Anti-incumbency, allegations of family rule, corruption mar KCR’s chances
A Revanth Reddy’s appointment as the state Congress chief in July 2021 is seen as a game changer for a party that looked weak and inefficient until then
Anti-incumbency, allegations of family rule, and corruption marred K Chandrashekar Rao-led Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS)’s chances of returning to power for a third time in a row in Telangana. A resurgent Congress stormed to power on the back of an aggressive local leadership.
KCR, as Rao is popularly known, lost in Kamareddy, one of the two seats he contested, reflecting the scale of ignominy for the party feted for achieving Telangana’s statehood a decade ago. He once acquired an aura of invincibility before being seen to be promoting his family’s domination over the party and government. His autocratic functioning, failure to replace unpopular lawmakers, inaccessibility, inability to keep up the promises, particularly on creating employment, and corruption charges in the implementation of flagship irrigation projects cost BRS dearly.
Former Osmania University journalism department head K Nageshwar said the public mood was for change. “The BRS failed to gauge the extent of anger against the legislators. The people were fed up with KCR’s family rule.”
The Telangana verdict underscored that welfarism is no guarantee for an electoral win. “Despite successfully implementing several welfare schemes, the BRS has been rejected because people expected a much better political morality from a party built on the foundations of a mass movement [for a separate Telangana],” Nageshwar said. “Politics of BRS revolved around one man. Such personality-centered politics will have diminishing returns.”
Political analyst Ramakrishna Sangem said KCR’s disconnect with the people and with his party leaders turned out to be his undoing.
KCR’s decision to renominate almost all of his lawmakers did not appear to have gone down well with the people. “The chief minister was banking on his charisma and appeal and did not care for the negative image of his lawmakers. This complacency has backfired,” said Sangem.
The Opposition attacked KCR over the stranglehold of his family over the party and the government. KCR’s son and the BRS working president K T Rama Rao and nephew T Harish Rao were ministers and his daughter K Kavitha is a member of the legislative council.
Former Telangana State Public Service Commission chairman G Chakrapani blamed complacency and flawed delivery of welfare schemes for BRS’s defeat.
KCR failed to see Congress’s resurgence. The Congress was written off as “a jinxed player” but emerged as a main challenger to BRS. A Revanth Reddy’s appointment as the state Congress chief in July 2021 is seen as a game changer for a party that looked weak and inefficient until then. A fiery speaker and an aggressive leader, Reddy galvanised a moribund Congress.
A two-time legislator, Reddy represents Malkajgiri in Lok Sabha. He joined the Congress in 2017 and went on to infuse new energy and dynamism into the party riven by infighting. Reddy was increasingly visible on the ground, leading street protests against the BRS government.
The Congress’s return to power in neighbouring Karnataka also came as a big boost. The Congress leadership gave a free hand to Reddy in the selection of candidates and formulation of campaign strategies. The party displayed a rare show of unity and rallied behind Reddy.
The Congress consistently focused on the alleged corruption and unemployment. “Though providing jobs was one of the key components of the Telangana movement, the BRS has miserably failed to fulfil its promise. The youth turned against the ruling party,” said Nageshwar.
The Congress shed its image of being a faction-ridden party. The senior leaders of the party stood behind the young leader, who led an aggressive state-wide campaign, matching KCR. The Congress also succeeded in putting up a strong counter-strategy on welfare schemes and focussed on unemployment effectively.
KCR engineering defections from the Congress after returning to power in 2018. The Congress even lost the status of the main Opposition party. Over two-thirds of the 21 Congress legislators in the 119-member assembly joined KCR’s party.
Journalist Mallikarjun Rao said the Congress’s resurgence is reminiscent of its return to power in united Andhra Pradesh in 1989 under the leadership of M Channa Reddy. “He energised a dormant Congress at that time and trounced an invincible-looking NTR [NT Rama Rao] and his TDP, [Telugu Desam Party].”
How BJP lost the plot
The BJP appeared to have emerged as a key challenger, particularly after its performance in the Hyderabad municipal elections in 2020 and the back-to-back victories in the assembly byelections in Dubbaka and Huzurabad. It lost steam amid allegations of a secret deal with KCR. The sudden decision to replace firebrand party chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar with a soft-spoken Union minister G Kishan Reddy fuelled allegations of a tacit understanding.
The case against KCR’s daughter Kavitha, who faces allegations of involvement in the alleged Delhi liquor scam, has not made much headway.
The BJP fared well in Hyderabad, where the split in the anti-incumbency votes benefitted BRS. “But for the BJP’s noteworthy presence in the city, the defeat of the ruling party would have been much more severe,” said Nageshwar.
The anger against BRS seems to be more pronounced in rural Telangana. “The Hyderabad voters appear to be satisfied with the development initiatives and the flow of investments. Also, the city has been free from communal tensions in the last 10 years. Muslim voters, who are largely concentrated in Hyderabad, appear to have supported the ruling party,” said journalist S Nagesh Kumar.
Barring Hyderabad and certain semi-urban pockets around the city, BRS faced a virtual rout across the state.
National dreams dashed
With a humiliating defeat, KCR’s national ambitions have come crashing down. The idea behind renaming his Telangana Rashtra Samithi as BRS last year was to bolster his national ambitions. The ostensible aim was to bring together like-minded parties in the fight to dislodge the BJP-led government at the Centre and offer the people an alternative.
There were serious doubts over the feasibility of such an initiative with KCR averse to including Congress, his principal political adversary, in any anti-BJP formation at the national level. “His prescription is inherently flawed because any alternative political force that intends to take on the mighty BJP cannot afford to exclude Congress,” said political analyst K Ramesh Babu.
Get Current Updates on India News, Rajya Sabha Election 2024 Live, Gaganyaan Mission Astronauts along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world