Watch Nidhi Razdan: In India KCR moves close to the BJP Video Credit: Gulf News

Last month, as opposition leaders gathered in Patna for what was their first major gathering - with even political foes like Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee sharing a stage - one of the notable absentees was the BRS, lead by K Chandrashekar Rao, the Chief Minister of Telangana.

The absence of the BRS in Patna was actually not unexpected at all given the political developments of the last few months, but as far as optics are concerned it was quite telling that on the exact same day as the opposition gathering, the BRS’s top leaders were busy meeting central ministers in Delhi on the same day to push for “development” work for the state. This has lead to whispers that the BRS has entered into a secret understanding with the BJP which KCR vehemently denies.

Only months earlier, KCR was trying to take the lead in bringing a non-Congress, non-BJP front together. He was relentlessly attacking the Modi government and the BJP, often personally going after the Prime Minister. He even refused to receive Mr. Modi at the airport on more than one visit to Hyderabad.

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Softening to the BJP

But lately, KCR has been quieter, attacking the Congress instead of the BJP, and has even called Prime Minister Modi a ‘good friend’ very recently. Raising more eyebrows in political circles, his party the BRS, also ended a boycott of meetings called by the centre by attending Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent meeting on Manipur.

Since November 2020, the BRS had boycotted all central meetings, with KCR even skipping a NITI aayog meeting chaired by the Prime Minister only a couple of months ago.

There are two major factors at play here. One, the BRS has always been against any tie up which involves the Congress simply because the Congress is its main rival in the state where polls are due in the next few months. Analysts have pointed out that the BJP, which was seemingly doing well in Telangana, is now on the backfoot in the state, thanks to a weak leadership and infighting.

On the other hand, the Congress has got a huge boost with the emphatic win in Karnataka and suddenly appears to be on the upswing in Telangana. So for KCR, it is critical to keep a distance from the Congress at this time.

On a mission

KCR is also being accused by the opposition of helping the BJP. This is because he has decided to expand his party in other states like Maharashtra where he has announced that the BRS will contest and Lok Sabha and assembly polls. For the last few months, KCR has held several rallies and meetings in Maharashtra.

The latest was a visit to Pandharpur with his colleagues that included a convoy of 600 cars, which set off alarm bells in the opposition Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi or MVA camp that this will split the anti BJP vote. It prompted NCP leader Sharad Pawar to publicly question whether the BRS is the B team of the BJP.

KCR meanwhile slammed Maharashtra opposition leaders in his latest rally accusing them of doing nothing for Maharashtra and emphasised that the BRS is not just a regional party, but a national player with a mission to bring about change in India.

Fear of investigative agencies 

But there is another reason for KCR’s softening towards the BJP and his hardened position vis a vis the opposition. That is the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) money laundering investigation into the Delhi liquor policy case in which KCR’s daughter, Kavitha, has been questioned by the agency. The AAP’s Manish Sisodia is currently in judicial custody in the same matter.

At one point earlier this year, Kavitha’s arrest also looked imminent, but the agency has not really moved in the case in recent weeks and has gone underground on Kavitha. It has fuelled speculation that pressure from the ED is forcing KCR to keep his options open post 2024.

In the end though, any split in opposition votes for the Lok Sabha will most likely end up helping the BJP. Asaduddin Owaisi and his AIMIM face the same criticism as he eats into Congress votes but he too denies any secret deal with the BJP. How this will play out will be the game to watch.