Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao added a curious twist to the high-decibel electioneering in Karnataka with his dramatic appearance in the Janata Dal (Secular) camp a couple of days ago. He met former Prime Minister and JD(S) patriarch HD Deve Gowda and announced his decision to campaign for Gowda’s party.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief may be relevant in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region, predominantly inhabited by Muslims. The presence of non-Muslim Telangana population in this region is negligible. Given these ground realities, the extent to which KCR will impact the winning prospects of JD(S) candidates is a subject matter of discussion.
KCR’s involvement in the Karnataka Assembly elections by the side of the JD(S) seemingly aims to achieve twin objectives – extend his footprint in national politics as an advocate of the Federal Front and checkmate his arch rival in his home state, the Congress. The TRS chief is apparently not averse to the BJP benefiting while he pursues his anti-Congress agenda. He explicitly stated that his Federal Front or People’s Front will maintain equidistance from both the Congress and the BJP.
JD-S a distinct BJP ally?
Amidst talks of a hung assembly, Deve Gowda’s son HD Kumaraswamy may emerge as a kingmaker in post-poll Karnataka politics. Kumaraswamy shared power with the BJP to become Chief Minister (2006-2007). Observers do not rule out the repeat of such a proposition in the current election too, in case of a hung assembly.
KCR’s decision to support the JD(S) has obviously drawn flak from the Congress, which accused him of abdicating his equidistance principle by covertly helping the BJP. Congress’ allegation gains credence in the backdrop of the Telangana government avoiding representation at the meeting of the south Indian finance ministers on the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the 15th Finance Commission held in Trivandrum a few days ago.
A Congress comeback in Karnataka will obviously not be a good sign for the TRS in Telangana. The principal opposition, which is challenging the authority of the KCR government, will receive a fresh lease of life if the Congress wins in neighbouring Karnataka.
The Congress is deploying celebrities such as megastar Chiranjeevi and former captain of the Indian cricket team Azharuddin in the electioneering since it is all set to become a gamechanger in national politics ahead of the Parliament elections due in 2019.
‘BJP deploying KCR as its cohort’
Former Congress MP Darur Pullaiah from Bellary told TNM that KCR has revealed his pro-BJP agenda by deciding to campaign for the JD(S). The BJP is jittery of a drubbing at the hustings and is stooping to cheap tactics such as deploying KCR as its cohort, he alleged. KCR is at his craftiest best, projecting himself as a messiah of Muslims by doling out 12% quota on the one hand and clandestinely helping BJP on the other hand, Pullaiah said.
Karnataka is dotted with Telugu settlers, mainly with roots in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. Reports indicate that this population, present in 30-40 Assembly segments in Karnataka, is seething in anger against the BJP on the SCS issue.
Software professionals from Telangana account for just 1% of the Telugu settlers in Bangalore. Therefore, KCR is a persona non grata in Karnataka politics, says Pathakamuru Damodara Prasad, a senior journalist.
Curiously enough, both KCR and Jana Sena’s Pawan Kalyan seem to be going the same way as far as the election strategies in Karnataka are concerned. After being closeted with Kumaraswamy in Hyderabad, Pawan later told the media that the JD(S) leader had sought his help to promote his son’s film career. Close on the heels of this, reports published in a section of the media suggested that Pawan was planning to undertake electioneering in support of JD(S) candidates.
KCR, Naidu tread different paths
The election politics of KCR and his Andhra counterpart N Chandrababu Naidu seems to be totally different. KE Krishnamurthy, Deputy Chief Minister in Naidu’s cabinet, held a media conference in Bangalore recently with a call to Telugu voters to defeat the BJP for its treacherous role in Andhra Pradesh by denying the state the special category status (SCS). Krishnamurthy’s appeal shows the TDP’s bent of mind to build a narrative around the SCS sentiment in the run-up to the coming general elections with BJP as a villain.
BJP’s Raghunadha Babu was quick to attach the pro-Congress label to the TDP. “The TDP’s appeal is a clear sign that it is hand in glove with a party which presided over the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014,” he asserted.
As a matter of fact, Naidu is treading with caution while building up an anti-BJP narrative on the SCS by maintaining a safe distance from the Congress to free himself from pro-Congress branding. During his recent two-day visit to Delhi, he conspicuously skipped meeting Congress president Rahul Gandhi, in spite of the fact that the latter had walked up to the protesting TDP MPs on the Parliament premises and supported them on SCS.
AP’s Leader of Opposition YS Jaganmohan Reddy, who is currently on a padayatra as a crusade against the TDP regime on the special status issue, seems averse to poke his nose in the Karnataka elections.