IT WAS A SUNDAY morning in mid-December. All eyes were on an independent house in the plush Banjara Hills locality of Hyderabad. A Toyota Innova packed with Central Bureau of Investigation officials reached the house and subjected Kalvakuntla Kavitha to seven hours of questioning. After the CBI team left, Kavitha―daughter of Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, and member of legislative council from Nizamabad―came out, smiling and waving at her supporters. The CBI was probing her role in the Delhi liquor scam.
The next day, Kavitha was seen on stage issuing a clarion call to her followers: “Another situation has arisen. What we did in Telangana, we may have to replicate across the country. Get ready to travel to other states.” Payback was palpable.
Kavitha was rousing the members of Telangana Jagruthi, a socio-cultural outfit floated by her in 2006, which soft-launched her into politics. It worked towards promoting the traditions, art and festivals of the Telangana region, before the state was born in 2014. One of its biggest successes was popularising Bathukamma―a traditional flower festival of Telangana―on a national scale and projecting it as an element of self-respect and assertion for the people of Telangana. Through activities in Jagruthi and its various verticals Kavitha’s identity as a leader grew.
In 2014, Kavitha was elected as an MP for the first time and Jagruthi continued to flourish. But, in 2019, she lost in Nizamabad and the downturn of the organisation began. “Within the BRS [then TRS], it was felt that the organisation was irrelevant and not in tune with the party’s interests. Kavitha’s position was the weakest in the party,” said a senior member of the BRS.
It was in August 2022 that Kavitha’s name cropped up in the now-abandoned Delhi excise policy. BJP MP Parvesh Verma alleged that Kavitha was the linkwoman between the liquor mafia and the AAP government in Delhi. In the weeks that followed, Kavitha activated Telangana Jagruthi, and its offshoot, Bharat Jagruthi. At a meeting Kavitha said women in Telangana were not known to shed tears but sparks.
“We are strengthening committees and a strong movement will be launched soon. Till the Lok Sabha elections, we have a strategy to conduct full-fledged activities across universities in the country and connect with the youth. Kavitha will be the face of the campaign that will create awareness about the BRS as a national party and target the Union government,” said a Jagruthi leader who is privy to the internal meetings.
Not just Kavitha, some other top leaders from her party, too, have been under the scanner of one or more Central investigating agencies. In November last year, state labour minister and BRS MLA Malla Reddy’s properties were raided for suspected tax evasion. In the same month, the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI raided the house of Gangula Kamalakar, Telangana civil supplies minister, for a case related to irregularities in his family’s mining business. The ED attached properties of BRS MP Nama Nageswara Rao in a money laundering case. The CBI summoned Rajya Sabha member Vaddiraju Ravichandra and grilled the personal assistant of animal husbandry minister, Talasani Srinivas Yadav, in separate cases.
As the focus shifted to Kavitha in the second half of 2022, the opposition trained its guns on her. The Congress and the BJP targeted Kavitha after her name surfaced in the chargesheet. The politics of the state centred around her as she countered allegations, calling it a witch hunt aimed at derailing the national plans of the BRS. As the newspapers and social media discussed the case, many in her party rallied around Kavitha. Her public presence increased, and she was seen making appearances more frequently, subtly drumming up support.
Noted political analyst Telakapalli Ravi said the negative publicity of the opposition may not be working in this case. “Counter propaganda may be more effective when the BRS says they are being targeted,” he said, “If everything goes well, Kavitha can get sympathy. We have seen the case of Jayalalithaa in the past. Cases like these don’t matter much to the general public.”
Ravi said Kavitha has become the symbol of the party.
“There seems to be solidarity for her within the party and [her father] KCR seems to be personally guiding her,” he said.
Ever since she came under the scanner, Kavitha’s meetings with her father are being reported more prominently. Between 2019 and 2021, Kavitha was hardly noticed in party-related activities. She was also missing when the TRS made a formal announcement to officially rebrand itself to the BRS. Today, Kavitha is surrounded by ministers, MLAs and cadre. She is seen spearheading the attack against the opposition on behalf of the BRS.
The latest developments have reinstated Kavitha, who will become yet another family member to consolidate her position in the party ranks. With the assembly elections scheduled to be held later this year, Kavitha’s case would be an ideal example to showcase to the voters.
For now, Kavitha and her Jagruthi are on a mission to ‘awaken’ voters in the state and outside.