Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao, popularly known as KCR, could well be ruing his decision to call for early snap polls in the state as it has only catalysed the formation of a grand alliance of Opposition parties. Also, his decision on dissolving assembly has robbed him of valuable opportunity to woo voters with new schemes and projects after the Election Commission issued a shocker with the model code of conduct.
Neither the state government nor the central government can take a major decision relating to Telengana, putting paid to KCR’s plans to dole out pre-poll sops to the electorate. But even before the dissolution, KCR launched two major rural initiatives: Rythu Bandhu and Rythu Beema and other welfare schemes for different sections of the society.
Ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader in Telangana, T Bhanuprasad, is sure that good governance, fast-paced development and accelerated growth combined with a plethora of welfare schemes will ensure the return of KCR with ease. But it is easier said than done as arithmetic on the ground appears to be against the ruling regional party.
The TRS was banking on the ‘impossibility’ of sworn enemies – the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) coming together and roping in smaller outfits to present a real challenge. Seat sharing will be smooth and there will be common agenda for fighting the elections, hoped Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president N Uttam Kumar Reddy.
Before the notification for assembly elections are issued, the common agenda will be announced. A broad consensus has been reached among the grand alliance partners – the Congress, TDP, CPI and the TJS.
“Since all political parties would have their own manifestoes, a common agenda is being prepared with a broader consensus,” Reddy said.
Leaders of the Congress, TDP and the Telangana Jana Samithi are thrashing out ground-level arrangements even as the leadership of the alliance partners will work out final agreement on seat sharing.
Senior TDP leader E Peddi Reddy told a private TV channel “talks are on. But final seat sharing will be decided only once the poll schedule is announced. A senior Congress leader indicated talks were slow as aspirations were high. There will have to be a give and take, he said, but added, “Only the Congress high command will take a decision on seat-sharing formula”.
According to Congress sources, the party local unit was willing to only give 20-25 out of the total 119 seats as against the demand for nearly double that number from the allies.
For the Congress, it is a now or never kind of a situation. Which is why, the local leadership prevailed upon the central leadership to clear its proposal to tie up with the TDP. Senior Congress leaders, however, made it very clear that in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, the Congress will fight it out with the ruling TDP.
In the previous general elections to the Telangana Assembly, held along with the Lok Sabha polls, the TRS emerged as the largest single party with a
comfortable majority in terms of numbers. But in terms of vote share, though it was much ahead of its rivals, had they contested together TRS would have found it difficult to attain power. The combine vote percentage of the Congress, the TDP and the Left comes to 44 per cent as against 34 per cent of TRS (as per percentage of vote share in the seats the party contested).
Now, clearly, the arithmetic is something that has given jitters to the chief minister.
In steps, the BJP with an aggressive campaign – as launched by party national president Amit Shah against “a ruthlessly corrupt TRS government” to muddy the field. But what the presence of the BJP with an aggressive campaign can do is to split the anti-government vote to harm the Congress-TDP-Left combine and help the ruling TRS. But the moot question is whether the BJP can win enough votes to help the TRS, which was giving enough hints through its performance in the Parliament so far, that post 2019 general elections to Lok Sabha it would back the NDA formation.
Telangana, like neighbouring Tamil Nadu, presents a tough nut to crack for the two national parties, the Congress and the BJP. Which is why, the Congress has been left piggy-riding on the might of regional forces in different states and more so in South India. In Tamil Nadu, it is at the mercy of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and in Karnataka, the recent assembly polls have shown that it can prevent the BJP only if it teams up with the Janata Dal-United.
The Telangana experiment, if it works, reflects the pragmatic strategy of localised tie-ups and alliances that are state-specific as announced by AICC president Rahul Gandhi. Interestingly, the Congress and the regional groupings are being forced to come together by the aggression of an expanding BJP, which poses a threat to the regional forces that are ruling the root in different states.
It is precisely for this reason that the SP and the BSP hope to tie up to block the BJP in the country’s most populous state.