Thirteen years after he quit the Telugu Desam Party and launched the Telengana Rashtriya Samiti, Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao will become the first chief minister of the new state of Telangana. His TRS proved that it was more than a match for the Congress. It received a clear mandate by winning 62 of the 119 assembly seats in Telangana and 11 of the 17 parliamentary seats.

The key reason for the TRS’s victory seems to have been Congress’s misplaced confidence that creating a separate state on the eve of the elections would help the party win seats. “The Congress may claim that Sonia Gandhi gave Telangana, but people believe that they forced the Congress into it by their agitation,” said TRS activist Nagam Reddy.

One of the mistakes the Congress made was to keep insisting that the party was responsible for the division of Andhra Pradesh. The movement for statehood in Telengana has been active since 2009 and if anything, the Congress was accused of delaying a decision till the last session of parliament in February.

“The Congress’s decision to bifurcate AP was purely taken for electoral reasons and this exposed its opportunism,” said Shravan Kumar, a Delhi-based Telugu journalist. “On the other hand, the TRS, which was at the forefront of the agitation for a separate state, was seen by the people as the party that deserved credit.”

The scale of the Congress’s defeat was also embarrassing as union ministers in UPA-2 like Jaipal Reddy and Sarve Satyanarayana could not manage to retain their seats. “It is an overwhelming rejection of the Congress,” conceded Dr G Vivek, a defeated Congress candidate. In several seats, the Congress did not even take the second place.

While the result is a rejection of the Congress, it must also be seen as a strong endorsement  of Chandrashekar Rao. He is a powerful orator and addressed more than 105 rallies in the last two months.

However, as he takes charge as chief minister, the road ahead is daunting. Telangana has high levels of poverty and unemployment. It has historically been less developed than other parts of Andhra Pradesh and the challenge for KCR will be to put the state on the growth path.

The other challenge is to rebuild Hyderabad city’s image as a global hub. The city has suffered a huge loss of investment in the last five years because of uncertainty over the division of Andhra Pradesh.

Many believe that Rao’s son, KT Rama Rao, who won his Sircilla assembly seat by a huge margin, and daughter, Kavitha, who has been elected to the Lok Sabha, will become crucial power centres in the new state. In effect, one more regional satrap and his family have arrived in Indian politics.

Amongst KCR’s most important tasks is also ensuring a smooth division of the state and good relations with neighbouring Seemandhra region, which will continue to be called Andhra Pradesh. In this task, ironically, KCR, who quit the TDP and formed the TRS in 2001, will have to learn to work closely with N Chandrababu Naidu and the TDP, which has come to power in Seemandhra.