KCR’s development model and autocratic style of ruling has given rise to anti-incumbency in less than six months after Assembly polls.

How KCRs aspirations for a national role were rejected in his own backyard
news Elections 2019 Friday, May 24, 2019 - 08:22

For K Chandrashekar Rao, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) party president and the Telangana Chief Minister, the 17th Lok Sabha result is a rude awakening of sorts. While KCR and his party aspired for a role in the national stage, the electorate has judged the party and its leader on their autocratic style of functioning, say political analysts watching the election results.

As the results of the elections finally got declared, the TRS that held 12 of the 17 parliamentary seats in Telangana has been reduced to eight. The Congress in Telangana has managed to bag three seats while the BJP has managed to win four seats. The TRS had expressed confidence that the party would win 16 of the 17 seats, leaving the Hyderabad seat for MIM.

All the seats where TRS candidates lost were perceived to be party strongholds in a state that witnessed Assembly elections barely six months ago. The 2018 December Assembly elections gave the TRS a second term with a huge mandate. The party had won 88 seats out of 117 Assembly seats in the state, and managed to increase their tally to 101 Assembly seats by engineering defections in the Telangana Congress.

Buoyed by the wins in his own backyard, KCR hoped to enter national politics with his Federal Front initiative, a coalition of regional parties minus the BJP and the Congress. As part of his efforts, KCR met with various regional party leaders to rope them in. Apart from YSRCP and the AIMIM, most other regional parties did not declare their support for the Federal Front.

For those observing KCR’s initiative from within the state, the very concept of a Federal Front was dead before arrival.

“A federal front with mere talks and with no content was never going to work. To the public, the front appeared to be a group of political families coming together. These regional parties would never have been able to sustain power. Both the national and regional parties have the same kind of development models and people don’t find any difference between the two,” said K Purushotham Reddy, former head of political science department at Osmania University, adding that there was nothing federal about the federal front in the first place.

But that was at the national level. What happened to the party in their own backyard? To answer this, Reddy points towards the development model adopted by the TRS government and his autocratic approach to state governance.

"People have rejected KCR misrule and autocratic approach and are waking up from their disillusion with KCR’s rule, that is one factor for the loss of seats and the other reason is that there definitely was a positive vote in favour of Modi," said Reddy who further added that when the opposition fails to come up with a common agenda and a mandate, the ruling party is given another term.

Telakapalli Ravi, political analyst, is of the view that had the December Assembly elections been held along with the Lok Sabha elections this month, the TRS would have faced a lower mandate in the Assembly or even a loss.

“The number of seats that BJP have managed to cobble up this time points at a sort of anti-incumbency wave which the TRS government should be wary of. It was a calculative move by KCR to hold the Assembly elections six months prior to finishing five years of rule in the state. Had the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls been held together, the TRS party wouldn’t have witnessed the hands down victory it enjoyed last December,” Ravi said.

Both the analysts pointed out that the two months time taken by the party to form the government after winning elections in the state had definitely not gone down well with the people. TRS was re-elected on December 11, but the TRS government for 68 days functioned without a cabinet, except a Home Minister.

"It’s a form of anarchy and KCR should stop taking the state and its people for granted,” said Ravi.

The analysts said that while the BJP gained in Telangana due to a Modi wave, the Congress gained as people were waking up from the disillusion with KCR.

"Look at the map of Telangana, the Parliamentary constituencies where the BJP has won in the state – Adilabad, Nizamabad and Karimnagar – are all bordering  Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka, where there is a significant BJP presence. The people are all connected, as the local people go across the border and they are seeing the trend, the proximity helped BJP," pointed out Purushotham.

Ravi, on the other hand, said the four seats BJP secured were former BJP strongholds with a considerable amount of BJP supporters, especially the Secundrabad seat. The biggest blow to the TRS would be loss of the Nizamabad Parliamentary seat held by K Kavitha, the daughter of KCR.

"Nizamabad this time was at the cusp of controversies over Kavitha’s inability to form a turmeric board at the centre, this has contributed to her loss," he added.

But when it comes to Telangana Congress gaining three seats, the analysts don't give the credit to the party for their campaigning efforts, but rather to KCR’s skewered development model for the state that excludes people from these constituencies and districts.

"The areas where the Congress is leading are areas that have been neglected in terms of development projects," said Reddy who pointed out how the TRS government handled the recent water crisis in these regions.

"For example, it’s the peak of summer and there is a water shortage, but the government is only talking about one particular project in Karimnagar. These areas don't have enough access to water and there is no hope among the people. The state government has not even been kind enough to assure people that water would be provided to them at least next year. They have been neglected," he said.

As the poll day had begun, the party was expected to hold a press conference to announce their future plans. But things have been quiet as the Congress and the BJP have maintained their leads on votes.

“We are yet to assess the people’s mandate. We do not know what has not gone down well with them as nothing much has changed in the state in the past six months," said Srinivas Reddy, TRS MLC, to TNM.

"After the TRS came to power, the government was unable to float any new initiative or policy as the Model Code of Conduct came into effect. There were many schemes the government wanted to implement but couldn’t announce due to the EC regulations. But taking into consideration the kind of work TRS has done in the state in the past five years, we are yet to understand the people’s mandate,” he added.

The MCC came into effect on March 10, a month after a ten-member cabinet was sworn in.

When asked about the criticism for the indefinite delay in forming the government after the party won the elections in December, Srinivas Reddy called it election rhetoric.

“We never think the decision has created a bad image for the party among the people. We have worked continuously for the past 60 months, what difference would two months make?” asked Srinivas.

TRS, that hoped that the BJP would not gain enough seats in the Parliament, is now faced with the prospect of representing the state along with four BJP MPs and a BJP majority NDA at the centre. So does the TRS fear the BJP giving them a "return gift"?

"There is no such fear," said Srinivas, “The TRS has always supported BJP in many of its policies. In fact, we were among one of the first parties that supported BJP during demonetisation. We will still continue to support the party strictly on an issue basis.”

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