HYDERABAD: If a bit of Phantom comics lore were to be borrowed and paraphrased for Telangana politics and its ripple effect, it might read – “Don’t underestimate, or let your guard down, with KCR”. You never know when or how it will strike next.

Two big hopes of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi – DK Shivakumar and A. Revanth Reddy, presidents of the PCCs of Karnataka and Telangana – are reeling from the “one stone, two birds” tactic of BRS supremo, K. ​Chandrashekar Rao.

As Karnataka (April-May) and Telangana (November-December) head to elections this year, Shivakumar and Revanth Reddy are leading Congress’s hopes for a return to power, with its huge political stakes and for control of the enormous rapidly growing economies and IT capitals of Bengaluru and Hyderabad.

Rao’s decision to turn the regional TRS into a BRS, with national ambitions, was met with the optimism usually reserved for outright skepticism about its potential impact, but the Congress of the two southern states is already feeling the impact of his measures.

Congress, according to polls, is slightly ahead of the BJP in the dynamic Karnataka scramble, where Chandrashekar Rao has made aggressive overtures to the third party – HD Kumaraswamy’s JD(S) – and declared his intention to contest the next elections.

For Congress, which would not appreciate any break from the status quo, a JD(S)-BRS alliance would have been difficult but, according to political observers, the BJP has also upped the ante in the game. Scuttlebutt claims that the BJP contacted the big old man of Karnataka politics, former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, and reportedly secured his assurance for a post-election rapprochement.

This, BRS sources explain, could be the possible reason why Kumaraswamy opted to skip Chandrashekar Rao’s recent Khammam meeting, which was attended by AAP, Samajwadi party and leftist leaders.

The recent meeting of a Congress leader from Karnataka, Zameer Ahmed Khan, with Chandrashekar Rao, facilitated by controversial Tandur MLA ‘Pilot’ Rohit Reddy, who won as a Congress MP and defected to the TRS of the era, and was embroiled in the poachgate scandal, shocked both Shivakumar and Revanth Reddy.

There have been allegations and condemnations by several Congress leaders, claiming that Chandrashekar Rao offered Rs 500 crore to Zameer Ahmed to weaken Congress prospects in more than 30 crucial Assembly seats in Karnataka, where an election battle tight is expected.

While Ahmed, who denied the allegations, described it as a mere courtesy call and Shivakumar refused to answer the charges, Revanth Reddy called it a real BRS plot, in partnership with the BJP, to weaken Congress.

While the political accusations can never be proven and no one will ever find out the truth, the little drama revealed how Chandrashekar Rao’s BRS can play a decisive role in politics. If Rao succeeds in scuttling the Congress prospects in Karnataka, even if the BJP wins, he would block and nullify all potential benefits the Telangana Congress has found – from narrative to funding.

Chandrashekar Rao is keen to hit the Telangana Congress, his real first alternative and competitor, by nipping it in the bud in the neighboring state. And for BRS under Chandrashekar Rao, this is just the beginning of the national political game.

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