How do BJP’s flop show, Congress victory in Karnataka impact Telangana politics?

Though KCR may not have openly said it, his dream of 'BJP-mukt South India' has formally been realised with the Karnataka electorate ousting the BJP from power

KCR promises to regularise house sites of poor in Hyderabad, Secunderabad

HYDERABAD: The Congress has posted an impressive victory in the general elections to the Karnataka Vidhan Sabha with 136 seats.

The perennial fence-sitter Janata Dal (Secular) led by former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy has, as expected, performed not too well with 20, which means a 17-seat decline from its erstwhile tally of 37. The BJP has been restricted to 64 seats and is handed a humiliating defeat. The Congress has been able to plough into the fire banks of the BJP as well as the JD(S) and make inroads into their bastions.

KCR, for whose BRS launch the JDS chief Kumaraswamy was present, maintained a strategic silence vis-à-vis Karnataka elections.

The assessment made by the BRS essentially might have indicated the decline in the performance of the JD(S).

At one stage, it’s suspected that Kumaraswamy would tilt either towards the BJP or the Congress to become the King maker, if not the King. Fortunately, the people of Karnataka have a decisive mandate without leave any scope for horse-trading. Thus, Kumaraswamy’s bandwagon has to remain in opposition as a junior player.

Now, it becomes interesting whether KCR would still entertain JD(S) or maintains equal distance from all as he’s currently maintaining with other opposition parties.

These results will surely impact the politics in the neighbouring Telangana where the incumbent Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) is pulling all the stops to make it to power for a successive third term. The BJP which has been systematically amplifying its high-decibel campaign in Telangana and arrogating to itself as the frontrunner in taking on the BRS, rather than the Congress which has a significant presence in Telangana.

BJP’s chips are down

However, the Karnataka poll outcome has indeed punctured the tall claims of the BJP gasbags of being at the pole position. Though KCR may not have openly said it, his dream of “BJP-mukt South India” has formally been realised with the Karnataka electorate ousting the BJP from power. With its chips down, the BJP will now have to grapple between assuming a humble posture and stretching its shaggy-dog story wagging its tail and lashing its tongue.

The BJP, unlike in Karnataka, has never come anywhere near the power corridors in Hyderabad. If one takes a look at the results of the Telangana Assembly in 2018, the BJP won a lone seat – Goshamahal Assembly constituency. This may be construed as the personal victory of Raja Singh who is now dropped by the BJP like a proverbial hot potato. At least one of the other two victories in by-elections — Dubbaka — is by fluke. In Huzurabad bypoll, Eatala Rajender played a victim card that he was ostracised by the TRS while seeking a reelection. This fetched him popular sympathy leading to his victory.

Now, with defeat befalling the BJP in Karnataka baffling the rank and file of the top brass, the BJP is now forced into a Hamletian dilemma — whether to replace the inarticulate rabble-rouser president of the Telangana unit even if it means attracting criticism of changing the guard for a third time or risk its minimal prospect by letting him be. For sure, the BJP knows that even a microscopic search cannot identify a leader that can rival a KTR or Harish Rao of the BRS, leave alone the towering K Chandrashekar Rao.

With nothing in place and everything in disarray, the BJP will have no option but to continue its politics. Maybe, it will have to lick its wound in remorse if Modi falls short of the numbers in Lok Sabha that could be added by KCR, for pushing the latter to a corner by antagonising him to a point of no return.

KCR must be basking in the afterglow of the Congress victory in Karnataka, not because he has any camaraderie with the Congress but surely on the basis of the dictum - “enemy’s enemy is my friend” - albeit momentarily.

That doesn’t mean KCR has any special love for the Congress. He will not forget how he was humiliated when he offered an olive branch of merging the Telangana Rashtra Samithi with the Congress in keeping with his promise to repay the gratitude to the grand old party for granting a separate Telangana.

KCR usurped Congress MLAs to fatten his numbers in the Assembly — understandably in the first term (2014-18) and unnecessarily in the second term (2018-23). He has buttressed his acts of commission by sheer dint of his gift of the gab.

TPCC has ‘imported’ president

The Congress, with Karnataka triumph, may mop up some financial muscle to fight Telangana polls. But even its (cheer) leader A Revanth Reddy is no more than a rabble-rouser. He continues to carry the stigma of not only carrying bags to TRS MLC Stevenson on behalf of the TDP but also the smudge that he still is the puppet in the hands of his “puppeteer” and TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu. His leadership lacks acceptance among many Congressmen who are bearing with him because of his marketability rather than popularity.

Plus, the internecine feuds plaguing the Congress would never be eschewed by the warlords most of whom are self-proclaimed Chief Ministerial candidates. With the party being decimated and relegated to a discomfited third position in every byelection that happened in Telangana since 2018, Revanth Reddy’s leadership only contributed to the worsening of the sagging morale of the cadres.

Barring its committed – though shrinking – vote bank, there isn’t any good news appearing even at the end of the proverbial tunnel for the flustered leadership. The top echelons of the Congress could not control the Telangana leaders from indulging in skullduggery within the party at their own peril. Congress never made an attempt to cohesively bind the leaders together and fortify its cadre base. With a TPCC president, imported from the TDP, surely the Congress is not ready to take on a mighty KCR.

Also, the BRS supremo is purportedly contemplating replacing some MLAs to insulate the party from any embarrassment. Thus, Karnataka’s loss may not offer any learnings to the BJP and any strength to the Congress in Telangana.

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