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Will Telangana see the birth of another powerful regional party? The political circles in the state are abuzz with the talk of a regional party as an alternative to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which has been dominating the political scene since the formation of the state nearly seven years ago.
This comes amid the attempts by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to emerge as an alternative and Congress trying to revive its fortunes in its former stronghold.
Leaders who differ with the style of functioning of TRS supremo and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao have started publicly speaking on the need to form a regional party.
They argue that states with more than one regional party have seen speedy development.
However, political analysts say the emergence of a second strong regional party in Telangana looks difficult in the absence of a charismatic personality who can take on KCR, as Chandrasekhar Rao is popularly known.
"An issue is the predominant factor that resulted in formation of regional parties in South India. Dravidian movement led to the DMK, Telugu pride led to the TDP, and strong desire for a separate Telangana led to the TRS. In at least two out of these three instances, personality did not matter. However, when it comes to the formation of a second regional political outfit, personality led the movement. Charisma of MGR gave birth to the AIADMK, and YSR's popularity even after his death helped Jagan start the YSRCP. And in both these cases, individuals were able to garner support more than an issue," pointed out analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.
"Coming to Telangana, desire for a separate State helped KCR, and resulted in success of TRS. A prominent personality who can be more popular than KCR himself, and have the credibility, and trust of people are minimum parameters required to start a second regional party in Telangana. Irrespective of this, one can start a party, but will it be as successful, is debatable," he said.
The recent developments including the impressive performance of independent candidate Teenmar Mallanna in the election to Legislative Council from graduates' constituency sparked the debate on regional party.
Former Congress MP Konda Vishweshwar Reddy hinted at floating a new regional party with an aim to defeat TRS in 2023 elections.
Vishweshwar Reddy, who last month quit the Congress party, wants to bring together leaders like Teenmaar Mallanna, Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) leader M. Kodandaram and even those TRS leaders who are unhappy with KCR but are unable to speak out due to lack of an alternative.
Vishweshwar Reddy wants to provide a platform to all dissenting voices within TRS who are critical of KCR's style of functioning and the domination of his family.
Vishweshwar Reddy, who was with TRS before switching loyalties to the Congress, is of the view that both the Congress and BJP can't be alternative to the TRS.
He is also not averse to the idea of joining a new party started by someone. "I am looking into the possibilities of whether to float a party or to join a new party started by someone else or to be an independent," Vishweshwar Reddy said.
An entrepreneur and one of the richest politicians in the country, Vishweshwar Reddy has started consultations with leaders from various political parties on his plans to float a new party.
He is also mulling to unite all smaller parties and strong independent candidates to form a formidable and viable alternative to the TRS.
Reddy would soon meet Cheruku Sudhakar of Telangana Inti Party and Jitta Balakrishna Reddy and Rani Rudrama of Yuva Telangana Party and other leaders of various other smaller parties.
He also tried to reach out to Health Minister Eatala Rajender, who is believed to have differences with KCR.
Reddy claimed that the TRS leaders were scared to talk to him as they suspected that his phone was tapped by the state Intelligence.
Interestingly, the talk of a regional party started amid efforts by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy's sister Y.S. Sharmila to float a party in Telangana.
Sharmila has been holding a series of consultations with loyalists of her late father and former Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy to finalise her plans to begin her political journey in Telangana.
Leaders of both the Congress and BJP have claimed that KCR is behind Sharmila's plans to split the anti-TRS votes.
Vishweshwar Reddy has ruled out joining Sharmila's proposed party saying the family Rajasekhara Reddy had vehemently opposed the formation of the Telangana State.
The 61-year-old Reddy was the richest parliamentarian in 16th Lok Sabha after he was elected on a TRS ticket from the Chevella constituency in 2014 by defeating his nearest rival P. Kartik Reddy of the Congress by a margin of over 73,000 votes.
In November, 2018, a few weeks before the Assembly elections, Reddy quit TRS to join the Congress. He alleged that the party had done injustice to activists who worked for the Telangana statehood and inducted those who were against Telangana and TRS ideology and made them ministers.
Vishweshwar Reddy, who is husband of Apollo Group's Joint Managing Director Dr. Sangeeta Reddy, contested 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Chevella on a Congress ticket but lost to TRS candidate Dr. G. Ranjith Reddy by nearly 14,000 votes.
Vishweshwar Reddy's father Konda Madhav Reddy is a former chief justice of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh while his grandfather Konda Venkata Ranga Reddy was a freedom fighter and served as deputy chief minister of Andhra Pradesh from 1959 to 1962. Ranga Reddy district bordering Hyderabad is named after Konda Venkata Ranga Reddy.
Teenmaar Mallanna's impressive performance in the recent elections to Telangana Legislative Council also sparked the debate on the need for a regional party.
As an independent candidate, the television presenter surprised everyone by giving a tough fight to TRS candidate Palla Rajeshwar Reddy in Nalgonda-Warangal-Khammam Graduates' constituency.
Chinthapandu Naveen (39), popularly known as Teenmaar Mallanna, finished runners up with 1.49 lakh first and second preference votes.
He is known for his bitter attacks against the TRS government and KCR on his web-based news portal, which has about nine lakh subscribers on YouTube.
The TV presenter became popular with news show in colloquial language and in a satirical format.
Teenmaar Mallanna had contested on a Congress ticket for the same seat in 2015 but finished third with 13,033 first priority votes.
This time, he pushed Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) president Prof. M. Kodandaram to the third position.
Kodandaram was expected to give a tough fight to the ruling party candidate. A close friend of KCR during the Telangana movement, Kodandaram later became a bitter critic of his style of functioning and policies.
Though Teenmaar Mallanna stated that he has no plans to float a party, his plans indicate that he is keen to provide an alternative to the TRS. He announced that he will undertake a 6,000 km long padayatra or walkathon and also set up Teenmaar Mallanna teams at state, district and constituency levels.
It remains to be seen if Vishweshwar Reddy succeeds in bringing together smaller parties and cobbles up an alternative to the TRS.