opposition that the country saw in its nascent form in Bengaluru on May 22.
It was palpable that KCR’s equation with the Congress party will remain strained given that in Telangana, the grand old party is his principal opposition. Reports of Congress-TDP tie-up in Telangana would’ve further soured the equation.
The language he used against the Congress president on September 5 and the belligerence with which he attacked the party made it clear he shall not be part of any alliance where Congress is present.
Juxtapose that with his tone and tenor in speaking about Prime Minister Modi which was not lost on anyone. Abstaining from the trust vote against the Modi government in July gave a clear insight into TRS proclivity. This poses a serious threat to the opposition unity that hoped to be a contender to Modi and his NDA, given that the Congress' onslaught has lacked steam so far.
Bringing to the fore questions of the equation shared by other federal Front leaders and their relation viz-a-viz Congress party:
Each of the regional players in the federal front share convoluted affiliation with the Congress which vary in intensity depending on the viewpoint-national or regional.
KCR is looking at two battles currently- securing an overwhelming majority once again in the state assembly elections and then, with the win behind him, look to convey a message to NDA and the federal front- in that order- about his strength. He will play the “Telugu pride’ card ahead of Lok Sabha polls too, trying to distinguish himself from Congress and even BJP. The TDP and YSRCP haven’t been able to make much of a dent in Telangana.
If assembly polls are held simultaneously with Lok Sabha polls in Telangana, KCR will worry about being pitted against Narendra Modi as the parliamentary polls, in almost every state, would largely revolve around a similar narrative. By de-linking the two elections, KCR can fight on his terms and with a carefully crafted strategy to catch most opposition parties napping, KCR even announced 105 candidates on the same day he recommended dissolution of the assembly.
While his opponents try to catch up with him, he addresses 100 rallies over the next month and a half, reminding the people of his ’sacrifices’ to get separate statehood to Telangana.
With 17 Lok Sabha seats to be won, KCR’s strategy would be to get a lion’s share of that pie and then, if offered a profitable treaty, possibly partner with the NDA, in case they fall short of allies. A pre-poll alliance with the BJP would not just impede his chances with the electorate but also reduce his bargaining power with the BJP.
With his aim set high, proximity with the federal front will tie him down from his national aspiration. But with the firm exodus of KCR from federal form, even before it could take shape, the already unhinged coalition of mercurial regional satraps will get further undermined.