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Telangana Assembly Elections 2018: Rajnath invokes NTR to counter Congress-TDP tie-up

Reminds TRS of BJP support for separate Telangana

In a field crowded with parties having better chances at winning the Assembly election in Telangana, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh knows he has to take on not just the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) but also the surprise Congress-Telugu Desam Party (TDP) mahakutami (alliance).

His speeches, across four public meetings at Nagarkurnool, Wanaparthy, Zaheerabad and Maheshwaram, match that requirement.

At Nagarkurnool, Mr. Singh, translator in tow, invokes the soul of N.T. Rama Rao, TDP founder who was virulently anti-Congress.

“Late N.T. Rama Raoji’s soul must be suffering in the face of this unholy alliance between the party he founded and the one he fought all his life,” he says to claps.

The BJP hopes that the alliance will come a cropper as the Congress-Samajwadi Party alliance did in Uttar Pradesh.

“I want to tell [TDP chief] Chandrababu Naidu, that this alliance will cost you big in Andhra Pradesh,” the BJP leader says at his concluding rally at Maheshwaram, just outside Hyderabad.

Unfulfilled promises

For the TRS, the Telangana party that plays on its regional identity, Mr. Singh has a history lesson. The BJP had decided to support the demand for a separate Telangana under Mr. Singh as party chief, a move that he had to convince many others in the party to support.

“Under late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, three new States were created, Uttarkhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, which are now doing well on development indices. I want to ask the Chief Ministers of both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, how come you have not shown the political will to build up your States,” he says, in Zaheerabad.

He points to the many promises made by the TRS government including making a Dalit the Chief Minister, giving three acres of land to each Dalit family and reservations in jobs and education for minority communities. “I want to know from whose share are you going to give this reservation, which has been deemed unconstitutional,” he says.

The controversy over Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the disclosure of his gotra also found a place in the speech, with Mr. Singh declaring that he has been disappointed with such a narrow view of society that it displays. “If anyone asks me, my gotra is cultural nationalism, my caste is good governance,” he said.

However, the issue of India and Pakistan finds immediate resonance when Mr. Singh described a conversation he had with the Director-General of the BSF in 2014. “Pakistan is our neighbour, we will not be the first to fire, but we will not count bullets if even one comes across the border,” he said to applause.

The BJP, with five MLAs, is hoping to improve its tally, but is realistic enough not to count on too much.

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