By Sushil Kutty
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray are set for a luncheon meeting on Sunday, February 20. They will break bread and very likely talk of “Oust Modi” and “2024.” KCR says he doesn’t want to be Prime Minister but his ‘no’ strengthens the impression that he harbours ambition. It’s also no secret that Uddhav Thackeray has “national ambitions.”
For now, though, the two are linked by the common desire to show the door to Prime Minister Narendra Modi come 2024. Planning to deprive Modi of another term in 2024 is far more plausible than planning to become Prime Minister in 2024. The second can happen only after the first comes true.
It’s common knowledge that Uddhav Thackeray did not take to Narendra Modi right from the day the Maharashtra assembly election results were declared and the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance split down the middle. As things stand, the break is irreparable.
Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut who is also editor of the Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamna’ believes Uddhav Thackeray is fit to become Prime Minister. Rau’s acerbic tongue matches the scathing one gifted to the Telangana Chief Minister.
Uddhav Thackeray, on the other hand, is soft-spoken and mild-mannered. KCR must have recognized the “steel” in Thackeray. The BJP may have its own theories about Uddhav Thackeray, but among the opposition chief ministers of Modi’s India—Rahul Gandhi’s “Union of States” —there is grudging respect for Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Not the least because of the way in which Uddhav Thackeray has handled himself ever since he became Maharashtra CM with the support of secular parties Congress and NCP. Thackeray broke the Shiv Sena mould die-cast by his father Balasaheb Thackeray and hasn’t budged despite umpteen Hindutva provocations.
This, think many, has placed Uddhav Thackeray ahead of and separate from all other opposition politicians linked together by the common thread of anti-Modi-ism. KCR probably senses this even as his priority shifted to oust Prime Minister Narendra Modi and be done with it.
KCR counts among his co-collaborators Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan; Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray. Also, KCR has with his newborn anti-Modi stance gotten closer to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. Mamata Banerjee is also an avowed anti-Modi.
Now, what will happen at the February 20 luncheon meeting is up for grabs. The fact is KCR is rallying together a band of powerful regional satraps and planning to rid politics of Narendra Modi. And Uddhav Thackeray is a key ally. Reports are that Uddhav Thackeray called KCR and invited him for lunch. The Maharashtra CM supports KCR’s fight against the BJP.
Actually KCR was planning to fly to Mumbai when Uddhav Thackeray’s call came. Not just Thackeray, former PM Devegowda also called. This must have come as an omen. Gowda and IK Gujral were picked to become PM by fractious groups of political parties. If KCR, Uddhav, Stalin et al manage to oust the BJP in 2024, another Devegowda/Gujral instance is a possibility.
There are reports that KCR has “booked” meetings with MK Stalin, Pinarayi Vijayan and Tejashwi Yadav besides Mamata Banerjee. Apparently, KCR is fed up with the “TRS is B-team of BJP” jibe and Banerjee has had enough “Guv Dhankar.”
Modi cannot be unaware of all these. KCR has been ranting against Modi in recent days. He also ducked protocol and refused to meet Modi when Modi came to Hyderabad for the Statue of Equality unveiling. He ridiculed Modi’s “dresses for elections” and “style without substance budget.”
Modi is a common enemy of KCR and Uddhav Thackeray and both have “national ambitions”. Maybe KCR is acting more and more like Chandrababu Naidu did before the 2019 general elections and could meet the same fate. But right now, like every regional leader, he perhaps holds on to the secret dream to become PM.
It is the ‘Devegowda-Gujral Effect’—become the default PM-choice in case of a hung Lok Sabha. News of KCR’s luncheon meeting with Uddhav Thackeray has given rise to talk of similar prospects in 2024, provided the regional parties stick together to fight and beat Modi together.
It’s a slippery slope, though. There are too many regional satraps, all of them potential “default-PM.” In fact, one too many is an understatement—Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, K Chandrashekara Rao, Uddhav Thackeray… If the Samajwadi Party wins Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav may also lay claim. If the BJP loses Uttar Pradesh, all of them can dream, even hope to see the dream come true. (IPA Service)