The Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) will have anti-incumbency and history stacked against it when it faces the Telangana Assembly elections in the next few months.
The K. Chandrasekhar Rao-led BRS will have to overcome a likely strong anti-incumbency factor to retain power in India’s youngest state.
KCR will also have to make history as no chief minister in South India has ever scored a hat-trick. This will be the first election after the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) transformed itself into the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) to play a key role in national politics.
This is also likely to be the first election in Telangana sans a Telangana sentiment, which may make the task more daunting for the BRS.
Telangana sentiment dominated the 2014 and 2018 elections as the TRS sought a mandate in the first election to rebuild Telangana and a fresh mandate in 2018 to continue its efforts to turn the state into Bangaru or golden Telangana.
As KCR feels that he has achieved his task of a progressive Telangana, he rechristened the TRS as BRS in tune with his national ambitions, with a call to replicate the Telangana model in the rest of the country.
Unlike in 2018 when KCR had advanced the polls by a few months, this time the elections are likely to be held as per schedule (November-December).
With multiple players set to enter the poll fray, the electoral battle is likely to be very interesting, whose outcome will be difficult to guess.
With a multi-cornered contest on the cards, the stakes will be high for the BRS to retain power in Telangana. Political observers say the anti-incumbency factor will be in play as the party has been in power since the formation of the state.
KCR, who led the fight for statehood to Telangana and achieved the goal, is considered one of the smartest politicians in the country. He is known for surprising his opponents with his political tactics.
With the BJP emerging as a key challenger in the state, it will be interesting to see how KCR will devise a strategy to counter the saffron surge. Some political analysts see KCR’s move of turning the TRS into BRS as part of the strategy.
They believe KCR may play the son of the soil card by seeking a mandate for a big role in national politics to embark on his mission to bring a qualitative change in the nation’s polity.
The BRS chief is already trying to hardsell the Telangana model by getting leaders from various states to Hyderabad to talk about Rythu Bandhu and other schemes of Telangana.
“KCR is countering the BJP’s Modi model of governance. He calls it a golmal model and is trying to project the Telangana model,” observed political observer Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.
At every meeting, KCR highlights how Telangana has become a model state with the highest per capita income, with one of the highest per capita power consumption, a growth rate which is much higher than the national average and innovative schemes for farmers, Dalits and other sections of the society.
Political observers feel KCR needs such a narrative as there will be strong anti-incumbency with the opposition questioning him about the promises he failed to keep.
This time, BRS will be facing new opponents like the YSR Telangana Party (YSRTP) headed by Y. S. Sharmila, sister of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy and the Jana Sena Party (JSP) headed by actor-politician Pawan Kalyan.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is also likely to enter the field with new vigour under the leadership of R. S. Praveen Kumar, who took voluntary retirement from the Indian Police Service (IPS) to join politics.
With the Telangana sentiment not in play in the manner it was seen in previous elections, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) headed by former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu is also expected to flex its muscles to regain lost ground in Telangana.
The BRS, which fought earlier elections on its own, is likely to have an alliance with the Left parties. There was indication to this effect when the Left parties extended support to the BRS in the by-election to the Munugode Assembly seat late last year.
The BRS with its Dalit Bandhu scheme and various other measures will be hoping to receive full support from the Dalits, who constitute 10 per cent of the voters. Muslims, who are also about 10 per cent of the electorate, may once again back the BRS. “If BRS gets support of 10-15 per cent voters from the remaining 80 per cent, it will retain power comfortably,” said an analyst.
Though the BRS appears to have lost the support of the politically influential Reddy community, the votes may get divided between the BJP, Congress and others. The same is likely to happen with the backward classes, who constitute 50 per cent of the voters.
Unfazed by the BJP’s emergence as the main challenger, KCR remains confident that the BRS will retain power by winning more than 100 seats in the 119-member Assembly.
“The BRS party will win more than 100 in the next election,” he told a BRS general body meeting on April 27 to mark the party’s formation day.
“Coming to power again in Telangana is not a big task. The priority is to win more seats than before,” he told the participants including ministers, MPs and state legislators.
The BRS had bagged 63 seats in the 2014 election and improved its tally to 88 in 2018. With the defection of several MLAs including a dozen from the Congress, the BRS increased its strength to over 100.
KCR used the occasion to pull up some MLAs over complaints of wrongdoing against them. He warned them that if they did not mend their ways, they would be expelled from the party.
The BRS also asked the party leaders to take steps to reduce discontent among the cadre. He wanted them to educate the people about the government schemes, interact with them and mingle with them regularly.
BRS leaders remain hopeful that with the anti-incumbency votes getting divided among the Congress, BJP and other players, the BRS may not find it difficult to retain power.