Telangana Assembly election results: Blame it on KCR

With people giving him the thumbs down, is it the end of the KCR era? Watch out for the BJP's moves between now and Lok Sabha polls.

ByVasu Gandikota

Published Dec 04, 2023 | 4:47 PMUpdated Dec 04, 2023 | 5:08 PM

Telangana Assembly election results: Blame it on KCR

As Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao — known all along as KCR — drove off to his farmhouse just as the evening skies over Hyderabad were turning dark on Sunday, 3 December, it perhaps signalled the end of a political career and an uncertain future for the BRS.

Memories of the past — the triumphant return from Delhi after the passage of the Bill for the formation of Telangana in 2014, victory in the first election soon after, and the remarkable performance in 2018 — would have surely churned in his mind during the 50-km journey from Pragati Bhavan, his impregnable home as chief minister, to the swanky farmhouse.

Related: Jana Sena draws a blank in Telangana; all candidates lose deposit

KCR vs the people

This election was all about KCR vs the people (as reported in these columns), and in the end, the people won. He always appears powerful when things go his way, but his true character emerges in times of adversity.

It showed up on Sunday too. True to his nature, he chose not to be graceful in defeat, preferring to send his resignation to the Governor through an aide, and not face his elected legislators or the media.

For someone who assigned himself a larger-than-life persona, it was a defeat he could not stomach. From an orator par excellence who swayed the masses during the heady days of Telangana agitation, his recent election speeches were as dull and drab as they could get.

On many occasions, he turned emotional, telling people he would retire if he lost the election, but adding in the same breath that it was they who would be real losers.

The attitude stemmed from the same arrogance that saw anyone critical of the BRS as anti-Telangana. But the people thought otherwise, and the message they conveyed was that the interests of Telangana were different from those of the party, instrumental though it was for the creation of the state.

They rewarded it in 2014 and 2018, but not anymore.

Also read: KCR may let son KTR take on role of LoP in the Telangana Assembly

Lessons not learnt

Dozens of reasons could be cited for the defeat of BRS, but the blame squarely and singularly rests with KCR for his refusal or unwillingness to introspect. Consider:

  • Post the 2018 elections, what was then TRS suffered setbacks in the Lok Sabha polls held soon after. No lessons learnt.
  • Whenever by-polls were held, the people voted for a party that could defeat the TRS. It was true as well of elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC). Again, no lessons learnt.
  • There was an increasing belief among people that the government was run solely by KCR and his family. But, surrounded by a coterie and not prepared to tolerate criticism, there was no mechanism by which he could have gotten genuine feedback.
  • In KCR’s blow-hot, blow-cold attitude towards the BJP, people smelt multiple things, including an attempt to shield his daughter, K Kavita, from arrest. In fact, but for the tough fight put up by the BJP in 25-30 segments, the BRS would have performed worse than what it did in the Assembly election.
  • The very sections which stood rock solid by him during the agitation – students, youth, teachers, government employees, and intellectuals – turned against KCR as he disconnected himself from them. For a party built on agitations, he blocked even minor protests which could have helped him understand the people’s concerns. The change in the political culture of the BRS was something the people did not appreciate.
  • Add to this, the lack of morality. KCR remained a silent spectator or indirectly encouraged his MLAs as they literally ran amok amassing wealth. Such was his arrogance that he preferred to renominate 30-40 MLAs despite being aware of people’s hatred for them. Basically, “we don’t care for the people’s mood” was the seeming attitude and hallmark of his administration.

Also read: Congress has most 50k+ margin winners in Telangana elections

Litmus test for the BRS

The loss on 3 December is undoubtedly a litmus test for the BRS. If KCR indeed chooses to retire, the future looks bleak.

There are already indications of at least a dozen legislators elected on the BRS tickets sending signals to the Congress. It was a culture that KCR started despite winning 88 out of 119 seats in 2018, weaning away Congress MLAs by offering them loads of cash, and it is payback time.

From a macro perspective, however, it would make sense for the Congress to keep the BRS alive and firm to ensure the fight is triangular and the BJP does not gobble up the Opposition space.

On the other hand, if KCR decides to stick around and rebuild the party and reconnect with the people — at least till the Lok Sabha elections some six months away — the results of that contest would decide whether he and the BRS remain relevant both in the state and nationally. Or whether the party would be officially over.

Also read: BJP won 8 seats, doubled vote-share yet its cadre are gloomy

BJP the real threat

But the bigger threat for the BRS could be from the BJP. From a lone member in 2018 to eight now and a cent percent increase in vote share to 14 percent, it is more than likely that the saffron party could go for the kill.

Having accused KCR of rampant corruption and branding his government as one run by the family, the BJP may not see much merit in aligning with him ahead of the Lok Sabha elections a few months away.

On the contrary, it could prefer to make it a straight contest between itself and the Congress in 2024. If the BJP prefers this path, expect a split in the BRS, with a good chunk wearing saffron robes.

As Majlis (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi often feared — that a separate Telangana will ultimately see the emergence of the BJP — the result of Assembly elections could well be the beginning of a saffron tilt in the state that the RSS has been longing for a long time.

The BJP has already made significant inroads in the North Telangana districts of Adilabad, Karimnagar, and Nizamabad. And, it’s only a matter of time before it spreads to South Telangana, apart from Hyderabad and its surroundings where it already has a good presence.

Much would depend on whether the BRS remains resolute or simply withers away.