Broken Record

The BRS refuses to learn from its loss of Telangana

A view of the crowd during an election rally of the BRS chief, K Chandrasekhar Rao, in Telangana's Kamareddy district, on 9 November. The BRS’s leadership had lost any mechanism through which it could get necessary feedback from the state’s social, economic and geographic margins. Chandradeep Kumar / The India Today Group / Getty Images
31 December, 2023

K Taraka Rama Rao, the Bharat Rashtra Samiti’s working president and former information technology minister of Telangana, seemed to, initially at least, take the loss of his party in the state’s recent polls well. The day before counting, with a garish photo of himself holding a pistol, KTR seemed to be sure of a third term in power, tweeting, “Hattrick Loading 3.0 … Get ready to celebrate guys.” As the results rolled in, marking a historic loss for the party—squandering nearly ten percentage points in a single term—he quoted his own gun-toting tweet, in good humour and with an extra smiling emoticon, writing, “This one ain’t gonna age well … Missed the mark.”

While the results were still coming in, a reporter asked KTR what he thought went wrong for the party. He said he could not be sure until he spoke to his party’s candidates but noted that he would have enough time to ponder the question now that he was in opposition. A month later, he seems to not have yet landed on an answer. His cheerful and sportsmanlike demeanour at the loss was replaced by aggression; he hit back at political opponents who suggested that the BRS had misgoverned the state. The Telangana governor, Tamilisai Soundararajan—who was appointed to the position after a predictably unsuccessful career trying to grow the Bharatiya Janata Party in Tamil Nadu—said in her address inaugurating the new state assembly that the state had been “liberated from ten years of repression.”

In seeming advocacy of the incoming Congress government—a bonhomie between BJP-appointed governors and south Indian Congress leaders was visible in Kerala too—Soundararajan continued, “The iron barricades that divided rulers from the people have been dismantled. I feel proud to say that the glass houses and obstacles have been removed and the true people’s governance has begun.” KTR struck back by calling Soundararajan’s address “politically and intellectually bankrupt.”

Following the governor’s speech, the new chief minister, Revanth Reddy—whose own political education came from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s student wing—said that the BRS should be blamed for “failing to give jobs, failing to stop farmer suicides, and failing to stop migration of people to other places in search of livelihood.” KTR’s response outlined the Congress’s failures from a decade past, outlining the poverty and misery that had led to the burgeoning of the Telangana movement. “In the Congress government, the people used to rely on Bombai, Boggubai and Dubai,” he said, referring to Mumbai, the coal mines and foreign jobs that had grown to be Telangana’s economic lifeline before statehood. “Congress rule was all about cries of hunger, drought, curfew, encounters, cracked dry land, scarcity of drinking and irrigation water, no electricity, fluorosis in Nalgonda, child marriages in old city and migration from Mahbubnagar.”