At a joint press conference with his Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar on Wednesday, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao called for “a BJP-mukt Bharat”. Soon after, in response to a question on the Opposition parties coming together, Nitish said: “It is not the Third Front, but the main front.”
Accusing the BJP of making “false promises”, Rao, better known as KCR, said: “The Opposition should come together with a new slogan of ‘BJP-mukt Bharat’… The BJP is out to sell everything. Now they have only one slogan left, Becho India (Sell India).”
Asked if Nitish could be the joint Opposition candidate for prime minister, KCR said: “It is too early to say. Let us first sit together.”
It was Nitish’s first overt national posturing after splitting from the NDA in Bihar and first bid towards Opposition unity at the national level.
Through the day, as he hosted KCR, the two lavished praise on each other. KCR addressed the JD(U) leader as “Desh ke sammanit neta (a respectable leader of the country)”, while the Bihar CM lauded the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief for “taking river water to villages” to address the state’s drinking water and irrigation problems.
The official purpose of KCR’s visit to Patna was handing over of cheques of Rs 10 lakh each to next of kin of five soldiers from Bihar who died during the clash with Chinese troops at Galwan Valley in June 2020. However, it came against the backdrop of Nitish’s bitter parting with the BJP, KCR’s own national aspirations, and renewed talk of the need for Opposition unity.
This is KCR’s sixth tour out of Telangana in recent days to meet leaders of regional parties. He earlier met JMM chief Shibu Soren and his son and Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren; the Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray; Tamil Nadu CM and DMK leader M K Stalin; and West Bengal CM and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee. During his visit to New Delhi and Punjab, he met CMs Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann, respectively, while he jas met the Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav twice. Earlier this year, he met Left leaders like Sitaram Yechury, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan, former Tripura CM Manik Sarkar, Politburo members B Krishnan and Ramachandran Pillai, and D Raja.
Live: CM Sri KCR along with Bihar CM Sri @NitishKumar distributing the cheques to the bereaved families of Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the Galwan Valley and families of deceased migrant workers at Patna. https://t.co/5Y6Fc4O2sp
— Telangana CMO (@TelanganaCMO) August 31, 2022
KCR has also met farmer leader Rakesh Tikait, and recently started an outreach towards farmers. Besides, party leaders say, he is in touch with JD(S) leader H D Deve Gowda, and RJD leader and former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad and son Tejashwi.
Apart from families of Galwan soldiers, KCR also handed over cheques of Rs 5 lakh each to next of kin of the 12 labourers from the state who died in a fire at a scrap factory in Hyderabad this year, at the Bihar event.
Profusely thanking Nitish “for giving me an opportunity to visit Patna”, KCR, who led a big delegation including his Chief Secretary, said that the death of the soldiers “had been weighing on my heart for a long time”. “Though we cannot bring back to life those who sacrificed themselves, we are trying to offer a little help to their families.”
He also said that his government has been trying to help migrants from other states working in Telangana. This was seen as a dig at the suffering many of them had to undergo following the Modi government’s sudden lockdown decision during the Covid pandemic.
Chief Minister Sri K. Chandrashekar Rao met with Sri @LaluPrasadRJD at the residence of Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sri @YadavTejashwi and enquired about health and well-being of the former Bihar Chief Minister. pic.twitter.com/pHzDB2ROeX
— Telangana CMO (@TelanganaCMO) August 31, 2022
In his speech, Nitish referred to his first visit to Hyderabad in 1986, when he was a first-time MLA, and said: “You (KCR) were instrumental in ensuring a separate Telangana state after a prolonged movement. You deservedly became the Telangana CM. You also brought water from two rivers to villages. Before we embarked on a scheme to take Ganga water to four places, we sent a team to Telangana.”
In an oblique reference to the BJP, the Bihar CM said: “Pata nahin kuchh log jo sirf prachar mein lage rahte hain, kyon aapki shikayat karte hain (I do not know why some people who are only interested in propaganda, criticise you).”
Looking to expand into Telangana, the BJP has been aggressively targeting KCR and the TRS government.
Nitish took a swipe at the media too, saying, “Of late, we have been observing that there is a lot of praise for one side. Let things be like before. Please pay attention to all.”
He went on to raise his demand for special category status for Bihar. It was one of the sticking points in his alliance with the BJP. The Opposition parties, including the JD(U) and KCR, share a common grouse against the Modi government of centralising power and undermining federalism. Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav also talked of the need to strengthen the federal structure.
Dismissing the KCR-Nitish meeting, BJP Rajya Sabha MP and former Bihar Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi said: “We dare KCR, Sharad Pawar and Mamata Banerjee to contest Gujarat polls to test their political waters. The KCR-Nitish meeting is nothing more than a political comedy show.”
Accusing KCR of “questioning the Uri surgical strike”, Modi said: “And he has come to Bihar to give compensation to bereaved families after two years!”
– With ENS inputs, Hyderabad