Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao and Andhra CM Jagan Mohan Reddy
Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao and Andhra CM Jagan Mohan Reddy at an iftar party earlier this year | ANI Photo
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Hyderabad: It’s 2019, and officials from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are jointly opening the Krishna floodgates at Srisailam after copious rains. The chief ministers of the two states, K. Chandrashekar Rao and Jagan Mohan Reddy, respectively, are sitting in an amicable atmosphere, discussing how best to utilise Godavari waters by channelling surplus flow into the Krishna, a plan that could mainly benefit Andhra’s Rayalaseema region.

The scene is a far cry from 2015, the year after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, when a disagreement between the two states’ irrigation officials over shared use of Krishna waters intensified into a clash between policemen from both sides at the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam, which straddles the two states.

Analysts say the acrimonious relationship between KCR and Andhra’s former CM N. Chandrababu Naidu had passed down to all levels of government, as the states came to symbolise sibling rivalry. And hence, senior officials had to jostle for space as division of assets and apportioning of liabilities dragged on. There were disputes over everything from the division of furniture to sharing of power bills. There were even frequent brawls between lawyers at the combined high court in Hyderabad until a separate Andhra Pradesh High Court was set up in Amaravati this January.

But now, with Naidu having been defeated by his bête noire Jagan, the two states haven’t just buried the hatchet, but seem to be going the extra mile to cooperate with each other, much to the relief of people on both sides.

“The two chief ministers had a lengthy discussion on linking Godavari waters with Krishna and opined that the linkage and utilisation of water should serve both states’ purpose,” a senior official in the Telangana Chief Minister’s Office said after a meeting last Monday at Pragathi Bhavan, KCR’s office-cum-residence in Hyderabad.


Also read: Why KCR had BJP on his mind as he brought back nephew Harish, inducted 2 women in cabinet


Amicable relations

The first such meeting between the CMs took place in June. Within a month of Jagan’s win in the Andhra polls, he handed over his state’s share of buildings in Hyderabad, which helped KCR go ahead with the construction of the new Telangana secretariat. Though Naidu had shifted his government to Amaravati in 2016, the four unused blocks allotted to Andhra were retained — the bifurcation law has allowed this till 2024.

“Our plan for the new secretariat now consists of the entire space of 25 acres, including the Andhra part,” said Ganapathi Reddy, engineer-in-chief of Telangana’s roads and buildings department.

Then, Andhra agreed to train Telangana’s police recruits. “Since Telangana is recruiting 18,000 police personnel in one go, to enable their simultaneous postings, KCR has requested Jagan to train 4,000 police recruits in AP. Jagan has responded positively,” the CMO official said.

Andhra officials are now hopeful that the goodwill gained would help resolve pending thorny issues.

“The relation is now positive. It is very encouraging that we are talking, willing to accommodate each other’s views and interests. Hope we’ll take this forward in settling matters like division of assets under Schedule 9 and 10 of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, transfer of employees, etc.,” Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary L.V. Subramanyam told ThePrint.


Also read: Tirupati board appointments were always controversial, and Jagan has only made it worse


How the foes turned friends

The newfound KCR-Jagan bonhomie sits in stark contrast to pre-bifurcation times, when the latter had opposed the creation of Telangana, and even sat on a dharna at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar in February 2014, lashing out at UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi for the decision.

KCR also had a very uneasy relationship with Jagan’s father, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who had prevailed upon the Congress leadership and stalled any decision on Telangana till he was alive. Though KCR went with the Congress in the 2004 polls and legislators from his Telangana Rashtra Samithi had joined the YSR cabinet at first, the then-CM’s hostile approach towards statehood made them part ways.

The Congress’ first consent towards the creation of Telangana came in December 2009 during KCR’s fast — three months after YSR’s death in a chopper crash. When Jagan embarked on his 2010 Odarpu-yatra (a tour to console families of people who allegedly died upon hearing the news of YSR’s demise) in Telangana region, it was met with stiff resistance from the TRS. His tour in Warangal district had led to violence between his YSR Congress Party and TRS workers.

“Politics is where no equation is permanent,” said K Nageshwar, noted political analyst. “KCR attacked anyone who was opposed to Telangana, be it Jagan or Naidu. However, from 2014, Jagan was gradually withdrawing from Telangana while Naidu was still involved in Telangana politics and elections, to KCR’s chagrin. And with Jagan choosing not to contest the 2018 Telangana assembly polls, their friendship bloomed. KCR and Jagan’s past enmity was political, not personal, and it’s bygone.”

“It is true that there was hostility between KCR and Jagan when both were players in the politics of united Andhra Pradesh. Jagan was planning to build his party in Telangana on the plank of YSR’s legacy, which was essentially anti-Telangana and anti-KCR,” said Jinka Nagaraju, an expert on Andhra and Telangana’s politics.

“Jagan wanted to capitalise on the enormous goodwill YSR had acquired in the region at a time when KCR was spreading sub-regional nationalism, which led to a clash of political interests. Hence the attacks on Jagan in the region.

“KCR does not want any Andhra party in Telangana. Having realised this, Jagan silently withdrew from Telangana, which Naidu could not. As there was no meaning in harping on old rivalries, KCR and Jagan have decided to join hands to meet the political and electoral challenges in their respective states. Nonetheless, two warring states coming together is a welcome scenario.”


Also read: The Andhra capital battle — why Jagan demolished Naidu’s Rs 9 crore building in Amaravati


The common enemy

So what explains the bonhomie now? Part of it is down to the old adage that an enemy’s enemy is one’s friend.

KCR had stood by Naidu in 1995 when he defied his father-in-law N.T. Rama Rao and became CM. Naidu had made KCR a minister, but things went sour when he denied him a berth in 1999. The equation went from bad to worse as KCR ran his campaign for Telangana, and in 2015, with both serving as CMs of their states, the cash-for-vote tapes episode put paid to any hope of reconciliation, though they appeared at numerous photo-ops, like the ground-breaking ceremony for Amaravati and KCR’s mahayagnam.

KCR and Naidu did make attempts towards harmony even afterwards, but their egos stood in the way of rapprochement, observers say. “For example, KCR had proposed the Godavari river water-sharing earlier, but Naidu was not receptive,” said a senior official part of inter-state meetings.

Naidu was also once good friends with Jagan’s father YSR. But in 2005, when Paritala Ravindra, a prominent TDP leader from Rayalaseema, was killed, the TDP was quick to point finger at Jagan, who was yet to join politics. Naidu’s campaigns in 2009 and 2014 were focused on Jagan’s alleged corruption and CBI and ED cases, but in 2019, he lost the election to Jagan in a landslide.


Also read: Chandrababu Naidu & Jagan Reddy’s intense rivalry: What one does, the other has to erase


TDP’s allegations 

Though the TDP’s Mahakootami (grand alliance) with the Congress and other parties proved disastrous in the 2018 Telangana assembly polls, KCR had to sweat to win, and announced a “return gift” for Naidu in the 2019 Andhra Pradesh elections.

During the April polls, TDP leaders accused the TRS of supporting the YSRCP financially, and also intimidating TDP leaders with assets in Hyderabad to switch sides.

Naidu now alleges that Jagan has mortgaged Andhra’s interests and the future of its people to KCR for helping him win elections. Particularly, Naidu found fault with the plan to lift Godavari waters to the Srisailam reservoir through Telangana.

“By planning a project which would take the waters through Telangana lands, Jagan is pledging the interests of AP. As KCR gave funds to the YSRCP during polls, Jagan is now, in quid pro quo fashion, reciprocating with a project which could cost about Rs 1.5 lakh crore,” Naidu reportedly said in July when the proposed plan surfaced in media.

Naidu has continued to slam the friendship. “Today, you (Jagan) have cordial relations with your Telangana counterpart, but neither of you are permanent in the post. There will be a change of guard and there could be water disputes,” Naidu said.

However, Subramanyam Dogiparthi, a retired academician and political commentator from Guntur rebutted Naidu’s claim, saying: “It is debatable if Jagan needed KCR’s money, as the TDP alleges, but it would only be sensible on Jagan’s part to be friendly with KCR, who rules Hyderabad, where his establishments and assets of friends and party leaders are.”


Also read: Why Rs 55,000-crore Polavaram project is behind latest round of Jagan-Naidu face-off


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