As the assembly and Lok Sabha election results were pouring in on May 16, a disappointed Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhara Rao, aka KCR, turned to his aides and said, “ I think it’s time to shut the shop.”
The party that KCR set up in 2001 with a single-point agenda – statehood for the underdeveloped Telangana region – managed just 10 assembly and two Lok Sabha seats – one being KCR himself.
Even KCR himself narrowly escaped defeat from Mehboobnagar constituency in Hyderabad, his stronghold.
This happened in 2009 despite the TRS bagging 26 assembly and five Lok Sabha seats in 2004 and playing a pivotal role in the formation of UPA I.
With KCR’s trusted associates turning their backs on him for resigning twice and making his MPs, MLAs follow suit without achieving anything, he was forced to even think of leaving the leadership to others.
But then the wiry and strong-willed KCR hit upon a winning strategy, hunger strike that made the Centre sit up.
“The TRS is not just a political party. Though electoral politics did not pay off, we realised the importance of keeping the sentiment alive,” said B. Vinod Kumar, former TRS MP and politburo member.
“KCR, even after being defeated in elections, realised the need to ignite the passion for a separate state. Now, he has once again become the icon of Telangana,” Professor K. Nageshwar of Osmania University said.
With the recent Supreme Court decision that declared Hyderabad a free zone — allowing people from Rayalaseema region to take government jobs in Telangana — causing a flare-up, KCR carefully chose his strategy. And the result was much more than what KCR himself must have expected.