Swords Out of Scab­bards

Ahead of Te­lan­gana assem­bly elec­tion, Chief Min­is­ter K Chan­drasekhar Rao ramps up cam­paign against TDP Chief Nara Chan­drababu Naidu with tried and tested weapons


If the first two elec­tion cam­paign meet­ings ad­dressed this week by K Chan­drasekhar Rao in Nizam­abad and Nal­go­nda dis­tricts are any in­di­ca­tion, it is ob­vi­ous he thinks the route to Hy­der­abad for a sec­ond suc­ces­sive term passes through Amar­a­vati. Ev­ery po­lit­i­cal party needs a punch­ing bag and KCR has de­cided to make Chan­drababu Naidu the vil­lain of the Te­lan­gana Rash­tra Samiti cam­paign.

Over the past two days, KCR has called his former boss in the Tel­ugu De­sam a ‘Te­lan­gana drohi’, traitor, thief, back­stab­ber, wicked per­son and sev­eral other terms of abuse. In Nal­go­nda on Thurs­day, while us­ing crass lan­guage to de­scribe the Naren­dra Modi-Naidu re­la­tion­ship, KCR also warned Naidu that he would open his third eye, a la Lord Shiva.

Ad­mit­tedly, ci­vil­ity in lan­guage is of­ten the first ca­su­alty in any high-stakes elec­tion cam­paign, but politi­cians usu­ally pick on their main ad­ver­sary, which in this case should have been the Congress. On 6 Septem­ber, after the Te­lan­gana cabi­net rec­om­mended the dis­so­lu­tion of the state Assem­bly, KCR did pick on Rahul Gandhi, call­ing him “the big­gest buf­foon in the coun­try”. But after the for­ma­tion of the rain­bow anti-TRS al­liance, it has been a case of Chan­dra call­ing Chan­dra names.

Why this is sur­pris­ing is be­cause in the Te­lan­gana elec­tion, the TDP is not the main ri­val to the TRS. Over the past four years, 12 of the 15 TDP leg­is­la­tors crossed over to the TRS, con­sid­er­ably weak­en­ing the party in Te­lan­gana. KCR him­self has pooh­poohed the TDP as a 0.5 per­cent party. Then why re­serve such vit­riol for Naidu is the ques­tion.

The TRS ar­gu­ment is that Naidu, de­spite hav­ing his base in Amar­a­vati, has one eye con­stantly on Hy­der­abad. The TRS rhetoric is to paint Naidu as the man ob­struct­ing Te­lan­gana’s de­vel­op­ment by tak­ing away seven man­dals from the Kham­mam dis­trict, re­port­edly writ­ing 36 let­ters to the Union ir­ri­ga­tion min­istry ob­ject­ing to Te­lan­gana’s projects, not al­low­ing the bi­fur­ca­tion of the high court and so on. The TRS lead­er­ship calls the TDP an “Andhra party”, which is ironic con­sid­er­ing the num­ber of TDP turn­coats KCR has ad­mit­ted into his fold.

The ‘Tar­get Naidu’ plan is not with­out rea­son. In the run-up to the 2014 elec­tions, KCR had sim­i­larly at­tacked Naidu, ac­cus­ing him of stand­ing in the way of state­hood for Te­lan­gana. The al­le­ga­tion then was not

un­founded as Naidu was in­deed op­posed to the bi­fur­ca­tion of Andhra Pradesh.

But when KCR reuses a weapon four years later, it makes peo­ple sus­pect if he fears that his de­vel­op­men­tal work re­port card is not good enough to win the elec­tion. Is KCR, for all his bravado, wor­ried about the Congress + TDP + CPI + Te­lan­gana Jana Samiti arith­metic trump­ing the TRS? At the Nizam­abad pub­lic meet­ing, he spat on the al­liance, us­ing the ex­pres­sion ``thoo’’ to in­sult his op­po­nents.

KCR’s in­ten­tion there­fore is to raise the Andhra bo­gey once again to spin the nar­ra­tive of Andhra in­ter­ests (read: Naidu) try­ing to sab­o­tage Te­lan­gana, to tell the peo­ple not to trust an Op­po­si­tion al­liance that has an Andhra man re­mote-con­trol­ling it from Amar­a­vati. Hold­ing the flag of Te­lan­gana pride, KCR is once again hard­selling the el­e­ment of fear of the Tel­ugu hand from across the bor­der even while warn­ing Naidu that he is play­ing with fire. His charge against the Congress is that the party is sleep­ing with the “en­emy”.

KCR ac­cuses Naidu of fund­ing the cash­strapped Congress with Rs 500 crore be­sides ar­rang­ing for three he­li­copters for cam­paign­ing by the Op­po­si­tion lead­ers. The TDP has re­minded KCR that he was a mi­nor part­ner in an al­liance with the Congress in 2004, ask­ing if he was then bankrolled by the big­ger party. Sim­i­larly, the Congress asked KCR if money was put in his pocket by Naidu, when the two joined hands in 2009.

But will this anti-Naidu di­a­tribe get trac­tion with the elec­torate and be­come a talk­ing point in­flu­enc­ing the vote? On the face of it, Naidu is no longer an ac­tive player in the Te­lan­gana po­lit­i­cal the­atre. He lives and works out of Amar­a­vati, hav­ing left the TDP’s Te­lan­gana unit to pretty much fend for it­self. While the nar­ra­tive may be able to sway some votes in hard­core Te­lan­gana ar­eas like Waran­gal and Karim­na­gar, it runs the risk of boomerang­ing in ur­ban pock­ets like Hy­der­abad, that is also home to peo­ple from Andhra.

But KCR, it would seem, is work­ing with a plan. Naidu’s former col­league in the TDP, Re­vanth Reddy who is now work­ing pres­i­dent in the Te­lan­gana Congress has been ques­tioned by the In­come Tax Depart­ment in con­nec­tion with the cash-for-votes case. In 2015, Reddy was caught on cam­era al­legedly try­ing to bribe In­de­pen­dent MLA Elvis Stephen­son to vote for the TDP can­di­date in the MLC elec­tions. An au­dio tape that al­legedly car­ried the voice of Naidu also was un­earthed by the Anti-Cor­rup­tion Bu­reau. The voice is heard as­sur­ing Stephen­son that all prom­ises made by his rep­re­sen­ta­tives will be hon­oured.

Soon after Reddy was ar­rested, Naidu hur­riedly shifted base to Andhra Pradesh and lit­tle was heard of the case there­after, giv­ing rise to doubts that a deal had been struck be­tween the two chief min­is­ters. The TDP sus­pects KCR is rak­ing up the case now to put Naidu and the Op­po­si­tion al­liance by ex­ten­sion, in a spot of bother. The plan can work ei­ther way — it could show KCR as in­dulging in po­lit­i­cal ven­detta or he could be seen as a leader bat­ting for probity in pub­lic life.

While at a po­lit­i­cal level, it is a case of one po­lit­i­cal leader lam­bast­ing another, the choice of words is un­de­sir­able given that both KCR and Naidu oc­cupy high con­sti­tu­tional posts in neigh­bour­ing states.

TDP leader N Chan­drababu Naidu or­ga­nizes Cy­cle rally

Rahul Gandhi with Te­lan­gana Congress Work­ing Pres­i­dent A Re­vanth Reddy

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