Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao was an enthusiastic supporter of the BJP-led NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind around this time five years back, with his party Telangana Rashtra Samithi often backing the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government on key issues in Parliament.
In a sign of how sour things have turned between him and the BJP now, Rao on Saturday skipped a ceremonial welcome for Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his arrival in the city where the BJP is holding its national executive meeting to plan, among other things, the Telangana CM’s ouster from power.
Rao instead accorded a warm welcome to the Opposition’s presidential candidate Yashwant Sinha. That Sinha arrived here on the same day Modi did was seen as more than a mere coincidence.
The TRS has dismissed the BJP meet as a ”circus” where political ”tourists” from across the country will gather while the saffron party accused him of insulting not an individual but the institution by yet again not joining the customary welcome for the prime minister.
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While Rao has taken its battle against the BJP national, visiting different states and the national capital to work to forge an opposition alliance, the BJP has redoubled its efforts to end his reign in the resource-rich state where he is in power since 2014.
A few BJP leaders, who arrived in the city for the two-day national executive meet, were quick to draw a parallel between Rao and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray to assert that the state chief minister will meet the fate of the Maharashtra leader, a longtime BJP ally turned rival.
That the meeting is taking place in the immediate aftermath of the toppling of the Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government and the swearing-in of the dispensation led by the BJP and Shiv Sena rebels has made the comparison obvious.
Besides, the TRS was seen as a friendly party to the BJP before it turned against the saffron party gradually after the Modi government came to power for a second term in 2019.
The TRS was also a member of the BJP-led NDA during the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
BJP leaders blamed Rao’s ”frustration and anger” with the party after he sensed the potential for its rise in the state.
After its surprise win in four Lok Sabha seats in Telangana, where its only three candidates had won in the assembly polls held months before the 2019 parliamentary election, the BJP went into overdrive to fill the opposition space as the Congress weakened, winning two crucial assembly bypolls and putting up an impressive show in the Hyderabad municipal polls.
BJP leaders said the party’s rise has alarmed the TRS.
The BJP’s decision to choose Hyderabad for the meet is being seen as the clearest signal from the party that the state is the top priority in its agenda for expansion in territories where it remains relatively weak.
Since coming to power at the Centre in 2014, this is only the fourth time the party is holding its key national meet outside Delhi. It had held earlier meets in Odisha in 2017, Kerala in 2016, and Bengaluru in 2015.
All these states were chosen by the BJP for boosting its presence there. While it managed to dethrone the Congress from power in Karnataka, it has met only limited success in Odisha and remained a small player in Kerala.
People will keenly watch as to which of these trajectories the party’s progress in Telangana takes.