As Telangana goes to the polls, on November 30, the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi has taken inspiration from Team India’s performance at the ongoing ODI World Cup. Hoping to emulate the cricket team, the party has launched a campaign asserting that, just as India will lift its third trophy, the party will also win Telangana for the third time. Leading from the front is captain K. Chandrashekar Rao; the others include a mix of family members, seasoned politicians and former bureaucrats. Here’s a look at the KCR XI:
Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao
The chief minister and BRS president is a product of grassroots politics. Starting as a Youth Congress worker, KCR switched teams to play for the Telugu Desam Party and defeated the seemingly invincible Congress MLA, Madan Mohan, from Siddipet. He continued winning and eventually became deputy speaker of united Andhra Pradesh.
In 2001, however, he quit the TDP to form his own party―the Telangana Rashtra Samithi―to agitate for a separate state. In the next decade, he joined hands with the Congress and the TDP, resigned from his parliament and assembly seats multiple times, motivated people to join the movement, and also undertook a fast unto death. Telangana was created in 2014. Since then, KCR has twice served as chief minister of the new state.
Those who have closely interacted with him mention his meticulous planning and eagerness to grasp any subject. One of his favourite topics is agriculture, which led to him designing multiple schemes around it. In his first two terms, KCR has focused a lot on welfare schemes for the poor and those from various communities, who form a good chunk of the party’s vote bank. Like during the past two elections, KCR, this time, too, is boarding choppers to attend two or three campaign meetings every day.
K.T. Rama Rao
KTR, the vice-captain of the team, is the first to take strike when it comes to fighting the opposition, explaining the party’s stance or championing his father’s initiatives.
The BRS working president is a two-time state minister and is known, like his father, for his articulate speeches. He is also known to play a pivotal role within the council of ministers in matters of information technology, corporate affairs and industrial policy, and is also involved in the development and modernisation of Hyderabad.
T. Harish Rao
An all-rounder who has honed his skills under the tutelage of his uncle, KCR, Harish enjoys a high strike rate; the party chief relies heavily on him for strategies and execution. During election time, he assumes the roles of troubleshooter and poll management expert, and is deployed in constituencies crucial to the party. He inherited Siddipet after his uncle vacated the seat and has consistently won it with record margins. He indirectly manages KCR’s constituency―Gajwel―and oversees ground-level activities. Entrusted with the irrigation ministry to execute the Kaleshwaram project, he was later appointed to the finance ministry when the state was cash-strapped. Harish also took over as health minister during the pandemic. For the captain, his nephew is the man for all seasons and reasons.
K. Vamshidhar Rao
A recent debutant from the Kalvakuntla family, Vamshidhar is steadily gaining prominence within the team. He is the son of KCR’s elder brother, and has, of late, been seen in the chief minister’s company. Vamshidhar plays a crucial role in KCR’s national ambition. He was appointed Maharashtra BRS in-charge this year; under him, the party recently won more than 50 gram panchayat seats there.
Palla Rajeshwar Reddy
The PhD holder and nominated MLC has been KCR’s trusted associate for a long time. Whether it is an internal party meeting, unofficial discussions, or a puja ceremony, Reddy is one of the few always seen with KCR. His significance can be gauged from the fact that he was the chairman of the Rythu Bandhu Samithi, a government body formed for farmer welfare. Reddy is now gearing up to contest the assembly elections from Jangaon. He might find a place in the cabinet if the BRS returns to power.
B. Vinod Kumar
One of the most senior members of the team, Vinod Kumar is the vice-chairman of the Telangana State Planning Board. The former MP was considered to be close to KCR even before the latter became chief minister. He usually enters the field when statements need to be made on national issues or to take a stand against national parties or the Centre’s policies. KCR is also known to include him in discussions related to national politics. He is seen as a knowledge bank on the topics of economy and policy.
D. Damodar Rao
Rao is a chartered accountant, businessman, Rajya Sabha member and a calculative bowler. KCR is known to depend on him in financial matters. Previously treasurer of the BRS, Damodar Rao also exerts influence in the news media space. He is the managing director of Telangana Publications Private Limited, which operates the Telugu newspaper Namasthe Telangana and the English daily Telangana Today, which are aligned with the BRS.
S. Narsing Rao
The state government’s principal secretary comes with a wealth of knowledge in the coal and energy sector. A former IAS officer, Narsing Rao was chairman of Coal India and Singareni Collieries Company Limited, which operates coal mines across the Godavari region. He joined the government in 2014 and has been with KCR’s team ever since. He is seen as the chief minister’s go-to man for administration and energy-related issues.
A former IAS officer and veteran member of the team, Sharma was Telangana’s first chief secretary. According to sources, he is KCR’s go-to man for governance and administration issues, for almost a decade. After retiring, he was appointed the state government’s chief adviser. He was closely involved in the reorganisation of districts, a pet project of the chief minster.
There is another reason KCR favoured Sharma in the first place. He was part of the Union home ministry when the state was bifurcated, and has great knowledge of the technical issues related to the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act.
The importance of the former IAS officer can be gauged from the fact that he resigned from his post after being allotted the Andhra Pradesh cadre, only to join the Telangana government as a chief adviser to KCR. Earlier, as chief secretary, he was known for implementing the chief minister’s orders with precision and in totality. KCR’s ‘blue-eyed boy’ has been tested as a hard hitter in the past nine years, including as part of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation and the revenue department when the government wanted more revenue from registrations and excise. His performance has earned him the image of a difficult taskmaster and has made him a permanent fixture in the team.
P. Rajasekhar Reddy
A retired IFS officer, he is now the special secretary to the chief minister. Ask anyone in the power circles of Telangana, and the name Rajasekhar Reddy pops up repeatedly. A trusted officer in the chief minister’s office, Reddy usually carries out KCR’s orders and serves as his eyes and ears within the government.