In calling for the formation of a third front, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, 64, has sought to give the 2019 Assembly elections a national perspective. By aiming at the Centre, KCR is also hoping to prevent the BJP from making inroads in the state, political analysts note, while Opposition leaders see all this as a ruse to divert attention from problems at home.
KCR has said he wants to usher in “qualitative change in the country’s politics”, accused the BJP at the Centre of not being able to deliver, and called for a non-Congress, non-BJP platform. The proposed coalition: TRS, TDP, YSRCP in the two Telugu states, DMK and Kamal Haasan’s fledgling party in Tamil Nadu, the Left in Kerala, and possibly JD(S) in Karnataka.
Placing himself as the leader of the proposed front, he has revived the idea of a coalition led by southern regional parties to halt the BJP’s ingress into the south. Although Andhra Pradesh and Telangana compete with each other, the TRS has invited the TDP to join the proposed front. While the TDP is an alliance partner of the NDA, friction has emerged between the party and the BJP.
Political analysts say KCR appears to working on the assumption that anti-incumbency in many BJP-ruled states will not fetch it an absolute majority in 2019, so a third front would be in a position to form the government at the Centre. Late N T Rama Rao, who founded the TDP, too had stitched together such a front, called the National Front, in 1989.
At the same time, analysts question KCR’s objectives. “Why has KCR suddenly turned critical of BJP and Narendra Modi?” political commentator T Ravi says. “Wasn’t KCR the first non-NDA CM to welcome and support demonetisation? Didn’t he declare support to introduction of GST? KCR is now blaming the BJP for not being able to deliver what he promised to people of Telangana in 2014 elections. Just like N Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra is blaming the Centre for not being able to fulfil poll promises, KCR is putting all his failings on the BJP.”
Among the issues facing the TRS government is an agrarian crisis, with farmers not getting good prices due to over production of red gram and chilli; the NGO Rythu Swarajya Vedika claims that nearly 3,000 farmers committed suicide since the new state was formed. Again, the government extended 12% quota to Muslims but has not been able to implement it as the Centre has not considered it yet, making KCR a target of the Congress. The government is struggling to deliver a promised drinking water connection to every household before 2019; the Kaleswaram irrigation project might not be completed before elections; a housing project for the poor has fallen behind schedule.
KCR is blaming the BJP for all this, including non-allotment of funds to the water supply and other projects. “The Centre should concentrate on defence, foreign policy, and other national issues and leave issues like reservation, education, health and urban development to states, which have a better understanding of local needs,’’ KCR has said.
BJP leader N Ramachander Rao, a Member of the Legislative Council, says the Telangana government precipitated the agrarian crisis by advising farmers to sow red gram and chilli instead of cotton. “It caused over-production and prices crashed. Farmers are committing suicide and KCR is blaming the Centre for the state’s folly. KCR has promised one lakh government jobs; people are now asking where are the jobs. KCR is blaming [Prime Minister] Modi for that also,’’ Rao says, adding that TRS is shaken by BJP’s success and making excuses for its own failings.
Telangana PCC president N Uttam Kumar Reddy, too, says KCR’s sudden announcement is an attempt to escape questioning on the failures of the TRS government. “A chief minister who never went to the Secretariat is now dreaming of becoming a national leader. A person who is responsible for the suicide of over 4,000 farmers wants to make policies on agriculture at national level. This is totally ridiculous,” Reddy says. “KCR’s announcement is a new drama which he is enacting to escape from public anger on his failures.” Reddy dismisses the proposed front as a non-starter because the Congress, he says, is set to win the elections in the state as well as at the national level.
KCR’s deputy in the cabinet, Kadium Srihari, says there is a vacuum at the national level as the Congress has weakened. “There is scope for new platforms to emerge without Congress and the BJP. KCR is a great leader and he can lead a viable alternative. If people in the two Telugu states wish, then the BJP or the Congress will never win here,” says Srihari, Deputy CM (Education).
One analyst says that the rise of BJP in the Northeast — it now rules or is part of the governments in all states of the region except Mizoram — has forced regional party leaders like KCR to plan a strategy to counter the BJP in their states.