“Aur ek baar, KCR”. This whisper hurtled across Telangana on polling day on December 7, a hat-tip to Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao or KCR’s slew of sops and welfare schemes. Three months earlier, on September 6, KCR told his Cabinet he was calling for early elections nine months before his term ended.
“Populism will work and this is our chance. We will have to build on it,’’ he told them. Confident of his government’s schemes, KCR believed it would yield rich dividends for his party, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which Tuesday swept the state election, winning an absolute majority.
Decimating the Prajakutami, an alliance including the Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the TRS won 87 of the 119 assembly constituencies, with 47% of the vote share. It meant a surge of at least 13% and 24 more seats compared to Telangana’s first assembly election in 2014. KCR won the Gajwel seat with a margin of over 50,000 votes while his son, K T Rama Rao, won from Sircilla with a margin of 89,909.
The Prajakutami won 22 (Congress 20, TDP 2) with a combined vote share of just under 32% while the AIMIM won seven, Independents two and the BJP one.
After the landslide, KCR indicated what was in store for him next – an active role in Andhra Pradesh politics and the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.
“Chandrababu Naidu came to Telangana saying he wants to work in the interest of Telugu people. I also want to work for Telugu people. If someone gives you a birthday gift, don’t you give a return gift? As part of my national outreach, I will work in Andhra Pradesh also. Chandrababu Naidu will soon see what impact I will have there,’’ KCR said.
His gamble to call for early elections paid off considering the Congress, which seemed set to form governments in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh made little impact in Telangana. The party’s gamble to ally with the TDP – seen as an anti-Telangana party from Andhra Pradesh – could not take advantage of any resentment against the TRS.
KCR said that the numerous sops he doled out in the state had touched at least one in four families and he was confident of the sweep from the beginning. “People have reinforced confidence in us. There is no need for any ego or arrogance. As great as the victory is, the responsibility that people have put on us is even greater and heavier and we have to work hard to fulfil the aspirations of people,’’ he said.
The huge victory has also revived KCR’s plans of a non-BJP, non-Congress third front, which he was on the back burner. Sources in the TRS said that to play a bigger role in national politics, KCR may anoint his son K T Rama Rao as Chief Minister before the next LS elections to contest as MP.
“I want to reiterate here that we are going to play a crucial role in national politics. I will give a new definition to the national political scenario. The coming together of four parties like Prajakutami is not an alliance. We will work for a non-Congress, non-BJP front at the national level. Telangana has proved it this time to the nation – we are a non-BJP, non-Congress party and people have elected with a resounding majority again,” he said.
“This nation needs a new economic and new agriculture model. I am going to unite the entire polity of India. I have already discussed with Asaduddin Owaisi strategies on how to bring together the various Muslims parties, Dalits, Christians and other marginalised parties and also bring together the majority of people.”
Data showed that people overwhelmingly voted for the TRS in all areas and indicated that entire villages and municipal wards voted for KCR en masse in all 31 districts. “People voted for KCR because he worked relentless for the welfare of Telangana people who had lots of expectations after the formation of new state,” said K Kavita, his daughter and MP from Nizamabad.
KCR, who single-handedly campaigned in 100 constituencies, also successfully projected the Prajakutami as an opportunistic alliance and referred to TDP chief and Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu as “Shani”.
He also often warned crowds in public rallies of the “dark days” before the state was bifurcated. By projecting Naidu as the face of the alliance, KCR also turned the campaign into a “Mee KC” (your KCR) vs Naidu which totally negated the effect of campaigning by Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders.