The division of Andhra Pradesh has facilitated the emergence of one more regional satrap and his family on to India’s political stage. As Telangana goes to the polls today to elect its first assembly, and also to send representatives to the Lok Sabha, members of the family of Telangana Rashtra Samiti K Chandrasekar Rao are in the battle for the spoils of power.

“It proves that the TRS is a family party, and it’s not the party or the state but the family that has benefitted from the Telangana agitation,” said Congress leader Madhu Goud Yashki, who is the sitting MP from Nizamabad and is fighting a bitter battle against the daughter of K Chandrasekar Rao, who is universally known as KCR.

Since its inception in 2001, KCR has run the TRS like his personal fiefdom. That year, Rao split from the Telugu Desam Party and launched the TRS to demand a separate Telangana state. However, the party did not initially make a significant electoral impact. Its electoral ally, the Congress was the dominant partner, and the TRS did not even come close to an attempt at power in Andhra Pradesh.

But since 2009, when a renewed agitation for a separate Telangana state erupted, the TRS gained considerable political clout as the party leading the campaign. With the division of Andhra Pradesh being approved by parliament in February, the TRS hopes to emerge as the ruling party when the new state votes today for its first assembly – or, at worst, to be Telangana’s  principal opposition party.

The Congress, having delivered a Telengana, hopes to wrest the state and had been conducting negotiations with the TRS, first hoping to effect a merger and later to at least forge an alliance. While the TRS had agreed to merge with the Congress, it reneged on the offer after the bill was passed and decided to go it alone.

It is believed that the alliance did not work out because KCR wanted to be declared the chief ministerial candidate, something that Congress leaders found unacceptable. Reports also suggest that the Congress was not willing to accommodate Rao’s family members who have emerged as power centers in the TRS.

KCR’s nephew, Harish Rao, is a two- time MLA and has been KCR’s confidante since the party was launched. KCR’s 37- year-old son KT Rama Rao returned from the US and was elected MLA for the first time in 2009 from the Sircilla seat. He has since become the party’s face in the national media.

KCR’s daughter, 36-year-old Kavitha Kalvakuntla, has also entered the fray as the party’s candidate for the Nizamabad Lok Sabha seat. She had led the party’s cultural activities and in the last three years has been actively meeting political leaders in Delhi.

But party leaders deny that the TRS is a family firm. Defending the TRS, a party leader said, “Several student leaders have been given tickets and family members have played a lead role in the agitation and proved their mettle.”

While KCR’s son, daughter and nephew did play a part during the agitation, there have been reports of differences emerging within the family. “The daughter and son are individual power centers but they together are against KCR’s nephew Harish Rao,” said G. Vivekanand, a Congress MP from the Peddapalli constituency who briefly joined the TRS before returning to his old party.

In fact, a reputed industrialist in Hyderabad, who requested anonymity, said that even before the TRS has come to power, “businesses and industrialists have clear indications of how different sectors and areas are demarcated amongst KCR family members”.

There also seems to be a clear design in the way KCR’s son has been fielded for an assembly seat and daughter for a Lok Sabha seat. The indication is that Kavitha will play a role in Delhi and Rama Rao is being groomed for the state leadership. In effect, the spoils of power will be shared between the two.

In addition to hoping to wrest power in Hyderabad through the assembly elections, the TRS hopes that it will win enough Lok Sabha seats to be a viable ally in Delhi too. In many ways, these are the best of times for KCR, his family and the party.