Hyderabad: In 2018, K. Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) was a strong advocate of an anti-BJP, anti-Congress front. Four years on, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief is now focussed on floating his ‘national party’, which he had first indirectly referred to in April at his party’s 21st Foundation Day celebrations.
As recently as 11 September, KCR announced that he would “soon” launch a national party. “Very soon, the formation of a national party and formulation of its policies will take place,” read a release from his office.
KCR’s colleagues are, however, in the dark as he hasn’t even announced the broad contours of his plan, let alone concrete details of how to transcend from a regional stage to become a national force.
Various questions remain unanswered: Will it be a new party that will be contesting in different states in the 2024 general election? Will it be the TRS in Telangana and the Bharatiya Rashtra Samithi (BRS) in other states? Why would regional parties ally with KCR’s “national party” in their own strongholds?
On his part, the Telangana chief minister has continued his outreach to opposition leaders nationwide — the latest being last week’s meeting with former Gujarat chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela.
TRS leaders ThePrint spoke to fet there is a lack of clarity on what he plans to do next, and added that the party was yet to be taken on board.
“KCR is still unclear. As things become clearer, KCR will start a new party with focus on a national role. Perhaps the TRS will become part of the BRS then,” a close aide of KCR told ThePrint.
Former TRS MP B. Vinod said the plan is to get the BRS registered with the Election Commission in the next few months, and also be in a position to contest by 2024. There is no plan to form a coalition with other regional parties in other states, but the BRS can look at possible “seat sharing” with them, according to Vinod, who is vice-president of the Telangana State Planning Commission.
“Section 29 of The Representation of the People Act allows any party to get registered, and we can also register BRS. Our plan is — if this idea materialises — to expand our horizons and change the name from TRS to BRS. But we’re yet to have a party legislature meeting and get everyone on board. The entire party has not given approval to it yet,”
“We have not thought about any coalition yet. The idea is to establish the TRS as a national party, and then we can do some seat sharing in other states with regional parties, depending on the situation at the time of polls,” he added.
Long way for TRS to go
For the TRS to get the status of a national party, there are three possible routes. One way would be to win at least 6 per cent of valid votes in over four states in general and state elections, and secure at least four Lok Sabha seats. Another route would be getting recognition as a state party in four states. Similarly, the tag can be ensured if the party wins 2 per cent of the seats in the Lok Sabha from at least three different states.
With its presence limited to Telangana, the TRS has a lot of distance to travel before it can aspire to become a national party.
According to TRS MLC Palla Rajeshwar Reddy, the BRS will first look at neighbouring states such as Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Karnataka to contest in 2024.
“We will hopefully have a legislative party meeting by early next month and the idea of the BRS will be discussed. If everyone is on board, the formation of the national party can happen in a month. The party will be a consortium of like-minded people such as those from farmer outfits, former bureaucrats etc. We are also having legal discussions about it. Once it is finalised, there will also be a general body meeting for further discussions,” he told ThePrint.
While the TRS workers are supportive about KCR assuming a national role, they have questions about the future of the TRS — which came to power resonating with the Telangana statehood movement — if it’s merged into the BRS, according to party insiders.
“One thing is clear. We’re not thinking of any alliance but solely focusing on our national party. If anyone wants to join, we will welcome them. This is not about who is going to become the next prime minister. That we will decide at a later stage. Our idea is to take our party to the national level,” TRS MLC T. Bhanuprasad Rao told ThePrint.
Senior political analyst Nageshwar Rao argued that seat-sharing with regional parties isn’t a practical option.
In a video, Nageshwar Rao said, “What’s confusing here is if KCR enters with his party in Karnataka, why will [Janata Dal (Secular) leader H.D.] Kumaraswamy agree to it? Will KCR’s party not become a competition to Kumaraswamy’s party? When KCR went to Bihar, [Deputy CM and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader] Tejaswi Yadav and [CM and Janata Dal (United) leader] Nitish Kumar reacted well and responded positively. So, if KCR contests in Bihar, will they be okay to give away their seats? Even if they do, will they not expect the same in Telangana? Will KCR give a few seats to the JD(U) or the RJD?”
KCR’s ambition of playing a national role has been known for the past four years. One of his first meetings was with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in March 2018, where he announced that a “federal front” was in the making.
Over the years, the TRS chief has met Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief and Tamil Nadu CM M.K. Stalin, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, JD(S) patriarch H. D. Deve Gowda, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief and CM Hemant Soren, and RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
In May, KCR met Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, and his Punjab counterpart Bhagwant Mann, in Chandigarh, where he handed cheques to the families of farmers who had lost their lives during the agitation against the farm laws.
However, Nageshwar Rao said, “As long as their own political prospects do not get hurt, these parties are ready to fight against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and support others. But, once they realise their prospects get hurt, they won’t support [others]. For instance, the Congress and the AAP — both are anti-BJP — but are they getting together? That is also is the condition with the Trinamool Congress and other opposition parties. Both the Congress and KCR oppose the BJP, but are they working together?”
“KCR’s BRS is a big question. And how many of these leaders or parties will support KCR till the end, provided he tries for a coalition, is also a question, considering some of these leaders tried for BJP support in the past,” the political analyst said in the video.
(Edited by Tony Rai)