KCR's nephew Harish Rao has been made the campaign manager in chief minister's constituency
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao's nephew and irrigation minister Harish Rao is making news for reasons he would rather not.
Congress' Vanteru Pratap Reddy, who is expected to contest against KCR from Gajwel constituency in next month's elections, has made an explosive statement that he got a call from Harish Rao, with an offer to work together to defeat his uncle, the chief minister.
"I got a phone call from a private number and I can swear that what I am saying is totally accurate," Mr Reddy declared. He claimed that Harish Rao said he was feeling sidelined by his uncle and his son, KT Rama Rao, and wanted to collaborate to ensure KCR defeat.
Harish Rao has vehemently denied the claim, calling it bogus and fake and false propaganda to confuse the voters, hoping for electoral gains. "I am a soldier of the party since 2001. I just follow my uncle, I will go by whatever he says. People know me, am a movement leader, not a politician," Harish Rao said.
"I won five times, my opponents lost deposits. I will never do such things, all these things are Congress conspiracy," he added.
KCR's party, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi or TRS, has been claiming they will win 100 out of 119 seats in the state. In the chief minister's own constituency, Gajwel, his nephew and campaign manager Harish Rao has been getting multiple ministers to campaign. When asked if it is a sign of nervousness, Harish Rao said: "Not at all. I can guarantee the chief minister will win with a margin of at least 50,000 votes… People have already made up their mind to make KCR chief minister again."
"I am the district minister. KCR has to look after the entire state, so I have taken charge of the campaign here," Harish Rao said when asked why so much attention to Gajwel.
Political observers say making Harish Rao campaign manager here serves multiple purposes. One, he has a strong following in the district, so he is best suited for the job of ensuring a convincing victory. Two, and the more cynical view, is that keeping him busy here and limiting him to Gajwel and Siddipet would ensure he does not emerge as competition to his cousin and KCR's son KT Rama Rao, popularly known as KTR, who has become the star party campaigner across the state.
"It is a conspiracy, negative social media campaign, all bogus and fake, to create confusion among people as they are not able to face us directly," Harish Rao said.
Speculative reports, social media comments and WhatsApp forwards about Harish Rao being unhappy that KTR is being groomed to succeed KCR, and that the cousins, Harish Rao and KTR are allegedly having differences, has created some amount of discomfiture to the family.
So much so that KTR and Harish Rao made a public appearance together at a meeting and KTR took the opportunity to say that they have grown up together as childhood friends and all speculation about differences is false.
Rumours about differences within the family is only one part of the story. One of the biggest points of criticism against the TRS government in Telangana is that KCR is accused of family rule with the father as chief minister, son and nephew as ministers, daughter and nephew as lawmakers. The family however defends this pointing out that they are all elected by people, not appointed.
"If in Congress, family members can be in power, why not us?" asked Harish Rao. "We are not appointed, we are elected. We came from the public, winning with convincing majority of 80 or 90,000. We came with people's mandate not by appointment or with indirect method," Harish Rao said.