K. Chandrashekar Rao: Modi’s point man in the South?
New Delhi: By recommending early polls, Telangana’s K. Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) has set the ball rolling in what promises to be a tantalizing run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already had three meetings with him. The perception is that he is the only regional South satrap closest to Modi. The early elections may be an audacious gambit played by Rao. It is also seen as Modi’s move to pick up an ally early from the South before the Lok Sabha elections. That helps the BJP to go for the 2019 elections as NDA with as many alliance partners it can conjure up.
KCR has indicated his antipathy towards the Congress, his State rivals, by calling Rahul Gandhi a buffoon on Thursday. But who the wily and slippery KCR will finally tie up with in the Lok Sabha polls, is another matter altogether.
By announcing early elections, he has increased his options in the post Lok Sabha elections 2019 scenario. A clear Modi win could make his party a trusted alliance partner. A hung parliament would only increase KCR’s chances of looking also at a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative whereby he hopes to play a crucial role.
KCR is always known to hold his cards close to his chest. When Telangana was announced in June 2014, he was the first to announce a tie-up with the Congress only to renege on his decision when he reached Hyderabad. His party would fight alone he proclaimed, confident that he would reap immense benefits.
Publicly, Rao cannot afford to be perceived as moving close to BJP till the Assembly polls since there is a sizable minority population. But for the Lok Sabha it is a different matter. Then, it is said, a BJP-TRS tie-up could well be possible, not to mention other possibilities.
But all this is in the realm of pure speculation. In fact, judging by the poor crowds at the rally on Wednesday (actual number 4 lakhs instead of 25), there are many political pundits who are wondering whether KCR’s ‘early’ election gambit will pay off.
Quite clearly he seeks to leverage on the gains accruing from current, placatory welfare schemes costing hundreds of crores being offered to farmers. Besides, he also wants to focus on state issues and is therefore unwilling to be clubbed with the “anti-Modi sentiment” in the north. But with the announcement, the Congress too claims that it is in a position for a matching response, more so, if it enters into an alliance with Chandra Babu Naidu in the state.
For Modi and the BJP, allowing Rao to have an early election, it is believed, would help to cement ties with at least one leader from the south provided Rao wins in Assembly with a clear majority. As things stand, BJP has no alliance with any leader from the south.
In Tamil Nadu, it is still not clear whether the BJP wants to go in for an alliance with the Sasikala faction of the AIADMK or the ruling AIADMK. It is facing the prospect, as of now, of a clean sweep by the DMK, which is aligned with the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls. In Kerala too, the BJP has no leverage either with the Left or the Congress.
Karnataka was one hope for the BJP but the recent civic polls results indicate that the JDS and the Congress alliance may prove to be a formidable adversary in the Lok Sabha polls.
All in all, KCR is the best bet for Narendra Modi. Only time, the results of the Assembly polls in December and the Lok Sabha poll verdict in 2019 will tell which way the mercurial Chandrasekhar Rao will turn.
KCR appears keen to do deal with anyone post the Lok Sabha polls but evidently, he wants to bargain from a position of strength. Getting the Assembly elections out of the way, also gives him time to focus on the national 2019 polls. There is hope in his camp that if he wins enough seats in the Lok Sabha, he could become the kingmaker in Delhi.
KCR’s wish is to replace the late Jayalalitha. In the minds of the southern electorate, she still remains a formidable force that had the will and wherewithal to take on Delhi.
(Written by Chanakya, Newsroom Post)