The Lede
KCR’s unexpected challenge is from the BJP
KCR’s unexpected challenge is from the BJP
2019 Polls

The Scent of Saffron: KCR’s Unexpected Challenge

What was predicted to be a clean sweep by the Telangana leader turned out to be a smack on the nose 

Jinka Nagaraju

Jinka Nagaraju

It was a huge surprise for many in Telugu states that BJP could win four seats in Telangana on its own, without entering into an alliance with any political party.

Over the past three decades, this had not been the case.

The saffron party emerged the second biggest party in the state with four Lok Sabha seats, after the TRS (Telangana Rashtra Samiti) which bagged 9 seats out of 17.

The BJP, which had performed miserably winning a lone seat in the 2018 Assembly polls, managed not only to conquer North Telangana, a fortress for the TRS, but also trounced Kalvakuntla Kavita, the high profile MP and daughter of chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao or KCR as he is better known.

A few days ago, observers brushed aside BJP leaders’ assertion that they would emerge as the second largest party and the real opposition to the ruling TRS.

Given its poor performance in past elections and the nature of the evolution of Telangana politics, many a political pundit had construed this as election-time rhetoric, not grounded in reality.

But the victories of BJP candidates in the core Telangana region, where Muslims constitute a sizeable population, need a deeper probe.

The Decline Of Congress & Rise Of Regional Powers

In India, the emergence of regional parties or BJP has always coincided with the decline of the Congress.

The extent of degeneration of the Congress has always governed the rise of regional powers in many cases, or the nationalist BJP in some cases.

In the majority instances, the decline of the Congress seems irreversible. This was the salient feature of the decade starting from 1989. The period between 1989 and 1998 saw the dominance of Congress crumble across India, giving birth to political parties based on region, language and caste identities.

Congress lost control of Uttar Pradesh, once the citadel of the party, when a backward leader, Mulayam Singh Yadav, became the chief minister of the state in 1989, wresting power from ND Tiwari, the last Congress Brahmin chief minister of the state. Congress is unlikely to recover this lost ground.

All the non-Congress states of contemporary India were once ruled by the Grand Old Party. Until recently, the space created by the decline of the Congress had always been first occupied by a regional party or parties.

When a regional party was absent, the BJP was quick to grab the space, as in Karnataka, where the shrinking of the Congress’ dominance did not result in the emergence of strong regional parties.

In Tamil Nadu, the emergence of two strong regional parties, the DMK and the AIADMK, following the decline of the Congress, closed the doors for the BJP.

Similarly, in Andhra Pradesh, the High Command culture played havoc with the organisation in the state which led to the emergence of the Telugu Desam Party in 1982.

The further weakening of the Congress resulted in the birth of another strong regional power, YSR Congress, which, as in the case of neighbouring Tamil Nadu, rendered the state unfavourable for the entry of BJP.

But surprisingly, Telangana remained an outlier in the pattern of political change sweeping across India.

The ambivalence of the Congress on the issue of a separate Telangana state eroded the base of the party in the region, which prepared the ground for the rise of the TRS in 2001.

In the two elections, fought after the passage of the Andhra Pradesh State Reorganization Bill (2014), the Congress bit the dust, making the TRS the lone political party in the state, devoid of opposition.

If one goes by the pattern of the fall of the Congress party in the states, Telangana must have room for another regional party, as a single-party system is now passé in India.

Though professor Kodandaram, who worked closely with KCR during the Telangana movement, did form another regional party called Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS), it proved to be a miserable mismatch for the TRS and disappeared.

So throughout the period between 2014 and 2019, Telangana remained a single regional party state despite the complete marginalisation of the Congress.

This has transformed the once barren into fertile land for the entry of the BJP. In the absence of Congress and any other regional party vis-a-vis TRS, BJP leaders are confident that they could carve out a space as they did in Karnataka.

Tensions Post Nizam Rule In Telangana

The Nizam's rule in Telangana, though without doubt a period of Muslim domination, did not cause any communal tensions.

It was only toward the end of Nizam rule that the formation of Arya Samaj, importation of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations from Maharashtra, the Razakar atrocities and the resistance to the merger of Hyderabad State into the Indian Union combined to give a somewhat strong footing to the Jan Sangh in Hyderabad State, post 1948. This, of course, continued even after the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956.

Thus Jan Sangh came to have enough bases in Hyderabad city as well as in several districts like Nalgonda, Nizamabad, Mahabubnagar, Warangal, and Karimnagar. This is now reflected in the BJP’s share of votes and seats for more than a decade.

The periodic separate state movement in urban areas, and the strong Communist movement in the rural hinterland has insulated the Telangana society from being communalised.

Pushing Back Against KCR’s Autocracy?

Now KCR has ensured that there is no movement whatsoever in the state. He declared that there is no need for any political party or movement as he has embarked on transforming the state into Bangaru Telangana (Golden Telangana).

CM KCR, unmindful of the consequences of suppression of democratic movements, even removed the Dharna Chowk in Hyderabad, which once was the stage for Telangana protests which he led.

Now, for the first time, Hindutva forces which have been dormant for decades, dream of revival under PM Narendra Modi’s leadership. And the aggressive attitude of chief minister KCR, who is intolerant of opposition to his authority, has unknowingly paved the path for a smooth entry for these forces.

With four Lok Sabha seats in their kitty, the BJP will be emboldened to encourage political migrations into their party in the state offering power and pelf.

Until Wednesday, new generation leaders had no other option than to make do with TRS or Congress to realise their political ambitions.

Now they see the BJP as their pole star. State BJP President Dr K Laxman, made it amply clear, that the BJP would turn its gaze on Telangana once the Karnataka mission is accomplished.