Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao, the first chief minister of Telangana, dissolved the state assembly in early September, eight months before the end of its term, and announced polls in December. He pitched this as a reaction to Telangana’s “political fragility”—caused, he said, by the opposition’s attacks on his government—but even with his silver tongue he could not make the excuse sound convincing. Telangana’s next state election was due to coincide with the 2019 general election. Rao—better known by his initials, KCR—acted to avoid that situation, in which his rhetoric of state pride risked being drowned out by the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaigns for national power.
KCR’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi can also now focus all its resources on one battle at a time, rather than split its strength across two battles simultaneously. First the TRS must take on the Congress, its biggest rival in the state, which still draws some goodwill from the fact that it was a Congress-led national government that bifurcated Andhra Pradesh to create Telangana in 2014. Next it will challenge the Congress and the BJP in the Lok Sabha races, knowing that a healthy number of seats can earn it a say in who takes control at the centre.
In the first battle, “nobody is even close according to my surveys,” KCR said at a press conference to announce the early state election. When somebody asked if he was making a defensive move, he said, “I am KCR. Do I get scared?” The chief minister has reason to be brash—surveys have, in fact, predicted a comfortable TRS victory. But the state he will likely continue to rule has less cause for optimism.