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Will KCR be kingmaker in 2019?

December 27, 2018 19:27 IST

'KCR's plan for the future is three-pronged. He wants to see a non-Congress, non-BJP government at the Centre in 2019 so that he can become the Union minister for home or defence,' says R Rajagopalan.

K Chandrashekar Rao

IMAGE: K Chandrashekar Rao is expanding his political horizons. Photograph: Kind courtesy Kavitha Kalvakuntla/Twitter

If he has his way, that's exactly what Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao hopes to do.

'I will play a major role in the formation of the Union government in 2019,' declares the Telangana chief minister and president of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi.

KCR, as he is known, is ignoring the Modi versus Rahul battle and focusing on those regional parties which are opposed to both the Congress and the BJP. In doing so, he hopes to form a strong Federal Front.

KCR, who is confident of winning 15 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, has begun meeting regional political stalwarts in east and north India. One wonders what he discussed with Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha and Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress in Bengal, whom he met this week.

The next on his list are Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party.

KCR not only defeated the BJP in Telangana in the recent assembly election, he also crushed the ambitions of the mini mahagatbandhan formed by his rival, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party chief Nara Chandrababu Naidu, and the Congress.

 

What did KCR tell Modi?

KCR with Modi

IMAGE: Is KCR supporting Modi? Photograph: Kind courtesy Telangana CMO

KCR met Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi in New Delhi on Wednesday, December 26, after he met Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik.

Both Banerjee and Patnaik are not interested in giving any importance to the Congress, and to Rahul Gandhi in particular. KCR conveyed this message to Modi in no uncertain terms.

He also wants to ensure that Patnaik does not get closer to Chandrababu Naidu or the United Progressive Alliance.

Does that mean KCR has become a Modi puppet?

No.

KCR's plan for the future is three-pronged. He wants to see a non-Congress, non-BJP government at the Centre in 2019 so that he can become the Union minister for home or defence.

If this happens, he wants to ensure his son, Kalvakuntla Taraka Rama Rao, becomes Telangana's next chief minister.

He also wants to hem in Chandrababu Naidu and hobble the relationship the TDP leader shares with Rahul Gandhi.

Will Akhilesh, Mayawati meet KCR?

Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati

IMAGE: Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati are playing a wait-and-watch game. Photograph: Shailendra Bhojak/PTI Photo

By keeping the SP's options open, Akhilesh Yadav is behaving like a seasoned politician.

If KCR's efforts bear fruit and the Federal Front picks up in north India, Akhilesh knows he will need the southern leader's support.

If it does not, the SP might need the UPA (and, by default, the Congress).

Which is why Yadav and Mayawati maintain their neutral stance as far as KCR and the Congress are concerned.

This signifies the biggest hitch in KCR's plan to unite the smaller parties against the UPA and the BJP.

Why is KCR against Naidu?

KCR with Chandrababu Naidu

IMAGE: KCR and Chandrababu Naidu cut their political teeth under N T Rama Rao. Photograph: PTI Photo

KCR seems to have made it a personal mission to ensure Chandrababu Naidu's political demise.

Both KCR and Naidu cut their political teeth under the late Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, former Andhra Pradesh chief minister and revered leader of the Telugu Desam Party.

After Naidu revolted against NTR -- his father-in-law, incidentally -- and consolidated his position as the TDP's unchallenged leader, KCR broke away from the TDP and floated the Telangana Rashtra Samithi.

They have been arch rivals since. Personally too, they don't see eye to eye.

Naidu's statement that he is one of India's senior-most politicians and fit to be prime minister irked KCR who has been working to ensure the TDP is erased from Telangana and later from Andhra Pradesh.

Modi, who dislikes Naidu, is exploiting this political enmity to his advantage.

KCR, who has the support of the Muslim community in Telangana, is keen to play a key role in the formation of the Union government in 2019.

His secular credentials have ensured he has the Hindu votes in his state as well.

Whether KCR succeeds or fails to demolish Naidu, the recent Telangana results have shown that he is clearly a kingmaker.

The KCR dynasty

KCR's children -- K T Rama Rao and Er.Kalvakuntla Kavitha

IMAGE: KCR's children and his legacy -- K T Rama Rao and Kalvakuntla Kavitha. Photograph: Kind courtesy Kavitha Kalvakuntla/Twitter

KCR's son, K T Rama Rao, handles multiple ministries in his father's cabinet.

He is well-educated and has a clear-headed approach toward politics.

KCR's daughter, Kalvakuntla Kavitha, is the member of Parliament from Nizamabad.

She seems bright and meets Dimple Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav's wife and the Lok Sabha MP from Kannauj, often. She shares a good relationship with Mayawati too.

She is her father's representative in New Delhi and speaks well in the Lok Sabha in Hindi.

In fact, all three -- KCR, KTR and Kavitha -- are comfortable in Hindi as Hyderabad has a concentration of Urdu-speaking Muslims.

Clearly then, viable alternatives to the NDA -- in the form of the UPA and the Federal Front -- are emerging. KCR's initial dabbles in north Indian politics may be paying dividends.

The question is: Can he prevent Rahul Gandhi's Congress from leading the UPA to victory in 2019?

R Rajagopalan