20 years of TRS: A roller-coaster ride for the KCR-headed party

K V Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on April 27, 2020

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao   -  PTI

Amid Covid-19, political and economic challenges stare at the CM

When Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao, the then Deputy Speaker of Andhra Pradesh Assembly, floated Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) on April 27, 2001, with just a handful of leaders, no one thought he could make a dent into the well-entrenched two-party (Telugu Desam and Congress) play in the State.

The 47-year-old KCR had set up the party with the sole aim of achieving a separate statehood for the Telangana region.

An eloquent speaker, KCR had said that the region was wronged in the allocations of water, financial resources and employment opportunities. He built a narrative around these objectives, stirring decades-long aspirations among the people in the region.

With TDP President N Chandrababu Naidu well into his second term and senior Congress leader YS Rajasekhara Reddy waiting in the wings to wrest the power from his long-time political rival, no one visualised a role for a new political party.

But KCR, as he is known among the public, had different plans. Identifying a strong longing for a State of their own among the people, he worked to rally leaders behind him, powerfully articulating the need to end the ‘oppressive Andhra hegemony’.

He said it was time to throw off the yoke and cautioned the people that losing this second battle (the first one was in the 1960s) could cost them very dear.

“They had flouted the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1956 and broke all promises made to us. We got a raw deal in Budgetary allocations, jobs and educational opportunities,” he said.

He had successfully rekindled hopes again in the people, making them to bet on him. Intellectuals like Prof Jayashankar, too, supported him.

The TRS entered into an electoral tie-up with the Congress in 2004 and won 26 MLAs and 5 MP seats, announcing its grand entry into the State’s politics. It also reflected the strong aspirations of the people for a separate Statehood.

KCR was made the Union Minister for Labour and Employment in the United Progressive Alliance at the Centre.

This was followed by bickerings in the alliance as the then Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy was attempting to woo the TRS MLAs. The TRS suffered its first setback after majority of its MLAs failed to make it in a by-election in 2008.

In the next general election, the TRS moved away from Congress and forged an alliance with TDP, after it agreed to back its Statehood demand. But the alliance was defeated as the TRS won only 10 seats in the Assembly and two in the Lok Sabha.

Though it lost the poll, the TRS regrouped its forces, enlisted support of students, youth and employees’ unions and launched the most crucial phase in the movement, forcing the UPA-2 government to concede the Statehood demand to end the fast-unto-death movement by KCR.

But the Centre soon backtracked, triggering anger among the people. The Political Joint Action Committee, an initiative of TRS to rope in the support of all political parties, had taken up the charge and forced the UPA-2 to concede the State in 2014.

A Bill to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh was passed in Parliament in February 2014, paving way for the formation of a new State in June 2014.

In the elections that followed in April-May, the TRS won 63 seats in the 119-member strong Assembly, making KCR the maiden Chief Minister of the State.

The ruling party focussed on power and irrigation sectors, making it free of power cuts and bringing water to lakhs of acres. That the rabi acreage doubled this year and the State produced one crore tonnes of paddy show how it reinvented its unutilised potential in agriculture.

KCR, however, faced sharp criticism for usurping MLAs from Congress and TDP. In the second term, it ‘attracted’ more than 20 MLAs from the other parties, leaving little scope for the Opposition in the Assembly.

The TRS Government also drew flak for muffling anti-government voices. The people’s organisations had to wage a legal battle to win back the right to protest at the Dharna Chowk.

As it entered the 20th year of its formation, the TRS faces tough political and economic challenges. While the BJP is mobilising all its resources to win the election next time, the Congress is seeking to revive its lost glory.

Though a surplus State till a few years ago, the State coffers are getting empty. The Covid-19 has made it only worse. From a daily revenue potential of ₹400 crore, the State’s revenues have come to just ₹2-10 crore a day.

KCR has his job cut out – to set the post-Covid-19 finances in order, and to ensure passing on the power baton to his heir apparent KT Rama Rao (Working President).

Published on April 27, 2020

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