On Wednesday, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao finally took his planned national leap, with a new party. The veteran leader who fought for Telangana statehood hopes to be the face that non-BJP, non-Congress parties are looking for. Vinod Kumar was one of the founding members of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), is vice-chairman of the Telangana State Planning Board, and a former MP. He speaks on their plans for the Bharatiya Rashtra Samiti party, the states and allies they are looking at, and why KCR is the answer. Excerpts:
Who will be the members of the Bharatiya Rashtra Samiti (BRS) party?
KUMAR: The BRS will be headed by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao at the national level. From across the country, many small and regional parties want to merge with the BRS. These parties were launched earlier in different states by different leaders, but due to various reasons, could not take off. They are very eager to merge with the BRS. The leaders of these parties will be appointed to various positions in the BRS. It is a bit early to reveal their names.
Which states will the BRS contest in?
KUMAR: The BRS will initially focus on regions where the BJP and Congress are present but there is no third alternative, and people are seeking another political party. We will only concentrate on the Lok Sabha elections for now. We are getting a very good response in neighbouring Karnataka and Maharashtra. We are also looking at Rajasthan, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh. We are looking at regions all over the country where there is a requirement for an alternative party.
What do you think of the BJP challenge in Telangana? By forcing the state government to commemorate ‘Liberation Day’ on September 17 (the day the Hyderabad princely state became a part of India), has the BJP pushed the TRS on the back foot?
KUMAR: The BJP is making a lot of noise but it is not a threat to the TRS. Obviously, they have gained some ground in the state due to which they are able to make the noise, but it is not significant. We have been commemorating September 17 as Liberation Day since the formation of the TRS in 2000. We raise the national flag at our party office every year. We did not take an official stand because we did not want to antagonise the minorities, and we do not have any hesitation in saying that. But now we have managed to rope in the minorities too to commemorate September 17, so there is no question of the TRS being on the back foot.
Other regional party leaders initially warmed up to KCR but they seem to be staying away now.
KUMAR: That is not at all the case. In fact, all regional party leaders are eager to team up with the BRS and they share KCR’s vision and appreciate the initiative he is taking. In fact, JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy has already arrived in Hyderabad. The CM called up the Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav last night and asked him not to come as his father Mulayam Singh Yadav is hospitalised. All regional party leaders very much support KCR.
Do you think an alternative alliance without the Congress is possible?
KUMAR: In 2004, the UPA was possible with the Congress because it had 140 seats. Now it has below 50. The Congress is disintegrating and there is no chance of a revival. There is no other party or alliance that is able to counter the BJP. In this scenario, a political alternative without the Congress has to emerge and is very much possible. KCR’s efforts will ultimately culminate in an alternative party.
Will the CM’s son, K T Rama Rao (Telangana minister and TRS working president), or daughter K Kavitha (a former MP and sitting MLC) have a role in the new organisation?
KUMAR: Nothing as of now. The CM will decide on that in the coming days.