(Dr Pentapati Pullarao)
The great Emperor Napoleon said 220 years ago: Victory has many fathers. Defeat is an orphan “. Napoleon experienced many defeats and exile and then returned back to power. In our own history, the Pandavas were sent to exile. But they came back to power. There is always a narrow path to return to power, if a leader can find it. The Congress under Sonia Gandhi ruled India from 2004- 2014 with total power. After its shock defeat in 2014, the Congress has come down badly and now it seems the Congress will only contest 250 MPs out of 543. Remember that in the 17 parliament elections held so far, the Congress never contested less than 450 seats. The Communists ruled Bengal from 1977 to 2011. But after defeat in 2011, the Communists declined badly and today out of 294 MLAs in Bengal, they don’t even have one MLA or MP. What such failures teach us that after defeat a leader must carefully chart out his future course to come back to power. The Congress and Communists are following the same policies that led to their defeats. Former US President Barrack Obama famously said “If you do things the same way, you will get the same outcomes “. New strategies are needed to tackle new situations. There is no doubt KCR dominated Telugu politics from 2004. Since 2004, KCR led an agitation which was successful, and he became a hero. Since 2014, KCR was chief Minister of Telangana for 10 years. For 20 years, KCR had dominated Telangana and united Andhra. KCR’s strengths even after defeat:
a. KCR still enjoys a big image and dominated Telangana for 20 years. For some time, KCR will be a big name. KCR enjoys a good image as he was never revengeful and accommodated rivals and generally avoided targeting individuals as in other states.
b. KCR had won a very good number of MLAs and good percentage of votes in 2023. KCR party has roots in every village of Telangana.
c. Since there are 2 national parties other than KCR, it is an advantage for KCR. This is because national parties Congress and BJP are remote-controlled from Delhi and their leaders cannot become political giants. People give more respect to a regional party, where leader is the boss and takes no orders from anyone.
d. KCR is also a very good strategist and therefore even in defeat, we can expect him to come up with original ideas to fight back.
e. KCR got most of the traditional politicians and their influence is lasting. Such leaders will stay with him since there is no space elsewhere. Definitely, there is no room in the victorious Congress Party or in the BJP, which is hostile to new entrants.
f. The BJP, which is another opponent of KCR has not created tall leaders. Telangana BJP has good leaders. But BJP has no mass leader like Madhya Pradesh’s Shivraj Sigh Chauhan or Uttar Pradesh’s Yogi Adityanath.
Problems for KCR: 1. KCR has to face an activist Congress government, which is doing fast work in delivering “Guarantees”. KCR has also given many “freebees”. But Congress government seems to be giving “freebees” in a systematic way.
2. Caste division has emerged in Telangana now, though not as toxic as in Andhra. In all small states in India, eventually one caste will dominate politics. Of course, Telangana is an urban state, with a giant Hyderabad city and big number of outside settlers. But at the moment, rural areas are dominated by caste and KCR will have to handle this situation carefully.
3. The Congress party is targeting KCR because they want to control Telangana, the way they do Karnataka. Congress attacks KCR from Hyderabad and Delhi. KCR has to attack the Congress nationally too.
4. The lack of power will naturally reduce the aura of KCR. KCR will have to fight back without power. It is easy to lead an agitation, but very difficult to fight when your government has been thrown out.
What KCR should do: 1. KCR cannot be used cheaply or freely by the party. KCR has some “political capital and it should be saved for parliament elections. If KCR travels now, public will come to see him out of curiosity. KCR should study Jayalalitha and Bal Thackeray on how they preserved their charisma for decades.
2. KCR should enquire carefully the basic reasons on why he lost. There is no point in saying that had KCR changed sitting MLAs, he would have won. Changing sitting MLAs would have had other bad consequences.
3. KCR should carefully enquire whether being in power for 10 years there was over-exposure in the media. In politics or in film world, famous people are very careful not to be over-exposed. Good examples are Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. They do photo-ops sometimes. KCR has to regain his “brand-value “.
4. Preparing for Parliament elections should not be done with great show. Plan quietly and don’t reveal your candidates. Wait and watch what Congress and BJP do. The BJP won Chhattisgarh because it allowed the Congress to think that it is doing nothing and hid its plans.
Main problem for KCR: KCR should show that his base is not merely those who received welfare benefits. KCR should emphasize that he is regional leader, while other parties are national and remote-controlled. KCR should watch Chief Minister Revanth Reddy carefully. But KCR should not start attacking Revanth Reddy yet. Let Revanth Reddy commit mistakes. If KCR gets very active immediately, then his opponents will get even more active. Let KCR allow others to think that he is going slow. KCR should ensure his party does not criticize Revanth Reddy for slow delivery of the “Guarantees’. The more KCR criticizes Revanth Reddy for slow delivery, the faster Revanth Reddy will work. Let Revanth make mistakes.
KCR and Rithu Bandhu : KCR should strongly highlight his “ Rythu Bandhu “scheme, which he pioneered in India. KCR’s strong point are farmers and agriculture. Now in Telangana there are 1 crore acres under rice and is the biggest rice-surplus state in India. KCR should have focused on his pro-farmer image, but instead focused on diverse schemes. The Congress government is tampering with Rythu Bandhu scheme and KCR should protect it. That is his biggest advantage. Let me remind KCR of what the great Deng, who ousted Mao in China said in 1987: Deng Xiaoping said, “Hide your Strength, Bide your Time”. Deng quoted Sun Tzu, the author who “The Art of War” 2500 years ago – The Enemy must never know the true strength of the fighting army. KCR should follow this advice. The real opponent of KCR is the Congress party led by Revanth Reddy. There is no Chanakya or Arjuna in Telangana BJP. Modi is a respected but a distant warrior. As a regional party, KCR has great advantages as he can take all the decisions. KCR has many paths to revive his political fortunes.
(Author is a Political and Economic analyst based at New Delhi)