The all too familiar story of jolts to the Congress party from smaller, regional players such as Mayawati and Ajit Jogi in Chhattisgarh is repeating in Telangana. The ground reality in the youngest state presents a chance for the Congress to revive itself. But, the party appears to be desperately frustrating itself by driving its suitors in the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) away.
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The strong and rigid stance the Congress has taken over seat sharing talks with its allies in maha kootami (grand alliance) could prove to be a self-goal even before electioneering picked up in the real earnest.
The grand old political party of India is bidding to revive itself in the state it had created and had successfully managed to sell the concept of Opposition unity as an effective approach to oust the ruling TRS. It had even got its enemy number one, the TDP whose reason for birth was anti-Congressism in early 80s, on its side and played ball with newly formed TJS under fiery orator M Kodandaram.
A maha-kootami (grand alliance) at the state level did materialise, raising hopes for the Congress to make a comeback in Telangana, riding the anti-incumbency of the K Chandrashekhara Rao (KCR) government.
However, in what can be a trailer of shape of things to come at the national level ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Congress yearning to regain power is becoming its own impediment.
At present, the constituents of the grand alliance are engaged in tricky seat sharing talks that appear headed for a deadlock. The unwillingness of the Congress to accommodate the alliance partners, something that Mayawati of the BSP cited as a reason for going on her own with Ajit Jogi in Chhattisgarh is paying out in Telangana too.
As things stand today, the TJS is mulling whether to break away and contest all the 119 seats in the state on its own after the Congress appeared ill-inclined to consider allotting seats to its alliance partner.
The recently floated TJS attracted several leaders as they hoped to get seats of their choice to contest in the general elections. But as against the TJS demand for 36 seats, the Congress was willing to part with less than 10 seats to the junior partner.
Pressure from party leaders is mounting for TJS leader Kodandaram to breakout of a ‘humiliating’ alliance with the Congress.
Likewise, the experience of the TDP unit of Telangana so far has also been bitter. The TDP was pressing for 30 seats but was being offered a mere 12. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who had empowered the Telangana unit to discuss alliance and seat sharing with the Congress, has decided to step in himself.
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Indications from the TDP are to resist Congress attempts to browbeat and that it would take a calculated gamble, if the Congress persists with its bravado.
The Congress can never win without getting the opposition on a single platform. If the Congress leadership realises this, it would be in its own interests. Or else it can be a case of so near and yet so far for the Congress, opined Bharat Bhushan, a Hyderabad-based political analyst.
CPI leaders in Hyderabad assert that it was still in a position to make or mar the chances of candidates in some 40 constituencies across Telangana. But the Congress was unwilling to give it respectful importance it deserved and wanted to fib off with two or three seats. What the CPI is demanding are some 12 seats.
For sure, the Congress has a huge problem on its hands. If it gives in to allies demands, then it will not have enough to fight on its own and will have an army of disgruntled rebels. Who can also be as dangerous.
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At present, the Congress is hoping that the alliance partners also tone down their demands a shade and come to an understanding. In this hope lies the Congress revival prospects in Telangana.