The move by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) to field former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao's daughter S. Vani Devi as its candidate for the Telangana Legislative Council is another attempt by the state's ruling party to own the legacy of the late leader considered the father of India's economic reforms.
Vani Devi's choice as the candidate for Hyderabad-Rangareddy-Mahabubnagar graduates' constituency is being seen as a masterstroke by TRS President and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao to kill many birds with one stone.
Facing a resurgent BJP following its recent electoral success, the TRS came out with a surprise to counter the saffron party and wrest the seat from it.
The BJP has again fielded Ramachandra Rao from this constituency which is going to polls on March 14 along with Nalgonda-Warangal-Khammam graduate constituency.
Over 5.17 lakh graduates in the state capital and surrounding districts are eligible to cast their votes.
Congress has fielded its senior leader and former legislator G. Chinna Reddy for Hyderabad-Rangareddy-Mahabubnagar seat. The grand old party, already in disarray due to series of defections and poll defeats, is hoping to bounce back.
However, political observers say that the choice of a woman and that too daughter of a former Prime Minister will make it tough for both the BJP and the Congress.
As Vani Devi is a Brahmin like Ramachandra Rao, the TRS will be looking to wean away the voters from the saffron party.
The TRS choice is also significant as Vani Devi is an artist, an educationist and a social activist. The ruling party will be banking on her background to counter eminent academic Professor Nageshwar Rao, a former member of Council who is likely to contest an independent and expected to be backed by the Left parties and Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS).
"Nominating Vani Devi as TRS candidate is another step of KCR appropriating late Prime Minister Narasimha Rao's legacy. This follows numerous actions of the Chief Minister in owning PV, who during his last days was allegedly ignored by the Congress party," said political analyst P. Raghavenra Reddy.
He believes that the main contest is likely to be between incumbent Ramchandra Rao and Nageshwar Rao, who is most popular among all contestants. "Considering the scenario, the TRS move, though symbolic in nature, will serve the purpose of making a statement in Telangana," Reddy said.
PV legacy in Telangana
Ever since formation of Telangana, Chandrasekhar Rao tried to own the legacy of Narasimha Rao, the first leader from south and the only Telugu to become the Prime Minister.
Highlighting the achievements of 'Telangana's beloved son', the TRS chief demanded that country's highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna be conferred on the late leader for his contributions to the nation as the architect of economic reforms.
KCR's move was seen as an attempt to counter Congress, which faces criticism from rivals for dumping its own leader. KCR always tried to rekindle the Telangana sentiment by invoking legacy of Narasimha Rao, who was born in Vangara village in Karimnagar district, now a part of Telangana state.
Narasimha Rao, who also served as the Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh and as a Central minister, was known as a scholar, statesman, a polyglot and an author. Despite objections from Muslim groups and his friendly party Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), KCR went ahead with the former Prime Minister's birth centenary celebrations.
KCR, who launched the centenary celebrations on June 28, released Rs 10 crore for year-long celebrations. He also announced that the celebrations will be organised in 51 countries, where Narasimha Rao has admirers.
If Vani Devi gets elected to Telangana Council, she will be the first member from his family to be elected to the legislature in the new state. Earlier, Narasimha Rao's eldest son P.V. Ranga Rao had served as minister in undivided Andhra Pradesh.
A Congress leader, he served as Education Minister in the cabinet of Kotla Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy (1992-94). He was twice elected to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly from Hanamkonda in Warangal district of Telangana region. He also served as a member of the Legislative Council. Narasimha Rao's other son Rajeshwar Rao was elected to Lok Sabha from Secunderabad in 1996.
Meanwhile, Vani Devi filed her nomination on Monday but the election officials informed her that her nomination papers were not in the correct format. She will now file her nomination on Tuesday.
Earlier, she paid tributes to her late father at PV Gnana Bhoomi on the banks of Hussain Sagar. She was accompanied by TRS leader K. Keshava Rao and state minister T. Srinivas Yadav, who appealed to all other parties to show respect to the late leader by ensuring unanimous election of his daughter.
Vani Devi thanked KCR for nominating her as TRS candidate. "I will do my best to live up to his expectations," she said. She also called on KCR to thank him and collect the B-form. She then visited Gun Park near the Assembly to pay tributes to Telangana martyrs.
Meanwhile, Narasimha Rao's grandson and Telangana BJP leader N.V. Subhash criticized KCR for fielding his aunt in MLC polls. He alleged that the TRS chief is trying to split Brahmin votes. He said it was a desperate attempt by the TRS as it knows very well that Ramachandra Rao is going to win the seat.
The BJP candidate said the TRS was making her a scapegoat by fielding her in MLC elections. He said even if KCR or his son KTR contest against Ramchandra Rao, they will be defeated. He wanted to know why KCR has not nominated Vani Devi to the Rajya Sabha.