By T S Sudhir
Dharmapuri Srinivas is hoping to become more of a heavyweight in Andhra Pradesh politics. No, I am not referring to his girth or the scales he tips on the weighing machine. The state Congress chief by virtue of the post he holds, is a voice that gets heard in 10, Janpath. And now, he has got an unexpected opportunity to gain a place under the sun.
The resignation of the BJP MLA from Nizamabad has been accepted, necessitating a by-election in the next six months. And Srinivas, who lost the assembly election last year, gets another chance to win favour with the voters. And Srinivas knows D Srinivas MLA could well become D Srinivas, CM. And that could mean CM of Andhra Pradesh or CM of Telangana, depending on the outcome of the Srikrishna committee recommendations.
Unwittingly, K Chandrasekhar Rao, whose party symbol is the ambassador car, has rolled down the windows of opportunity for many a rejected Telangana politician. The Telangana Rashtra Samiti is now under extreme pressure to retain its 10 assembly seats and 2 Lok Sabha seats, won in May 2009 by KCR and actress Vijayashanti. Both the Congress and the Telugu Desam have no love lost for KCR and would do everything they can to cut him to size. After all, in the event of a separate Telangana, they wouldn’t want a politically powerful KCR to dictate terms and so, what better opportunity than a byelection to show KCR his place. (Along with the TRS, the resignation of one BJP and one TDP MLA was also accepted by the Speaker)
But would that be possible? KCR who was reduced to a political nobody on May 16 last year rose like a phoenix from his bed inside Hyderabad’s NIMS hospital on the night of December 9. He had challenged the might of the Union government and brought it down to its knees, forcing the Home minister to burn the midnight oil, quite literally.
But after licking its wounds the last month or so, the Congress is now trying to get back at KCR. And for a change, there is a method to the strategy the grand old party of India is adopting amidst the political madness.
Step one, was to rein in its recalcitrant MPs and MLAs. This was done by reading out the riot act to them, by telling them that allowing the TRS to play the leader in Telangana would do their own political future no good.
Step two in the campaign to isolate KCR politically was to beat the maverick politician at his own game. Since KCR had been smart enough to camouflage his moves through a Telangana Joint Action Committee, which was led by Prof. Kodandaram, reportedly his own man, the Congress realised it had to take the same route. Strike at the JAC to hit at KCR.
So the moment, an impatient KCR ruled that the terms of reference of the Srikrishna committee were unacceptable and announced that his MLAs and MPs will resign, the Congress was quick to accuse the TRS of acting out of step. Accusing the JAC of being a TRS mouthpiece, the Congressmen stayed away as they were also incensed at the well-coordinated attacks on their properties in the districts to put pressure on them to quit.
“We will not resign because resignations will not serve any purpose,” said each one of the MPs and MLAs. The same representatives were singing `Hum honge kaamyaab’ tune with KCR just the other day. They are still singing the number, except that the `Hum’ now means only Congressmen.
The Telugu Desam, whose Chandrababu Naidu shares a hate-hate relationship with KCR, has also played its cards intelligently. It will also get a chance to demonstrate its cadre strength in Telangana, and which way this three-way split of votes go, is anyone’s guess. In many constituencies, it could be touch and go.
And byelections in the past haven’t spelt good news for the TRS. Its strength in the Andhra Pradesh assembly has consistently only gone down : from 26 seats in 2004 to 10 seats in 2009.
Simultaneously attempts are also being made to cut off whatever support base the TRS has in the student community. The police offensive at Osmania University, on Valentine’s day and the day after, were efforts in that direction, that misfired badly. But the powers that be are unlikely to give up and a surprise could be round the corner.
For KCR, it is phase 2 of the Telangana battle. Since November 29, he has effectively proved the Telangana sentiment is alive and kicking. Now he has to establish that it is he who is the true custodian of that sentiment. He has to keep the street battles alive. And in the byelections, nothing less than a ten on ten would do. Even a one or two seat drop would mean the knives would be out for him, especially from those who would love nothing more than scripting KCR’s political obituary.
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