Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhara Rao, 60, and his Telangana Rashtra Samiti see themselves dictating what happens in Telangana politics from now on — with or without the Congress. It is from that perceived position that the TRS has ruled out a merger with the Congress, a decision that, in turn, is set to prevent a pre-poll alliance too.
It is a turnaround since 2009, when the TRS could manage only two assembly seats and 10 in the Lok Sabha, Now 23 strong in the assembly following a series of resignations and byelections, its stock high because of the new state, the party is looking at winning over 100 of the 119 assembly seats in Telangana, and 15 or 16 of the 17 Lok Sabha seats, KCR said after a party meeting ruling out a merger.
The TRS is hoping polls will be separate for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
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“The TRS will exist. The TRS will fight elections as a separate party. It is not an agitation party anymore; it is now a pucca political party,” said KCR, a two-time MP. The other party MP, Vijayashanti, is now with the Congress.
The window for a post-poll alliance, however, remains open. A committee has been formed to discuss, if necessary, such opportunities with parties that may include the Congress, KCR said. The committee has K Keshava Rao, Etala Rajender and B Vinod Kumar.
“There are many ways of expressing our gratitude to Sonia Gandhi. We may even support the next government at the Centre if it is led by the Congress,” KCR said. In Telangana, he said, the TRS need ally with no one.
It has been a rollercoaster ride for KCR and the Telangana movement he spearheaded for the last 13 of its 60 years. He began in the Congress, and was Youth Congress vice-president in 1978-79. He lost his first election in 1983, then joined the newly launched TDP in 1984 after completing his MA in Telugu literature from Osmania University.
He has never lost since, returning the MLA from Siddipet in 1985, 1989, 1994 and 1999. He was deputy speaker before he quit the TDP over differences with N Chandrababu Naidu, and launched the TRS in 2001 with the purpose of fighting for a separate state. In 2004, he won the Karimnagar Lok Sabha seat; in 2009, he won Mahbubnagar as well as a byelection.
KCR supported the first UPA government and became known as a cabinet minister without a portfolio. He quit in 2006 accusing the Congress of not being serious about creating a new state.
At home, his fortunes fluctuated. In 2008, the TRS’s 26 MLAs and five MPs resigned demanding the state. In the byelections, it could win back only seven and two seats. And the following year, the TRS allied with the TDP but could win only 10 and two.
KCR bounced back in late 2009 after chief minister YS S Reddy’s death created a vacuum in the state. He went on an indefinite hunger strike that took him centre-stage nationally. As his health deteriorated and student protests turned violent, then home minister P Chidambaram announced the process of creation of Telangana state had been started. It took over four years more before it came on February 17, the day after KCR’s 60th birthday.
What is now Telangana’s first family includes KCR’s son K T Rama Rao who is the MLA from Sircilla, nephew T Harish Rao who is the MLA from Siddipet, and a daughter who heads Telangana Jagruthi, a cultural organisation.
One promise KCR had made was that Telangana’s first chief minister would be from the backward classes. As long as an alliance looked likely, Andhra deputy CM Damodar Rajanarasimha of the Congress looked the most eligible candidate. Now, however, various Telangana leaders have been pushing for KCR himself being projected as the state’s first CM.
His reasons for not merging
Having once promised to merge his TRS with the Congress if Telangana is formed, K Chandrasekhara Rao Monday justified his decision not to do so. The assurance, he said, had been based on the promise that the state would be created last year itself. Some of the reasons KCR cited after a six-hour party meeting:
“Last year I told the Congress that if Telangana is created with a bill passed in September, the TRS would merge with the Congress. But that did not happen then and now we are under no obligation to merge.”
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“The Congress never took us into confidence when they started the process. We were not taken on board when the bill was drafted. None of our suggestions was accepted. We wanted Telangana without any conditions. We oppose the appointment of a governor to oversee law and order in the new state. We oppose the merger of villages of Khammam with Seemandhra.”
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“We requested special status for Telangana along with that for Seemandhra; this too was ignored. Another issue that upsets us is the decision to grant Hyderabad House to Seemandhra. It is our hereditary property. We wanted AP Bhavan; even that was not accepted. Comments by Jairam Ramesh also hurt.”
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“Everyone knows no single party will form the next government at the Centre. It will be a coalition and we want to be a part of it, irrespective of who leads it… The sharing of water, power, revenues… between Telangana and Seemandhra will be decided only after the elections. We want to be in a position to be able to demand and get our rightful share. There is also a feeling that Telangana needs its own voice, a powerful political voice, which only the TRS can provide.”