When a bypoll took place in the Nagarjunasagar assembly constituency, Telangana Rashtra Samithi supremo and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao selected young Nomula Bhagath, son of deceased MLA Narasimhaiah as the party’s candidate. After the CM sacked TRS minister E Rajender, pushing him into the arms of a waiting BJP, KCR made Kaushik Reddy, the Congress candidate from the Huzurabad constituency who had lost to Rajender, an MLC under the governor’s nominated quota. Kaushik is also a youth leader, like Nomula Bharath. The two incidents have clearly indicated how KCR is preparing his party for the next general elections. He is infusing young blood into the party, often at the cost of veterans.
In 1980s, as a young Congress leader, KCR himself had benefitted by switching over to the Telugu Desam Party launched by Telugu matinee idol NTR in the early 80s. From being an MLA, he went on to become a minister and deputy speaker, thereby earning his political spurs in the TDP. KCR then went on to establish TRS to achieve separate statehood for Telangana.
Family control over TRS
As such, from his own personal experience, he understands the importance of training young leaders to hold the reins within the party, as well the state administration. He has already made his son K T Rama Rao the working president of the TRS and a cabinet minister with several portfolios. KTR is ready to take over as chief minister any time. Similarly, Chandrasekhar Rao’s daughter Kavitha, a former Lok Sabha MP but an MLC now, has a grip over the party’s front organisations.
KCR understands the strengths and weakness of regional parties. He has very warm friendships with Naveen Patnaik, M K Stalin, Mamata Banerjee, H D Kumaraswamy, Akhilesh Yadav and other regional party leaders. He is now making every effort not to repeat the mistakes committed by other regional parties. That is why he is attracting as many young leaders as possible from other parties, including the BJP, into the TRS. He is elevating these young leaders by nominating them to various posts both within the party and in the government. He is thus providing them an opportunity to grow as powerful leaders.
Fresh faces, no baggage
A majority of people are happy with KCR’s functioning as CM, though not many of his own legislators. There is large-scale resentment among people against local MLAs. To come back to power once again in the next assembly polls, KCR has no option but to refuse tickets to the majority of the sitting MLAs. It is in this context that the role of young leaders becomes very important. A majority of these leaders will be TRS candidates in next elections. The advantage is that they will be young and fresh faces without any baggage.
A majority of voters in the country are below the age of 40 years. But a majority of the leaders elected are in the 60-year bracket. The country is desperately in need of young leaders. At several meetings in the recent past, KCR has talked about the need to bridge the gap between the voters and leaders. He knows that in 2019, hardly 1.5 per cent of Lok Sabha MPs were from the 25–30 age group, 12 per cent were aged between 30 and 40 years, while 16 per cent were from the 51–55 age bracket.
KCR wants to send more young leaders to Parliament and also give them a reasonably good share in the next assembly elections. He is further planning to rope in younger leaders from the Left parties, which have almost vanished from the state. Being a Congress leader himself, KCR knew the role played by young Turks in 60s in the Congress party for its total revamp.
TRS youth wings languish
But a strange factor in this scheme of things is KCR showing no interest in encouraging the youth wings of his party. These organisations are dormant and exist, for the most part, only on paper.
On the contrary, TPCC president A Revanth Reddy is nursing young leaders of grass-root organisations for the next polls. He is also trying to revitalise the Youth Congress and the NSUI in the state. Being a former TDP, TRS and BJP leader, Revanth Reddy is using his old contacts to invite young leaders from these parties to join the Congress. He has already appointed several young leaders in top positions within the party in the run-up to assembly polls.
At a time when the TRS and the Congress are grooming young talent, the state BJP is, however, still banking on its veteran leaders. Except the party president Sanjay, many top leaders of the party in Telangana are seniors. Similarly, after state Telugu Desam Party president L Ramana joined the TRS, the TDP has almost lost its relevance in Telangana state. It is expected that all TDP leaders and cadres will join either the TRS or Congress. Going by the trend, after the next general elections, young Turks will rule the roost in Telangana.
In neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, though the YSRC, under the leadership of young Jaganmohan Reddy, has a very good team of younger MLAs and MPs, they are not allowed any freedom. It will be good for Jagan’s party and AP if young leaders are given the required freedom.
The writer is a senior journalist based in Hyderabad
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