By Sushil Kutty
Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) Member of Parliament Keshava Rao sat to the right of Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, who had a Covid-19 mask on. As far as the TRS was concerned, all masks were off, Keshava Rao was at the Opposition MPs’ meeting in Parliament with instructions from TRS chief K Chandrashekhar Rao to dump the BJP and join the Opposition ranks.
One journalist called it “a twist in the tale.” The tale, the story of the Congress-Trinamool rift. The twist: Telangana Rashtra Samithi is no longer inclined to support the BJP. November 30, TRS got off its perch on the fence. Even otherwise, the perch on the fence was painful!
Things had been building up between the BJP and the TRS. And 2014 had faded in the background. That said, the TRS stood by the BJP in Parliament, helping the Hindu nationalist party win scrappy floor battles. KCR and Modi were distant friends, but friends nevertheless.
Not anymore. Keshava Rao now attends strategy meetings of the floor leaders of the opposition parties. The November 30 meeting was held in Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge’s office. Kharge is the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. Of course, Rahul Gandhi being Rahul Gandhi can always attend such meetings. November 30, TRS MPs joined opposition parties to force an adjournment on the farm bills issue.
With that KCR made his intent clear. Actually, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Things haven’t been gung ho between the TRS and BJP. The KCR regime and the Modi Government don’t usually get along. Of late, ties were frozen. There is a chill. There is also some burning “paddy trouble” between the state and the Centre. KCR lost his appetite for BJP when the Centre refused to buy parboiled rice from Telangana.
KCR fumed. Now, the TRS is convinced BJP and the Modi Government are “anti-farmer”. There is no need for Rahul Gandhi to drum resentment in KCR and TRS. There are other irritants, one too many! The biggest is the perception in the TRS that the Bharatiya Janata Party wants to be the principal opposition in the state.
Ironically, the BJP is getting its wish! When Keshava Rao plonked himself mask-less to the right of Rahul Gandhi, the TRS revealed its face. Then again, it isn’t long since the BJP trounced the TRS in the Huzurabad assembly seat, all bets were off. To add salt to the wound, BJP candidate Eatala Rajender had ditched KCR to hitch his wagon to the BJP bandwagon.
Also, the BJP won four Telangana Lok Sabha seats. The manner of the winning didn’t help. The BJP challenge in the Greater Hyderabad civic polls also rankled. Now, the fog has cleared from Keshava Rao’s mind. He says the TRS was always BJP’s rival in Parliament. And the TRS now has an excuse: The BJP and Modi Government’s “anti-farmers policies.” It is not likely that the TRS will backtrack from its newfound anti-BJP allergy. Keshava Rao will keep attending opposition floor meetings.
Keshava Rao’s right of Rahul Gandhi’s seat at the November 30 meeting also made it quite apparent that when it’s between the Congress and the Trinamool, TRS sits and stands with the Congress. More significantly, the TRS has made its 2024 intent clear: Modi and the BJP can take a walk.
The Shiv Sena has gone. Akali Dal went. Apna Dal ditched. The YSR Congress never was with the BJP. The less said the better of the Telugu Desam Party. CBN cannot be trusted to stick to a blob of gum! The long and short of it: The BJP is hemorrhaging allies and potential allies. Narendra Modi’s 2024 outing will not be like the 2019 picnic, or the 2014 tea party— Chai Pe Charcha!
With Asaduddin Owaisi on the TRS bandwagon, and the Congress hitching its Maruti to KCR’s Merc, 2024 wouldn’t be an easy haul for the BJP. Keshava Rao is not a stranger to the Congress. He is a “once PCC chief” and is comfortable in the Opposition fold.
As for BJP-TRS, historically, if the Gujarati and the Telugu ever got along, there is no evidence to show, which leaves Rahul Gandhi in the clear. It is now for Rahul Gandhi to make the best of the TRS shift. How he handles Mamata Banerjee will matter.
How Narendra Modi will strategise in the changing scenario also will matter. Opposition MPs in Parliament are gung ho with the TRS-BJP split, “pleasantly surprised”, like somebody put it, adding that the TRS had “dramatically snapped ties with the Congress” in 2014. That’s lost in time, 2024 Narendra Modi will be 10 years older and a decade slower, too. (IPA Service)