There is a saying in politics and warfare: before you think of invading and trying to capture some other territory, make sure that your home turf is protected. There have been umpteen examples in history where ambition and hunger for more has deluded successful leaders into such a state of hubris that they failed to see the gathering storm that would overwhelm their own backyard. The founder and chief of the Bharatiya Rashtra Samiti K. C. Rao has learnt the hard lesson in his home state of Telangana. After winning two consecutive terms as chief minister of Telangana, Rao stated nurturing national ambitions. Even before the 2019 Lok Sabha elctions, he met opposition leaders like Naveen Patnaik, Mamata Bannerjee and Akhilesh Yadav to forge a non BJP Non Congress alliance. Despite the thumping victory of the Narendra Modi led BJP in 2019, Rao kept dreaming “national”. He changed the name of his party from Telangana Rashtriya Samiti to Bharatiya Rashtra Samiti. He made frequent trips to Maharashtra and Odisha where many discarded, jaded or politically lightweight leaders made a spectacle of joining his party. When it came to Telangana, so was supremely confident. As it turned out, supremely confident became over confident. In the 2018 assembly elections, he had reduced the Congress to just 15 out of 119 seats. It looked as if the Congress was dead & buried and the BJP looked poised to become the main oval to TRS (or BRS). But all along, the Congress led by a grassroots leader Revanth Reddy (formerly a TRS leader) was scouting a dramatic resurgence. How resurgent the Congress was indeed proven during counting day on December 4 2023 when the party won a majority of 64 seats and K. C. Rao had to eat humble pie. He had set forth to conquer other territories. In the process, he lost his own home.
Of course this fascinating aspect has not found its way into media discourse because of the results in other states. This was a rare occasion when opinion and even exit polls could not accurately read the mind of the voter. Almost all polls gave a repeat victory to the Congress in Chattisgarh, a comeback victory to Kamal Nath led Congress in Madhya Pradesh and a tight race in Rajasthan. Most analysts, including this author argued before the elections that the BJP had committed a blunder by not naming chief ministerial faces in the three Hindi heartland states while the Congress was clear about who will be chief minister if it won. Somehow, the BJP managed to surprise and shock the pollsters and analysts. Rajasthan gave a comfortable majority to the BJP. But is was not really surprising since the state has a history of changing governments every five years. The stunner came from Chattisgarh that even BJP supporters had given up on as Congress chief minister Bhupesh Baghel was widely expected to retain his post. In the event, the BJP won a big majority. An even bigger stunner was the margin of the BJP victory in Madhya Pradesh after 20 years in power. No wonder, not many are talking of K. C. Rao.
But his defeat in Telangana is a test case in Indian politics. Another regional leader like Rao who lost his home while eyeing a national role was N. T. Ramarao who ruled over undivided Andhra Pradesh many decades ago. NTR won a famous victory in the 1983 assembly elections. When his government was unfairly dismissed in 1984, NTR made a bigger comeback. It was widely felt at the time that the Congress had hurt Telugu pride and the voters will never forgive the party. By the time Rajiv Gandhi got embroiled in the Bofors scandal in 1987, an ambitious NTR decided he wants to play a national role. While V. P. Singh became the face against Rajiv, NTR became the convenor of a new alliance. He thought he was invincible in Andhra and chased an alliance that would dethrone Rajiv Gandhi. Sure, Gandhi was dethroned, but NTR himself lost his fortress in Andhra Pradesh badly to the Congress. Mayawati too has been a victim of this phenomenon. In 2007, she had led her party BSP to a historic victory in Uttar Pradesh, winning a majority on her own. Not content with this feat, Mayawati. Made her national ambitions clear and made no bones about being prime minister. As the 2009 Lok Sabha approached, she and other Left parties stated cobbling together a “Third Front” that would provide a prime minister when 2009 gave a hung Lok Sabha. In reality, the UPA won a handsome peat mandate. It also marked the beginning of the decline and fall of Mayawati as a politician and mass leader. She lost UP in 2012 and has been losing everything ever since.
The lesson is clear: to be ambitious is good in politics; but to be needlessly over ambitious could be self destructive.
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with www.prameyanews.com.