- He is appears certain to take on Modi, BJP
- Will he help Congress firm up UPA-3?
I have changed my mind after reading details of the latest media conference addressed by Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR). Till then I was not very sure about his intentions to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The impression that KCR was in league with Modi and speaking against the latter according to a strategy was shared by me to some extent. But Sunday media meet was different. He not only came across as a bold and determined politician, he was convincing in his attacks against Modi and the BJP.
All important aspects KCR touched in the media conference were on the dot. No other opposition leader in the country today can articulate better. We have half a dozen wannabes including Sharad Pawar, Mamata Bannerjee, Kejriwal, Stalin etc. None of them has the felicity of expression or the knack of picking holes and pointing out the lacunae as KCR. He speaks reasonably good English and Hindustani. His range is certainly more than any one of the leaders listed above. Talking at one go on vastly different subjects such as Modi’s campaign for Trump and Hijab controversy in Karnataka is something only KCR can handle.
KCR appears to have concluded that non-BJP and non-Congress front is not feasible. He has to deal with the Congress. Would Sonia and Rahul touch him with a barge pole after what happened prior to 2014 elections? When Rahul allowed N. Chandrababu Naidu of the TDP, which felled the Congress forte in united Andhra Pradesh in 1983, to visit his residence, felicitate him with a shawl and have electoral alliance, what prevents Gandhi family from taking KCR in their stride for political reasons. KCR’s reference to Rahul Gandhi and his attack against Himanta Biswas Sarma of Assam indicate his changed options.
The virulent attack mounted by KCR last week against Modi is something extraordinary. Though repeating himself, he made his points coherently and quite convincingly. He emerged as an informed politician. Even if the guess work that he is doing all this to preempt the Union Government from acting against him through CID, ED, IT and other agencies is right, the line he has taken is politically correct. He challenged the Centre to arrest him if it can. He demanded transparency in Rafael deal. He demanded proof for surgical strikes. Everything uttered by KCR in two-hour media meet was impressive except one point.
When a reporter asked him about his demand for a new Constitution, KCR countered “what is wrong with it?” In the same breath, the chief minister expressed his preference to China and Singapore. The reference to China and Singapore was alarming. China made rapid strides economically. No doubt about it. But it is not a democracy. It is one party rule, now one man rule. Singapore is not comparable to India. Its population is half of that of Hyderabad. Human rights in Singapore are as bad as China. Singapore is capital of capitalist countries. The gap between the rich and the poor is awfully vast. Large slums are existing in Singapore. If China and Singapore are in KCR’s mind for economic reason they should not be there for reasons of democracy and human rights. Otherwise, there would not be much to choose between Modi and KCR.
KCR has been attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP in a series of media conferences and public meetings. In the second prolonged media conference on Sunday, he increased his range. He spoke of Modi campaigning for a losing Donald Trump in the US elections. He flayed Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswas Sarma for talking irresponsibly about Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. The BJP was accused of carrying out false campaign through WhatsApp. KCR called Modi ‘Mafi ka saudagar’ on the lines of Congress’ ‘Maut ka saudagar’ during the last Lok Sabha elections.
Almost all the points of attack are accurate. KCR comments of surgical strikes have come in the wake of Assam Chief Minister Sarma’s foul criticism of Rahul Gandhi for demanding proof of India’s surgical strike on Pakistan in 2016 and airstrike in 2019 which were ridiculed by Pakistan asking how can there be a strike at us without our knowing it or feeling it? In that context, Sarma asked whether the BJP had ever demanded proof of him (Rahul) being the ‘son of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi?’ The Assam CM said Rahul had no right to demand proof from the Army. On the whole it is a vulgar remark coming from a Congress leader who joined the BJP some years ago. Saying that there is nothing wrong in Rahul asking for the proof, KCR declared, “Even I ask for proof.” He said that there has been popular apprehension that there would be some disturbance or other at the border at the time of elections. “How can the BJP use the surgical strikes for political ends?” he asked. “Rahul Gandhi’s father and grandmother were killed while serving the nation and his great grandfather went to jail during freedom struggle. How can Assam CM talk about such a person in a demeaning manner?” KCR asked.
KCR launched his tirade with a media conference in Hyderabad that went on for two and half hours on February 1, the budget day. It was meant to comment on the budget proposals submitted by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. He called the whole budgetary exercise ‘Golmal Govindam.’ He said there was nothing in the budget proposals for the States saying Nirmala indulged in self-deception. He commented that the country is unfortunate to have a prime minister who is narrow-minded. His intention of working for a non-BJP and non-Congress national front was highlighted in that media conference. It was at that meet that KCR demanded for a new constitution. He said the Constitution has failed the Republic for the last 70 odd years and it is time for the country to go for a new Constitution. A constituent assembly could be established for that purpose, he said.
The demand for a new Constitution was roundly condemned by many sections of society. It was considered an insult to Ambedkar and other luminaries who made the best possible statute. The Dalits were in the forefront in faulting KCR for his comment about the Constitution. However, KCR has been justifying his call saying that we have to have a new constitution for more reservations for Dalits and for improving the lot of SCs, STs and OBCs. He also toned down his remarks by frequently shifting between new Constitution and Constitutional amendments. In his first (in recent times) public meeting at Jangaon district headquarters, he mounted full-fledged attack on Modi who said in Parliament on Wednesday (8 February 2022) that Telangana State was created with Parliament doors shut, using pepper spray and lights put off. One does not know why Modi chose to repeat that statement which would not politically help the BJP in Telangana while the party has practically no presence in Andhra Pradesh. That statement angered the people of Telangana. Telangana Finance Minister Harish Rao said the prime minister was spewing venom against Telangana. KCR must have made up his mind to go for a series of attacks against Modi and the people would approve his stance. The State BJP leaders were on the defensive for a while. This way KCR can divert the attention of the people from anti-incumbency and many other associated problems. When their leader is engaged in a war of attrition against none other than Modi, people of Telangana are not small to ask questions about their own problems.
In the public meeting at Raigir in Yadadri-Bhongir district on Saturday, KCR said the BJP dispensation has spoiled India’s economy by hurting religious harmony. “It is time people responded and reacted to such attempts,” he remarked. He referred to Hijab issue that is burning in Karnataka. “They (BJP leaders) are trying to turn Karnataka into a Kashmir valley by fanning communal passions,” he said. Describing Bengaluru as the silicon valley of India, he sought to know whether investments would flow to the country in the times to come if such an atmosphere was created. “Investors come to places where there is proper law and order, peace and an ecosystem for economic growth. Will anybody invest in Afghanistan now?” he asked. He said Hyderabad is second only to Bengaluru in IT/ITES exports.
Another issue KCR has been harping on was the power sector reforms. He is totally opposed to the Centre’s move to meter the agriculture power which is given free for 24 hours in Telangana State. He alleged at the media conference on Sunday that BJP-led NDA government is selling power sector in the guise of reforms. There is a considered opinion that power could be given free after measuring it. The point the pro-reform lobby makes is that in the name of free power to agriculture even the transmission and maintenance losses are clubbed in free power account. They say if the State governments are keen on giving free power to the farmers they can do it by all means, but measuring it would not do any harm. However, this is one point which was raised by KCR in every meeting he addressed during the last week. It is evidently aimed at winning over the farmers across the country.
KCR repeated his preparedness to launch a national party. This was not the first time he spoke of a national party. He said he would start one if people wanted. This is purely for public consumption. He appears determined to play an important role in national politics. If not the king, he would like to be the king maker or at least one of the king makers. Things would become clearer after March 10 when the results of the elections being held in five States, especially UP, would be known. Modi also will have time to think about what to do or what not to do with KCR.