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K Chandrashekar Rao: The King of Telangana

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As Chief Minister, KCR’s outreach programme addressed farmers, senior citizens, women, youth and the poor with a series of welfare and social schemes

THE POLITICAL career of K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) seems to somewhat mirror Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In many ways, he’s two characters rolled into one. His Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) just clinched an epic victory, trouncing the opposition Congress-Telugu Desam combine, leaving the latter with 21 (Congress 19 and TDP 2) of the 119 seats in the state Assembly. As the 65-year-old KCR braces for a second term in office, he is likely to use his party’s regional muscle to leverage a role for the TRS in national level politics. As of now, he has shown his inclination for being part of an anti-Congress, anti-BJP alliance of parties in the run-up to the 2019 General Election. While he has ruled out a role for himself in national politics, KCR has said, “We will give a new definition to the national political scene.” In the 2014 General Election, of the 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana, TRS had won 11 (when it had 63 seats in the Assembly). This time, in the state Assembly polls, it has won 88 seats.

As Chief Minister, KCR’s outreach programme addressed farmers, senior citizens, women, youth and the poor with a series of welfare schemes. But back home, he seems to have indulged in nepotism, with his son KT Rao a minister in his cabinet and daughter Kavitha Kalvakuntla a Lok Sabha member in Delhi. He launched a double bedroom scheme for the poor via a 100 per cent subsidy, saying it would provide them dignity of life, and at the same time, spent large amounts from the state’s coffers for the makeover of temples. Tech-savvy, he constantly monitors the power supply situation in the state through an app on his iPad, but relies on astrologers for ‘auspicious’ times at every step he takes.

When he moved into his office at his palatial new six-acre house at Begumpet, KCR made his guru, Tridandi Srimannarayana Ramanuja Chinna Jeeyar, a seer of Vaishnavism, first sit in his large white upholstered chair. He then touched the seer’s feet for his blessings before taking the Chief Minister’s chair himself. Those who have been watching KCR closely say he has not entirely shed his feudal trappings, while he projects a liberal image for people. According to one journalist, he could hold an audience engaged for hours but did not like anyone intervening while he spoke.

“Cunning, intelligent, a meticulous planner and hard-working” is how a senior Telugu journalist describes him. His gamble to dissolve the Telangana Assembly to hold elections along with four other states, around six months before its tenure ended, paid off. A victory for Congress in three major states— Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh—could have posed a challenge to the TRS in Telangana had elections been held later.

Today, the KCR story is incomplete without a mention of his son and daughter. KTR, who held portfolios of Information Technology, Municipal Administration and Urban Development, Industries & Commerce, Mines & Geology, Public Enterprises and NRI Affairs in the previous cabinet, is seen as an asset to him. An MBA in Marketing and E-Commerce from City University of New York, he resigned his job in the US when he was thirty to join the TRS, floated by his father in 2001. KTR joined the movement for the formation of Telangana, joining protestors, courting arrest or being taken into preventive custody. From a razor- thin margin victory of 171 votes over the Congress in 2009, he defeated Congress’ KK Mahender Reddy in Sircilla constituency, winning 1,21,758 votes this time.

Besides, KTR roped in global investors in a bid to make Hyderabad a global city, gave a push to the infotech sector and promised the construction of 1,000 new Gram Panchayat buildings across the state to replace dilapidated structures. What role KTR, who is expected to take the baton from his father at some point, will play in the next TRS regime in Telangana is a matter of hot speculation.

Kavitha, 40, soft-spoken and poised, has her own way of connecting with people, MPs and the media. Like her brother, she too had joined the movement for carving out Telangana from Andhra Pradesh. It was at that time, while taking to the streets across the state, that she came face to face with local issues.

Her father, a self-made politician, had begun with the youth Congress in Medak district. At that time, he was close to Congress leaders Hanumantha Rao and Ghulam Nabi Azad. Later, seeing the popularity of NT Rama Rao, he joined the TDP in 1983. He was a minister in NTR’s cabinet, and later in Chandrababu Naidu’s. He also became deputy speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly. Following his resignation from the TDP, he devoted himself to the creation of Telangana.

The TRS fought the 2004 General Election in alliance with the Congress, which had assured KCR a new state of Telangana. But he quit the UPA later, saying the alliance was not keeping its promise. By 2014, it was a reality.

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