Hyderabad: The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) Tuesday attended the Opposition meeting called by the Congress — the first time since the party came to power in 2014 that its representatives were present in an Opposition meeting with the Congress.
The meeting was held to discuss the suspension of a dozen Rajya Sabha members from Parliament’s winter session Monday.
TRS presence at the Congress-led meet in Delhi comes at a time when Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao has been targeting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over paddy procurement issues in the state. The Congress is considered a key rival to the ruling party in the state.
TRS Rajya Sabha member Keshava Rao — TRS has seven members in the Rajya Sabha — attended the meeting, whose participants also included Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
The party did not attend the Congress-led Opposition meeting Monday, but signed a joint statement condemning the suspension of the MPs.
Speaking to ThePrint, Keshava Rao made light of his attendance at the meeting, saying it was an Opposition meet and not a Congress-led meeting.
“It’s not the first time. The TRS attended Opposition meets earlier also and today’s meeting was also an Opposition meeting,” Rao told ThePrint.
Political experts said it is still “too soon” to say or estimate the TRS’ equation with the Congress, noting that the party has always been a larger rival to the KCR on home turf than the BJP.
“It is still too soon to understand or make sense of the meeting because every step KCR takes shows that the Congress is his bigger rival than the BJP,” political observer Palwai Raghavendra Reddy told ThePrint.
“Because there is a paddy issue now in the state, which has a large impact on people and it is a very serious issue, he has gone all-out fighting against the BJP. The meeting could also have been attended considering his current tiff with BJP — just to show,” he said.
Earlier this month, KCR, as the chief minister is widely addressed, went all out against the Centre, lashing out at the Modi government on the looming paddy procurement crisis in the state triggered by the Modi government’s refusal to buy parboiled rice from the state.
Telangana is demanding that the Centre procure parboiled rice from the state, which is specific to the Rabi season there, and also declare a target for procurement in the coming years.
Tensions between the two parties, which were once seen as “friendly” to each other, have also grown on the back of the BJP’s growing footprint in Telangana.
Former MP and senior TRS leader Vinod Kumar told ThePrint that Tuesday’s meeting was attended to discuss the “suspension” issue. “The presence is purely for support or discussion on the Rajya Sabha suspension issue not on any other issues,” he said.
KCR efforts for a ‘third front’
KCR, for the past three years, has been making a pitch for a “third front” or a “federal front” — which would be a non-BJP, non- Congress team. The chief minister also met his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee in 2018 as part of these efforts.
He met Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patanik and Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav as well but nothing materialised. In 2019, again, he floated the idea of just an “anti-BJP” front, hinting that it may not completely be a “non-Congress” one.
Following the 2018 assembly polls in Telangana, a dozen Congress MLAs defected to the ruling party, stripping the former of principal Opposition status in state. As of now, the Congress has only six legislators in the state.
The Congress has been hoping for revival with the appointment of MP Revanth Reddy as its new chief in Telangana.
The BJP, meanwhile, is slowly moving up the ladder and trying to replace Congress as the key opposition. The party defeated the TRS in two by-polls and also made giant strides in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal poll last year. On 2 November, the TRS lost to the BJP in the Huzurabad bypoll.
The BJP, which arithmetically is still no competition to the ruling party, just has about three legislative members and four MPs from the state, including Union MoS Kishan Reddy.
(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)