PV’s daughter Vani wins council seat; it is KCR’s master stroke

M Somasekhar

Is it KCR’s master stroke, PV’s legacy or the graduates mood for a change that has successfully catapulted S Vani Devi, the daughter of late Prime Minister, PV Narasimha Rao into Politics?

The convincing victory of the TRS choice, a ‘political greenhorn’  against 3 veterans of the Opposition, BJP’s sitting MLC,  N Ramchander Rao, Cong(I)’s,  G Chinna Reddy and the 2 time MLC and Independent candidate Prof K Nageshwar, is indeed a fine statement by K Chandrasekhar Rao, the Telangana State Chief Minister.

Incidentally, the Party’s other candidate Palle Rajeswara Reddy too cruised to an easy victory, retaining the Warangal-Khammam-Nalgonda graduates Constituency, defeating Prof M Kodandaram of the Telangana Jana Samithi and Teenmaar Mallanna, a bitter critic of the TRS regime, specially KCR, propped up popularity on social media and TV channels.

Thus, the victories, coming after nearly a week of painstaking procedure of voting ( March 14) and counting to results on Saturday, will be ‘sweet and surely’ act as a booster dose for the TRS. Particularly in the context of the ruling party smarting under the setbacks suffered in the GHMC elections in Hyderabad and Dubbak, by-polls to the Assembly. In the bargain, they appeared to be losing voter ground and debating space in the public mind of late.

In short, the elections to the two MLC seats from graduate constituencies could be viewed as the quick learning and strategy by TRS and over confidence of the BJP. The once powerful Cong (I) anyway is shrinking rapidly in the State with lack of strong leadership and cohesion in its cadres.

KCR strategy pays

The win by the 59-year-old, Surabhi Vani Devi, a noted artist, an educationist and a social activist, who founded the Sri Venkateswara College of Fine Arts and Architecture and Surabhi Educational Society is significant and comes as a ‘whiff of fresh air’ in the political scenario. It bolsters the woman strength in the TRS, which is very low and also marks the success of a strategy KCR seems to have crafted for these elections.

Allegations apart, from the use of money power to dividing votes on caste lines to hijacking the legacy of P V Narasimha Rao by TRS made by the opposition, it’s undoubtedly a smart move by KCR, that has clicked.

The twin wins will spur the TRS cadres to be more confident and prepare for the upcoming by-elections to the Nagarjuna Sagar Assembly seat in April.

Constituency dynamics managed well

The first and most important thing that the TRS chief did during the elections was to marshal his party leaders, especially T Harish Rao and ran a well orchestrated campaign.

The second thing was springing a surprise by choosing Vani Devi as the candidate. By doing so, he sent a clear message that the TRS ‘Respected and owned’, former PM, P V Narasimha Rao as a ‘Telangana Bidda’.
Now, coming to the constituency and the electorate itself, with over 5.17 lakh graduates in the state capital and surrounding districts, the voters present a good mix. The presence of sizeable voters belonging to the Seemandra region, women and minority communities is significant.

Having learnt it’s lessons, the TRS and KCR made good moves to win over these sections effectively, through a focussed campaign with its top leaders, T Harish Rao, K T Rama Rao, T Srinivas Yadav and K Kesava Rao to name a few. The party’s understanding with the MIM and its leader Asaduddin Owaisi too paid dividends in the voting.

On the other hand, the BJP, riding on over confidence based on their stellar performance in the GHMC polls, showed laxity. It’s over emphasis on ‘Big development promises, without much backing and polarisation politics’ combined with apathy of the cadre definitely cost its candidate, the lawyer, Ramchander lose an important seat.

Prof  Nageshwar, a two time MLC, accepted defeat midway through the counting itself. An Independent backed by the Left parties and Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS), the Professor of Journalism from Osmania University and an articulate commentator on economic and political issues, clearly lost ground this time.

PV’s legacy

The TRS and KCR Government have been shrewd in deriving political mileage from the image of former PM, PV Narasimha Rao.

Not only has the KCR Government put up a statue, named the popular Necklace road around the Hussain Sagar Lake as P V Gnana Marg, but has been systematically projecting P V at crucial junctures for political advantage. This includes, announcing that State Assembly will pass a resolution requesting a Bharat Ratna t for PV.

The strategic appropriation of PV’s legacy and pitching Vani Devi had twin intentions—hit the Cong (l), which has miserably failed as far as the former PM is concerned. In fact, the Telangana Congress Party has even failed him, by virtually ignoring his contributions lest they attract the wrath of the Party High Command, specially the President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, whose dislike for PV is no secret.

At the same time, the move effectively blunted any feeble attempts by the BJP to use PV for any political advantage against the TRS and grab the space from the Cong (l). Some political analysts also saw a clear splitting in the ‘Brahmin vote’ from the BJP.

The CM’s bold move also comes in the background of his Government announcing elaborate activities to commemorate the Centenary of PV Narasimha Rao starting from June 28, 2020. What better return than seeing his daughter’s win, was a well calculated, emotive gamble indeed.

Though Vani Devi is new to electoral politics, she hails from an active family of politicians. Her brothers, late PV Ranga Rao, was an MLA and State Minister in Cong (I) and Mr P V Rajeswara Rao a Lok Sabha MP from Secunderabad.

Also, long before KCR, it was the Telugu Desam founder and former Chief Minister of combined Andhra Pradesh, Mr N T Rama Rao, who first raised the emotive ‘Telugu Bidda’ angle to P V Narasimha Rao in 1991. PV had become the PM, after the tragic assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and the Cong (I) emerged as the leading party. However, PV had to get elected to Parliament and was made to contest from Nandyal Lok Sabha seat in 1991. NTR magnanimously did not put up a candidate.

The Telangana Chief Minister, who does not hide his admiration for NTR and having closely worked with him also has emerged as a strong leader, capable of surprises and bold moves. The success of picking the well educated and noted academician-daughter of the late PV and getting her elected proves this point.

Somasekhar Mulugu, former Associate Editor & Chief of Bureau of The Hindu BusinessLine, is a well-known political, business and science writer and analyst based in Hyderabad