In Stalin Meeting With KCR, The Looming Rahul Gandhi Factor

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao will meet DMK chief MK Stalin in Chennai today after an earlier request for an appointment was thwarted. Why would KCR, as he is known, a Chief Minister who won a colossal majority in his state and is predicted to win a majority of the Lok Sabha seats in Telangana, travel to meet Stalin, an opposition leader in a neighbouring state? That too when he knows that leader is part of an alliance with the Congress that KCR had earlier distanced himself from?

When May 13 was initially announced as the date on which KCR would meet Stalin, the enthusiasm on the Telangana Chief Minister's side was not met with quite the same excitement and warmth on the DMK side. Stalin was declared as busy with campaigning for crucial by-elections to four Tamil Nadu assembly seats on May 19 and the meeting was then put on hold.


KCR's agenda today is to try and convince Stalin to dump the Congress and Chandrababu Naidu's TDP after the results on May 23 (File photo)

Confirmed now for today, the session has been described as a courtesy call. "When the Chief Minister of a neighbouring state is visiting, we must meet him as a matter of courtesy,'' a DMK source said, urging that political observers need not read more into the meeting.

KCR is already in Tamil Nadu, having flown in to Trichy yesterday on a special aircraft. As is his wont, his family and he will visit prominent temples before the meeting in Chennai later this afternoon.

KCR has been trying to a forge a non-BJP, non-Congress Federal Front. He is convinced that both these national parties will not be able to form a government on their own and this will lead to an opportunity for regional parties and leaders like Stalin, HD Kumaraswamy, Mamata Banerjee and him to combine.

sonia gandhi mayawati mamata

Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy turned his oath ceremony into a huge opposition conclave in May 2018

Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSR Congress, who hopes that he will do well in both assembly and parliament elections in Andhra Pradesh (some forecasts see him displacing Chandrababu Naidu), has already said that he will work together with KCR - as a combo, they will wield significant influence.

While Jagan has officially said he will support any party that grants special category status to Andhra Pradesh, KCR could be angling for Deputy Prime Minister; if this is his ambition, as some suggest, it would help to have other leaders from the south backing his call for a southern leader to take the country's second most powerful position (should such a role be created).

That is why he is reaching out to Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy; his conversations with Mamata Banerjee would skew towards a Federal Front.


YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy has officially said he will support any party that grants special category status to Andhra Pradesh

However, KCR in the past has supported the BJP in crucial votes in parliament. So non-BJP parties aren't necessarily willing to buy his new stated position.

KCR's agenda today is to try and convince Stalin to dump the Congress after the results on May 23, and along with it, his bête noire in the sister Telugu state, Chandrababu Naidu's TDP.

This even though Stalin was the first to propose Rahul Gandhi for Prime Minister in one of the first meetings in Chennai of the non-BJP formation. That could be one reason Stalin was reluctant to meet KCR.


DMK's MK Stalin has proposed Rahul Gandhi's name as the opposition's PM candidate in 2019 elections

It is also true that Stalin busy campaigning in four assembly constituencies where by-polls are to be held on 19th May. These elections are politically crucial for the DMK. Stalin has already tweeted saying these elections should bring a change in government both at the centre and in Tamil Nadu, where the outcome of by-polls could see the AIADMK government fall.

KCR no doubt had a far smoother conversation last week in his meeting with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan It would have been easier for KCR to talk business with Mr Vijayan as the Congress is the CPM's principal rival in Kerala. Rahul Gandhi's decision to contest the Lok Sabha election from Wayanad in Kerala, where Mr Vijayan's alliance has its own candidate, has also caused animosity between the Left and the Congress. However, the Left and Congress are on the same side with the DMK in Tamil Nadu.


Sources close to the Telangana Chief Minister have ruled out his presence at the opposition meet after Lok Sabha election results 

KCR's job is to convince Stalin to keep his options open. DMK sources say Stalin will try to convince KCR to support a front with the Congress in it.

That's a tough ask. The Congress and Rahul Gandhi have repeatedly called KCR a "Chotta Modi" and KCR has called Rahul Gandhi "a buffoon". But political expediency often overrides political bitterness.

Who will convince whom will depend not so much on their lobbying abilities but the political situation after May 23.

So any taking of sides will be subject to rearrangement.

(Uma Sudhir is Executive Editor, NDTV)

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