A ruling party should defend its record and create a compelling vision for the future, not rail against bogeys.

In 2014, election results were predictable. Narendra Modi’s BJP won the popular mandate at the centre. Voters in Andhra Pradesh elected Chandrababu Naidu (CBN). K Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR) became the first Chief Minister of Telangana. Circumstances of the time made it easy for even novices to predict which way the tide will turn. After the results were out, commentators in the Telugu-speaking states predicted a battle between the two “Chandrannas”.

This battle was supposed to be a healthy competition between two veteran politicians. Let them battle it out. The fight will bring out the best in them. KCR’s “Golden Telangana” will be more golden and CBN’s “Navyandhra” greener still. None of this came about. Instead of an exalted battle, we got a petty feud (like it happens in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige). Four and half years later, KCR still calls CBN a Telangana traitor and CBN wants to throw KCR out of power.

One thing is clear though. KCR and his TRS party need CBN (his caricature to be precise) the most. KCR is an eternal rebel and that’s his charm. He is at his vote-pulling best when he rails against someone. Sometimes it is the Congress, sometimes it is CBN. But, rail he must. As elections drew near, he started attacking Congress, but no one believed the party was worth attacking. It seemed too weak to be of any harm. People wondered what the fuss was about.

As Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, CBN is an easier target than before. He has a duty to do what is right for Andhra Pradesh, which by KCR’s logic is always bad for Telangana.

Taking on Uttam Kumar Reddy proved more uninspiring. You can’t work up passions by attacking someone people hardly know anything about. Around this time, the alliance between Congress and TDP started taking shape. Now, the old enemy is back, and you are the hero the state needs. As Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, CBN is an easier target than before. He has a duty to do what is right for Andhra Pradesh, which by KCR’s logic is always bad for Telangana.

KCR rose in the latter part of his political career by fighting CBN. As an old confidante, he knew CBN’s strengths and weaknesses. And, what a relief it is to have the bankable bogey back! KCR was back in his comfort zone and his fiery rhetoric against CBN returned. KTR, Kavitha and Harish Rao fired their salvos. Nothing could stop Telangana a few months before, but this man could change all that. For his part, CBN refused to join this slanging war.

Is all this criticism a backhanded compliment to CBN’s power or an over estimation? Neither. It is plain dishonesty and a clever way to deflect attention from real issues. After being in power for over 4 years, it is a bit rich for KCR to depend on a trusty rival to carry him through again. You should elect me, because you can’t elect the “unholy alliance” assembled by CBN. He will dial back all the progress and destroy the state. That's his pitch to the voters. It doesn’t matter that TDP is contesting a mere 15 seats and that it will remain a marginal force.

The reason CBN is on the lips of top TRS politicos is clear. It is because KCR wants him. Without a convenient enemy, the vital charge that once saturated his campaign speeches is missing. Many of his promises have not been fulfilled. The party’s cadre has not been able to trumpet his government’s good work in some areas. Most of its elected representatives are deeply unpopular with people. Dissidence among the party ranks is high.

Unfortunately, the “enemy” is not showing up for the fight. Meanwhile, the “Mahakutami” grand alliance pits TRS against every party in the state, except BJP and MIM. Each of them can pick up a stick to beat KCR with (Where are the jobs?). KCR has the unglamorous task of defending his government’s record against charges of incompetence. Defending may sound dull compared to attacking, but that's what the electorate expects from a ruling party.