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KCR: The statehood-or-nothing man

February 21, 2014 11:02 IST

KCR: The statehood-or-nothing man

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Prashanth Chintala

With the Lok Sabha passing the reorganisation bill, Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao now finds himself at the brink of a new history. Prashanth Chintala reports

Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao had been camping in New Delhi for the past three weeks, saying he would not return to his home in Hyderabad till Parliament passed the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2013, which would bifurcate Andhra Pradesh and create a new state of Telangana.

Compared to his long struggle, the 60-year-old Rao, or KCR as he is popularly referred to, would have found the three weeks passing too quickly.

For 13 years, his Telangana Rashtra Samithi has waged a vociferous battle for Telangana's statehood, and with the Lok Sabha passing the reorganisation bill, he now finds himself at the brink of a new history.

While the people of Telangana have been agitating for statehood for five decades, it was KCR who, with his oratory, created the decisive mood in the putative Telangana region to push for separation from Andhra Pradesh. Speaking in the local dialect and interspersing his speeches with humour and anecdotes, the postgraduate in Telugu literature roused the passions of the old and young alike.

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KCR: The statehood-or-nothing man

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Prashanth Chintala

The consummate politician, born on February 17, 1954 in Chintamadaka village of Medak district, won his first election -- to the state assembly -- in 1985 as a Telugu Desam Party candidate from Siddipet. After a decade and a half as legislator from the constituency, on April 27, 2001, KCR resigned as a legislator (he was deputy speaker of the Assembly at the time) to revive the Telangana movement.

To his credit, he ensured that the rejuvenated movement was not violent like the earlier 1969 agitation led by Marri Chenna Reddy.

In what would become a trademark of sorts, KCR used his legislature membership as a pressure weapon. He quit the House and won the re-election to prove his popularity among the masses.

The first of these came in 2001, when he regained the seat he had resigned on the issue of Telangana. He soon emerged as a major political force in the districts comprising the prospective Telangana state when his party polled more than 20 per cent of the votes and secured a majority in two Zilla Parishads in local body elections.

In 2004, when polls to the state assembly and the Lok Sabha were held simultaneously, TRS, which had opted to partner the Congress, won 26 of the state's 295 assembly seats and five of the 42 Lok Sabha seats. Statehood for Telangana had figured in the common minimum programme of the United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, led by the Congress, and KCR became a member of the Manmohan Singh ministry.

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KCR: The statehood-or-nothing man

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Prashanth Chintala

Exasperated by UPA's inability to force the Telangana issue, KCR parted ways and sided with TDP in the 2009 elections, only to find his stock sliding.

TRS won just 10 assembly and two Lok Sabha seats. The victorious Congress chief minister, YS Rajasekhara Reddy, taunted KCR, saying that the people of the Telangana region had rejected TRS and statehood.

But destiny dealt another winning hand to KCR.

Reddy died in a helicopter crash in September 2009 and opposition to Telangana waned. Two months later, KCR played his ace - he went on an indefinite hunger strike in Hyderabad demanding action from the Centre.

As the wily leader's condition deteriorated, P Chidambaram, then the Union home minister, announced the process to create Telangana, triggering widespread agitation in coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema, together called Seemandhra, against the state's bifurcation.

KCR went for the jugular, bringing together all pro-Telangana outfits on one platform -- the Joint Action Committee -- and lobbied incessantly other political parties in Delhi.

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KCR: The statehood-or-nothing man

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Prashanth Chintala

Meanwhile, Reddy's death realigned political fortunes in Andhra Pradesh.

Feeling snubbed by his father's party, Reddy's son, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, formed his own YSR Congress. The battleline was more sharply drawn: YSR Congress in Seemandhra, TRS in Telangana.

Left out in the cold was the Congress.

Facing a looming election disaster in the state, the Congress Working Committee, in a bid to salvage some gains from the hapless position, decided on July 30, 2013 to accord statehood to Telangana.

The man smiling the broadest that day was KCR, who had resigned once from the state assembly and twice from the Lok Sabha in pursuit of his dream.

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