Politics
Modi has occupied a lot of mindspace in the Telugu states, as both Naidu and KCR seek to woo him.
PTI/File Photo

The manner in which he is being wooed by both Telugu chief ministers, must amuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the last week or so, he has occupied a lot of mindspace in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. If K Chandrasekhar Rao is pulling all the stops to lay out the red carpet for the Prime Minister on his maiden visit to Telangana on Sunday, Chandrababu Naidu wants Modi to make Andhra feel special. 

On Friday, a desperate Naidu made yet another plea to the PM to extend special category status to Andhra Pradesh, a possibility ruled out by Finance minister Arun Jaitley the other day in the Rajya Sabha. But Naidu wants the buck to stop at Modi's table. Politically that makes sense because Naidu would want the top man in the BJP to be seen as denying the special status to Andhra. And in case, he is able to convince Modi, it would reflect well on the Andhra CM's persuasive abilities.

But while Naidu awaits Modi's final decision, he will keep a close eye on what is happening in neighbouring Telangana. Because KCR is trying to make Modi feel truly special during the four hours that he will be on Telangana soil. 

Modi's destination is Gajwel, which is KCR's constituency in Medak district. It is here that the PM will launch the Telangana government's flagship programme `Mission Bhageeratha', a Rs 40,000 crore drinking water scheme. This envisions that every household in Telangana will get water by tap by 2019, failing which KCR has promised not to ask for votes in the assembly election that year. 

From arranging for 4000-odd buses to rainproof tents to accommodate two lakh people at the PM's event to ensuring high attendance, KCR is pulling out all stops to make it a visit to remember for the PM, raising many eyebrows. That is because the Telangana Rashtra Samiti is not an NDA ally at the Centre and the BJP is, in fact, slowly trying to occupy the opposition space in Telangana. 

What then is on KCR's mind?

Over the last one year, Gajwel, and Medak district by extension, have been in the news for the wrong reasons. The district saw a high number of farmers committing suicide last year, as a combination of debt, bad monsoons and lack of irrigation facilities took its toll on the agrarian sector. In fact, farm suicides were reported even in KCR's neighbourhood in Erravalli village, even as the CM busied himself conducting a five-day-long yagna for peace and prosperity in Telangana. 

Then, over the past three months, Medak district has seen farmers mobilising themselves and protesting against land acquisition for the Mallanna Sagar irrigation project, which has been dubbed by opposition leaders as unscientific. This week, the Hyderabad High court also struck down Government Order 123 issued for acquiring land by the Telangana government, calling it people-unfriendly. It is one more in the long list of executive decisions taken by KCR that has not found favour with the judiciary. 

On Sunday, the Congress also plans to march to the villages that will soon be history thanks to the Mallanna Sagar project, to petition the PM on what it calls `unethical' motives of the KCR dispensation. Whether the delegation will be allowed to meet Modi, and whether he will pay heed to any criticism of KCR after a hearty welcome, is anyone's guess.

But the aim behind this big splash is obvious. To create a buzz around KCR, Medak and the irrigation focus of the government. To show that despite opposition and media focus on farm suicides in KCR's backyard, all is well. But most importantly, to send across the message that Modi-KCR is the new equation in town. 

A jealous Telangana BJP is organising a party meeting at Lal Bahadur stadium in Hyderabad later in the evening, just to ensure that KCR does not hog all the headlines. But it is aware that the Modi-Amit Shah combine looks at TRS from the prism of national politics and not just at the Telangana picture.

Modi will not forget that TRS was one party that stayed away from the Rohith Vemula agitation at University of Hyderabad, where the BJP was pilloried as the villain of the piece. While leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal travelled 1500km from Delhi to Hyderabad, KCR chose not to make the 30km journey from his home to the University. His daughter, and Nizamabad MP, Kavitha's outfit tried to lay siege to the home of Union Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, one of those named in the FIR on Rohith's suicide, but was asked to lie low. 

So, will KCR remind Modi that a friend in need is a friend indeed?

The understanding in the BJP is that the TDP, if the special category status to Andhra is not granted, may pull the plug on the alliance just before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. In that case, KCR will be one of the regional leaders on Amit Shah's speed dial, should the BJP fall short of numbers after the polls. 

But there are many in the TRS who wonder if it makes sense to wait that long. They point out that Telangana can get more benefits from the Centre by being part of the power structure in New Delhi. Many MPs in the TRS parliamentary party also wish to elevate their stature by being part of Modi's Council of Ministers. 

But with Modi not needing numbers in Lok Sabha and the GST bill out of the way, even the Rajya Sabha numbers are not so critical now. So whether Modi falls for KCR's overtures is anyone's guess. 

During his visit to New Delhi, Naidu also invited the PM to the River Krishna Pushkaram, a ten-day event that starts on August 12. As he prepares to take the holy dip at Vijayawada, Naidu knows that with lack of funds and a possible realignment between Delhi and the political arrangement in the two Telugu states, he is the one in deep waters.