With the assembly and general elections round the corner, desperation among the ruling and Opposition parties to retain or snatch power is gaining momentum in both the Telugu states –Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
After the state bifurcation, Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), spearheaded by Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), might have swept the polls in 2014 and 2018 with the ‘regional sentiment.’ But, it is not so now.
KCR has changed his priorities and to play a national political role, even modified his outfit’s name to Bharat Rashtra Samiti. But, all his efforts to cobble up an alliance of a non-Congress and non- Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) proved unsuccessful. Many regional parties like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in neighbouring Tamil Nadu or others with much bigger numerical strength in the Lok Sabha (LS) know they can’t be effective nationally without the backing of either the Congress or the BJP, the two well-entrenched parties.
And BRS has just 9 LS and 7 Rajya Sabha members, which only can play ‘spoil sport’ rather than any constructive role in national politics.
This forced KCR to take a U-turn, despite claiming that BRS wishes to maintain an equal distance from both the national parties. To achieve his goal, he not only shed his hatred towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi, describing him as the ‘best friend’, but also expanded his party’s footprint to neighbouring Maharashtra. KCR’s party visibly too going soft on its tirade against the saffron party. The BJP’s top leadership, many suspect, decided to change track and make peace with KCR’s party in their ‘Mission South’ effort by replacing the firebrand state party president and Karimnagar MP Bandi Sanjay Kumar with a soft-spoken Union Tourism and Culture Minister G Kishen Reddy.
Although, another major factor that the BJP seems to have put on hold temporarily is the proceedings against KCR’s daughter and MLC Kavitha, an accused in the multi-crore Delhi Excise policy scam. Highly placed sources in the BJP, however, told this writer that these two decisions have nothing to do with its ‘Mission South’. “The party leadership wanted to reward the good work of the former state president by elevating him to the national general secretaryship. He still can play a decisive role to ensure the party’s victory in the state where elections are due in November/December this year,” said a senior leader on condition of anonymity.
He appears to be right, after witnessing the tumultuous reception accorded to Bandi Sanjay Kumar, on taking over as the BJP’s general secretary, at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Shamshabad, on his return from New Delhi. Thousands of BJP activists thronged the airport and took out their most loved leader in a procession. Eyewitnesses claim that the scenes at the airport and all along the route from Shamshabad to the Hyderabad city only exhibit his popularity, which might have rattled all in the Opposition ranks.
In the recent past, the city witnessed such a massive rally only when YS Jaganmohan Reddy was released from prison.
And, what kind of role Sanjay Kumar likely to don in the upcoming assembly polls, one has to wait and see. Being an MP, the party’s national leadership can effectively use his clout in the northern Telangana districts where a considerable number of assembly seats are up for grabs. The BRS, on the other hand, lost its hold due to the non-performance of its sitting MLAs in Adilabad, Nizamabad and Karimnagar.
Although the BJP is finding it difficult to ensure its foothold in the Warangal and Khammam, the party could over the years ensure its presence in the local body polls. Contrary to this, Congress is lagging far behind in these districts. There is also rumours in the political circles that its senior Congress leader Jeevan Reddy is likely to jump ship to join the saffron party soon. And another senior leader Sridhar Babu is reportedly weighing his options, as the party’s poll prospects brightened following its victory in the neighbouring Karnataka, but suffers from a ‘trust deficit’ among people.
That apart, the BJP made significant inroads in other parts of the state like Mahabubnagar, Rangareddy and Malkajgiri, besides regaining its lost ground in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), which has close to 35-40 assembly seats. However, none of the parties other than the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) dare to think of snatching 7-8 seats of the latter in the Old City of the GHMC limits. Thus far, the BJP continues to be the nightmare of ruling BRS though KCR is making a last-ditch effort to neutralize the growing anti-incumbency factor. As for plans of the Congress, riding high on its Karnataka win and trying for a similar ‘guarantee schemes’ for its neighbouring Telengana, it may prove counter-productive. Against that backdrop, the battlefield is split between the BRS and BJP, to stake claim to form the governments.
What if both the parties end up winning 40 or 45 seats each in the 119-strong state assembly, getting 5-10 seats less than the majority mark? These projections are based on findings of IPac, a professional political strategy company, which conducted a survey at KCR’s behest. The survey predicted defeat for half of the party’s legislators, if they contested. Although this survey was carried out six months ago, many feel no significant change could be seen, to argue otherwise. They feel it would be a miracle, if the BRS get closer to the magic figure on its own as it is confident of its all weather-ally AIMIM to bail it out. What if its numbers come to around 45-50 seats and emerge as single-largest party? Can BRS explore the option of seeking the BJP’s support, even if the latter gets around 20-25 seats, a few seats lesser than the Congress?
As of now, the BRS enjoys a comfortable vote share of around 41 percent, while the BJP could improve over the years by winning four LS seats and a significant number of seats in GHMC, besides the by-polls, including Dubbaka and Huzurabad, by enjoying 20 percent.
Will this vote share go up as the ruling BRS’s bound to fall due to the anti-incumbency factor, is anyone’s guess.
I wish to put my neck out and reiterate that the Congress is nowhere in the race, although the party’s internal surveys boast of getting an absolute majority, which to any worthy political analyst, becomes a laughable moment. Hence, the electoral fight in Telangana, though appears on the ground as triangular, may limit to the incumbent BRS and BJP.
A fractured verdict appears unavoidable as of now unless something significant happens.
Contrary to the Telangana uncertainty, the return of Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) headed by YS Jaganmohan Reddy looks unstoppable in Andhra Pradesh (AP) as neither the BJP nor the Congress can put up any challenge. With the change in state party president, the BJP may look to perform better under Daggubati Purandeshwari. She is the daughter of the late founder president of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and former chief minister Nandamuri Taraka Ramarao, the most popular leader of the undivided AP. Beyond that, nothing is going to happen as the TDP and cine star Pavan Kalyan’s Jana Sena (JS) may not succeed in forming an alliance with the BJP to take on the mighty YSRCP, as both of them enjoy no credibility among the state electorate.
Added to that Naidu also suffers from a ‘trust deficit’ and the BJP has no assembly ambition, except winning half a dozen LS seats in the state, may seek YSRCP support rather than the TDP-JS.
Well, both these parties might have been invited to the recent National Democratic Alliance (NDA) meet held at the state capital to counter the new Congress-led Opposition bloc – Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A).
But that’s only for optics! And, the BJP’s only agenda is to win not less than 10-12 LS seats from both the Telugu states to improve its overall tally from the south! As of now, it has got 30 of the 130 LS seats and is determined to improve its figure close to 50.