Team KCR is moving heaven and earth to make the 18 January meeting of the BRS a grand success. The massive public meeting to be held in Khammam is politically significant for the party supremo and Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao in many ways.
Delhi, Punjab, and Kerala chief ministers, Arvind Kejriwal, Bhagwant Singh Mann, and Pinarayi Vijayan, respectively, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav are to attend this first BRS meeting.
KCR aims to bolster his national political outreach with the presence of these leaders. KCR will intensify his anti-BJP crusade from the Khammam meeting. Besides, the Telangana chief minister will also blow the poll bugle for the elections in the state, scheduled to be held at the end of this year.
An ideal debut for BRS
The choice of Khammam for the first BRS public meeting is itself strategic given the fact that this undivided district bordering Andhra Pradesh was hitherto politically difficult terrain for the pink party. This part of Telangana not just shares a geographical boundary with neighbouring Andhra Pradesh but even reflects its socio-cultural ethos, which is different from that of the Telangana heartland.
As the pink party sheds its regional character to embrace national politics, Khammam perhaps becomes an ideal place for the debut meeting of KCR’s BRS.
The BRS cadres are trying to mobilise people from neigbouring districts of Andhra Pradesh too. The party has recently constituted an Andhra Pradesh state committee as certain leaders from other parties joined it.
Once a red bastion
In the run-up to the Munugode bypoll, KCR forged an electoral alliance with the Left parties, which he earlier described as tail-end entities.
The two Left parties CPI(M) and CPI still enjoy a reasonable presence in the undivided Khammam district. The state secretaries of the two communist parties hail from here.
The Left parties are also likely to mobilise for the BRS meet as they hope to have an electoral understanding with the pink party for the ensuing Assembly elections.
The Left has suffered massive electoral erosion in the recent past, including in the undivided Khammam district, which was hitherto considered a red bastion. The Left wants to script its revival using the bonhomie with the BRS. Khammam, therefore, becomes an ideal setting for the Left’s political tactics.
Similarly, the Khammam region was always elusive for the TRS even during the movement for a separate state.
The party tried to consolidate politically by luring strong leaders from other parties. The BRS is still not confident of scoring significant electoral wins in the undivided Khammam district. In fact, Left support was critical for the BRS win in Munugode, defeating the fledgling BJP in the state.
Thus, by organising a massive BRS meeting in Khammam, KCR aims at political consolidation in the unpalatable political terrain, paving the way for a blistering campaign ahead of the Assembly elections.
Also read: Bypoll verdicts after 2018 show BJP vulnerability in Telangana
Dissension within KCR’s party in Khammam
Interestingly enough, the BRS is facing serious internal dissension. Khammam strongman and former MP Srinivas Reddy is all set to leave the BRS to join the saffron party.
Yet another former minister and former TDP strongman Tummala Nageshwar Rao is also unhappy, leading to speculation that he may also desert the party. However, it seems that the BRS leadership could placate Tummala for now. But how long this rapprochement will last is anybody’s guess.
Thus, the politically significant BRS meeting is expected to ensure greater unity within the party in Khammam.
TDP, YSR Congress have done well
The Telangana sentiment was an intractable impediment for the TDP and YSR Congress in the new state of Telangana as these parties are led by Andhra leaders.
Accepting the changed political landscape after bifurcation, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy exited Telangana politics. It is noteworthy to mention here that the YSR Congress in alliance with the CPI(M) won the Khammam Lok Sabha and three Assembly seats in the 2014 elections.
However, all of them defected to the TRS with the YSR Congress closing its party in Telangana.
Similarly, the TDP also enjoyed considerable political clout in Khammam even after bifurcation. The TDP won two seats in the 2018 Telangana Assembly elections and both were in Khammam district. Later, both the TDP legislators defected to the TRS.
With the TRS transforming into the BRS, the political hopes of the TDP in Telangana got rekindled. Recently, the TDP anointed a new state party chief. Subsequently, N Chandrababu Naidu addressed a big public meeting in Khammam, indicating the TDP’s renewed political ambitions in Telangana.
Related: Will Khammam be the gateway to Telangana for TDP?
The weakening of the TDP mainly benefitted the TRS. Many TDP strongmen joined the pink party as KCR himself was the product of Telugu Desam.
The elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporations (GHMC) also revealed that the people of the Seemandhra region had shifted their political loyalties to the TRS. These sections, who settled in Telangana from the region that now constitutes residuary Andhra Pradesh, were earlier rallying behind the TDP to a greater extent.
The BRS fears a loss of electoral support if the TDP is revived. The pink party expects to indirectly counter the political moves of the TDP by holding the meeting in Khammam.
YS Sharmila to contest from here
Though YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has not yet shown any interest in Telangana politics even after the formation of the BRS, his sister YS Sharmila recently launched a political start-up, YSR Telangana party.
Embarking upon a state-wide walkathon, YS Sharmila launched a no-holds-barred attack on KCR and his party.
She has also announced her plans to contest Assembly elections from the Paleru seat in Khammam district. Sharmila believes that her father YS Rajasekhar Reddy’s legacy is hugely popular here, as YSR Congress had a good harvest in 2014.
Khammam’s place in KCR’s statehood journey
Sentimentally too, Khammam has a unique place in KCR’s journey towards the formation of a new state.
His indefinite fast was a critical moment in the Telangana movement. He was arrested and lodged in judicial custody in Khammam. This development is considered to be the clinching point in the struggle for the new state.
The BRS is consciously reminding people about this as its rivals allege that KCR has given up Telangana sentiment with the launch of his national political voyage.
The Congress still considers Khammam as its bastion despite the wholesale defection of its legislators.
The BJP is trying hard to enter Khammam with the support of newly inducted leaders.
The Left is expected to ask for a considerable number of seats in the undivided Khammam district only during its talks with the BRS on seat sharing.
Thus, Khammam has become a political battleground for parties of all colours.
BRS show of strength in Khammam on 18 January
Amidst such hectic political manoeuvring by all parties, KCR descends on Khammam with a huge show of strength on Wednesday, 18 January.
Though the BJP has made significant political gains in Telangana in the recent past, Khammam is rather politically unpalatable for the saffron narrative due to its long history of Left politics. Thus, Khammam has become an ideal location for KCR’s anti-BJP blockbuster.
(K Nageshwar is a political analyst and professor of journalism at Osmania University. He is a former member of the Legislative Council, both in united Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. He has worked as an editor in print and electronic media. These are the personal views of the author)