Hyderabad: It has been two decades of long and chequered peregrination for the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). The party's plenary sets the agenda for its future course and reinforces its political ideology.

In fact, Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), a frail man from a non-descript background, with his humble beginnings, might never have dreamt of becoming a torchbearer for a political party and steer it to a resounding victory with the achievement of its goal. A quick recount of events will help one understand that KCR truly believes in the popular mandate and never hankered for quick-fix solutions through the backdoor.

Vexed with the politics of humiliation within the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) where he debuted as an MLA in 1985 (he lost his maiden contest in 1983 Assembly elections and has never lost one since then), KCR started looking at things differently. As the saying goes, "Great men don't do different things, but do things differently", it may be too much to call KCR a great man, but essentially his achievement of separate statehood for Telangana is a remarkable achievement. What could only serve as a political slogan to many a stalwart politician in the pre-KCR era became the motto of the TRS.

By aligning many influencers drawn from different walks of life and, of course, the masses to match a step with him in pressing for the demand, KCR did not hesitate to join hands with the Congress, the TDP, the BJP, and almost every other political party worth its salt to keep the Telangana aspiration afloat. As he has himself recalled on numerous occasions, he weathered innumerable innuendos throughout the 13-year-long march towards the realization of the dream.

Chandrashekar Rao, who came to be known as KCR only after the formation of the TRS, embraced many leaders and dropped many others like hot potato when they threw tantrums and demonstrated tendencies that might turn out to be counter-productive to the goal.

KCR's first step on the eve of the formation of the TRS began with three resignations – one for the post of Deputy Speaker of AP Legislative Assembly, one for the post of MLA of Siddipet, and the last for the primary membership of the TDP – on 27 April 2001, hours before he yelled out the war cry for separate statehood. He didn't even blink as he quit the Union Cabinet minister post in the UPA government and made his MLAs resign to amplify the agitation. The focus on separate statehood always remained unfettered.

Patience has always been KCR's hallmark. The 11-day hunger strike that was called off on 9 December 2009, following an announcement by the then Union Home minister P. Chidambaram that "the process of formation of a separate Telangana has begun" set the tone for the second phase of the Telangana agitation.

The Congress and the UPA indeed made a volte face within 15 days and reversed their stance and made the earlier announcement look like a symbolic attempt to make KCR call off the hunger strike owing to his failing health and placate the popular agitation that reached its crescendo. It was indeed a question of life and death for the TRS supremo, for he made it a slogan that either Telangana should be formed or KCR should die (Telangana Vacchudo, KCR sacchudo).

KCR firmly believed and never lost hope and spirit in Chidambaram's statement that the process of formation of a separate Telangana has begun though the latter was never trusted. Several sections of society rallied behind him in espousing the cause until he finally cracked the code.

No other political party that was floated with an exclusive intent of agitating for separate statehood had accomplished its goal: come to power soon after, survived for 20 years, and still thrive in India. The TRS, which achieved this feat, couldn't celebrate the completion of two decades due to the lockdown brought on by the second wave of coronavirus.

After coming to power, KCR must be, without an iota of doubt, credited with converting the brown and barren fields of Telangana into lush green farms. The state has become the granary of India. By constructing the massive Kaleswaram lift irrigation project, KCR created a blue revolution with a manifold increase in arable area. Statistics proved the skyrocketing multipronged growth of industries – Information Technology, healthcare, pharma, textile, manufacturing, defence, and so on – under the TRS dispensation. The popular trust in the TRS has been reinforced when it was re-elected with a huge margin in the 2018 Assembly elections.

In his plenary address, KCR made it a point to highlight the development and welfare schemes implemented by the TRS government and their success. He underscored the importance and contribution of the TRS leaders and cadres in achieving the fastest growth in a short span of time.

Now, after 20 years, the TRS is indeed facing formidable opposition in the form of the BJP and the Congress. The party leadership is, in public, brushing aside the criticism as political vendetta and claiming that it has complete endorsement of its leadership by the people. However, the party leadership has begun to pull up its socks to fight the challenges.

The battle royale between the challengers (the BJP and the Congress) and the champ (TRS) is now hotting up and the TRS is going full throttle to lay emphasis on its development and welfare schemes. KCR's masterstroke that cannot be discounted is in achieving a balance between religions by ensuring his own participation in the religious activities. Ayutha Chandee Yaagam, Godavari and Krishna Pushkarams, and large-scale renovation of Yadadri temple without making any bones about his personal religious sentiments are a few examples of his attempts to neutralize the BJP. His association with the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehaadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and patronage of activities of other religions is part of the well-entrenched and meticulous balancing act. The TRS will now have to fight several odds to stay in power and continue its hold on the state.

A Saye Sekhar

A Saye Sekhar is a Hyderabad-based journalist, columnist, and analyst. He writes on politics, business and governance. You can follow him on Twitter @sayesekhar.

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