Hyderabad: K. Chandrashekhar Rao, who on Thursday took oath as Chief Minister of Telangana for a second consecutive term, remains an enigma for his supporters and critics alike.
From a rabble-rouser leading a masse movement for a separate state to embarking on building a new state and now turning his vision of ‘golden’ Telangana into a reality, he has donned different roles effortlessly over the last 17 years.
The 64-year-old, who led the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) to a landslide win in Assembly elections, is undoubtedly one of the most popular regional leaders India has seen in recent times.
In tune with the son of the soil image he cultivated over the years, KCR, as the TRS founder is popularly known, is well connected with the masses.
“Look how many people are cornering this lean man,” KCR poked fun at himself at a recent election meeting referring to the campaigning by his rivals including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) President N. Chandrababu Naidu.
A graduate in Arts, he is known for his oratory skills and delivers speeches laced with sarcasm in his inimitable style to target his rivals.
Often criticised by opponents for his ‘dictatorial’ attitude, KCR defends his style of functioning. “You may call me undemocratic but certain centralization of powers is required. Otherwise it becomes a circus,” said the TRS leader, never to mince a word.
Hailing from Chintamadaka village in Medak district, he took to politics in 1982. While serving as Vice President of Youth Congress, he was elected to Primary Agriculture Coperative Society.
In 1983 he joined the TDP floated by popular actor N.T. Rama Rao and contested from Siddipet constituency but lost narrowly. He was elected from the same constituency in 1985 and since then never lost an election.
KCR, who served as a Minister in Chandrababu Naidu’s cabinet (1995-99), was sulking when he was made Deputy Speaker of the Assembly after TDP returned to power in 1999. He quit the party and floated TRS in 2001 to revive the movement for Telangana state.
Considering the betrayal of Telangana cause by politicians in the past, few believed him when he began the journey. “Stone me to death if I betray the Telangana cause,” was his answer.
The 2004 elections came as a big moment for KCR as TRS won 26 Assembly and five Lok Sabha seats. KCR, who became a Minister in Congress-led UPA-1 at the Centre, succeeded in placing Telangana on the national agenda.
In 2009, he aligned with TDP but TRS tally came down drastically. With Congress retaining power and all odds against him, it looked it was all over for TRS.
The death of then Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash the same year gave an opportunity to KCR to bounce back. His indefinite hunger strike forced UPA-II to announce that the process for formation of Telangana state will be initiated.
When the Centre adopted delaying tactics, KCR joined hands with other pro-Telangana forces to launch a massive movement. Even his worst critics admit that the credit of making ‘Jai Telangana’ a household slogan goes to him.
When the Congress finally gave into the demand and created Telangana state in the hope of getting TRS into its fold, KCR, a wily politician he is, decided to chart his own course.
Riding on Telangana sentiment, KCR formed the first government in the new state. With a slew of schemes for various sections of people, KCR strengthened his mass base.
He took his opponents by surprise by going for early elections and won a massive mandate for a second term.
With KCR now planning an alternative to both the BJP and Congress at the national level, it should not be surprising if he causes a storm in Delhi.