By Mohammed Shafeeq, Hyderabad, Feb 21 IANS | 10 months ago

With Telangana set to become the 29th state in India, Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhara Rao will go down in history as the man who played a key role by reviving the movement for separate state 14 years ago.

KCR, as he is popularly known among his supporters, almost achieved the goal in 2009 by going on an indefinite fast, forcing the central government to announce that the process for a separate Telangana state will be initiated. However, the backlash in Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions forced the centre to put the issue in cold storage.

While the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and even Telangana leaders of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are now trying to take credit, even the bitter critics of 60-year-old KCT admit that it was he who started alone by floating Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).

He resigned as deputy speaker of the Andhra Pradesh assembly and quit the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to revive the movement, which was all but dead despite the massive agitation in 1969.

Hailing from Medak district, the frail-looking KCR gave the slogan of self-respect and self-rule. With his trade-mark Telangana lingo, he proved a crowd puller. Known for his acerbic criticism of rivals with a mixture of Telugu and Urdu words, he galvanised people's support by highlighting the injustices meted out to the region since its merger with Andhra Pradesh when the liguistic state was formed in 1956.

His remarks and slogans like "Telangana waley jago, Andhra waley bhago" ((Arise people of Telangana, run away people of Andhra) made him controversial. He did not spare Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh either for going back on the Dec 9, 2009, announcement and even threatened "civil war" and "bloodbath".

He built the TRS into a key political force in the region. Realising this, the Congress entered into an alliance with the TRS in 2004 by promising to look into Telangana demand. Making an impressive debut, the TRS bagged 26 assembly and five Lok Sabha seats but could not emerge as a kingmaker in the state.

His credibility took a beating with his decision to join the Congress-led coalitions both at the centre and in the state but he argued it is part of his strategy to achieve the final goal.

Though KCR succeeded in taking the Telangana issue to the centre stage and extracted promises from the Congress-led UPA government, for some years he failed to achieve his goal.

His flip-flop on the issue, the repeated deadlines he fixed for achieving the goal, his perceived dictatorial attitude and controversial decisions disillusioned the party cadre and 10 legislators staged a revolt.

He pulled out of coalition governments and threatened to expose the Congress for betraying people of Telangana. However, his gamble of going for by-elections in 2008 boomeranged on him as the TRS could retain only seven assembly and two Lok Sabha seats.

He found a new ally in the TDP after it backed the demand for a separate Telangana stat before the 2009 elections.

The TRS contested 50 of the 119 assembly seats in the Telangana region but won only 10. The Congress retained power and then chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy interpreted the TRS' rout as the vote against bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.

KCR's party was in total disarray with leaders unhappy with him deserting the TRS. Rajasekhara Reddy was also trying to woo its leaders. The death of the chief minister in a helicopter crash in September 2009, however, dramatically changed the political scene.

A month later, when the Supreme Court declared Hyderabad a free zone in matters of recruitment to police department, KCR saw an opportunity to bounce back. The TRS started protests and KCR himself went on hunger strike.

His deteriorating condition and massive protests across the region again forced the centre to concede the demand.

Though the centre backtracked, the movement for separate state had reached every home in the region. Mass protests and suicide of over 900 people forced all parties to come together for a common goal.

KCR, a four-time member of the Andhra Pradesh assembly, also served as minister in the TDP government. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from Karimnagar in 2004 and from Mahabubnagar in 2009.

He has two children - son K. Tarakarama Rao is a member of the assembly and daughter K. Kavitha heads Telangana Jagruthi, a cultural group.

(Posted on 21-02-2014)

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