- Election atmosphere with three parties trading charges
- Rahul Gandhi’s meeting a booster for the Congress
There is a paradoxical set of arguments going on in Telananga. The charges traded by the leaders are strange, funny and beyond logic. When Rahul Gandhi visited Hyderabad for two days last week, he said the ruling TRS is in league with the BJP. Otherwise why did not the Modi government use its ED or CBI against TRS president who is supposed to have looted Telangana for eight years, Rahul asked. Immediately, the BJP leaders countered saying that Rahul read out the speech prepared at Pragati Bhavan, the official residence of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR). TRS on its part said both the Congress and the BJP have descended on Hyderabad to destroy Telangana. This game is needed because of the aggressive politics pursued by the three major players- TRS, Congress and BJP. KCR (with his son KTR), Bandi Sanjay (with Dharmapuri Arvind) and Revanth Reddy are equally abusive and pungent in their language of vilification.
Whenever the next election to Telangana Assembly are held, it could be as early as May-June next year or December 2023 as scheduled, it is going to be a three-corner contest. TRS has a whopping 103 out of the total of 119 MLAs in Telangana Assembly. It won 88 seats in 2018 elections. Congress had got 19, AIMIM bagged seven, TDP two and the BJP won only one. Later, 12 Congress MLAs, two TDP MLAs and one independent MLA joined the ruling TRS bulging its strength.
The BJP has the audacity of claiming that it would win 70 seats. The buoyancy came from its by-election win of Dubbaka seat and reinforced by its remarkable victory in the by-poll in Huzurabad in undivided Karimnagar district. Etala Rajendra, former health and finance minister, who left the TRS and joined the BJP won against heavy odds. The TRS used all its forces and resources under the leadership of Harish Rao, known for his political abilities. The saffron party’s remarkable show in the elections to Greater Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad added to its glamour. The BJP has been carrying on its aggressive campaign right from the day one in Telangana. Though only T Raja Singh won in the assembly elections on BJP ticket, four MPs romped home in Lok Sabha elections six months later. Those who lost in Assmbly elections, such as the Union Minister Kishen Reddy, won in LS elections. With the Congress in a quagmire with endless dissensions and seniors in the party not reconciling to the appointment of Revanth Reddy, a young leader who came from the TDP, as the PCC president, the BJP thought its time has come. However, the Congress may have quarreling leaders but its vote bank appears to be intact.
Also read: Rahul promises Rs.2 lakh farm loan waiver
With Rahul Gandhi’s visit, a much needed clarity has been given to the fence-sitters and doubting cadres. Addressing a huge public meeting at Warangal on Friday (May 6th), Rahul made it very clear that the Congress will never have any electoral alliance with the TRS as rumours are making rounds. He asked the Congress leaders who have been talking and thinking in terms of some understanding with TRS to leave the party. “They are free to join the TRS or the BJP,” Rahul told the leaders later on Saturday at small gatherings in Hyderabad. The ‘Warangal Declaration’ in which Rahul Gandhi promised farm loan waiver to the tune of Rs.2 lakh and paying Rs. 15,000 to tenant farmers and Rs. 12,000 to landless farm workers. Rythu Bandhu scheme, being implemented by TRS government, does not take care of tenant farmers and landless farm workers. It pays only the land owners. Rahul’s promise would cover the tenant farmers and the landless farm workers.
TRS recognizes Congress as rival
TRS for the first time in recent months trained its guns at the Congress. Harish Rao, Minister for Finance and Health, called Rahul Gandhi inefficient and incapable of running the party. K Taraka Rama Rao (KTR), KCR’s son and Minister of IT and Municipal Administration, of late, has been very vocal in his attacks against Narendra Modi and the BJP. He lambasted Rahul Gandhi for calling his father a Raja. “What about Nehru, Indira and Rajiv?” he asked. KCR, on his part, has been criticizing the BJP and Modi for almost six months. He has not spoken since the party’s formation day celebrations. It has been KTR who has been taking on Modi and the NDA government. KCR was ignoring the Congress as though it is not going to be a player in 2023 elections. BJP national leaders have been visiting Hyderabad frequently and criticizing KCR and the TRS. Bandi Sanjay was carrying on with his campaign and daily diatribe against KCR. But the huge crowds at Warangal and the candid way Rahul spoke had forced the TRS to attack Rahul Gandhi and the Congress. Congress leaders are acutely happy that the TRS leaders have started to take notice of their presence.
Also read: Prashant Kishor’s ‘no’ to Congress
Besides clearing the misgivings about the Congress having a tie-up with the TRS, Rahul’s meetings gave a boost to the sagging morale of the Congress leaders and workers. He said he would follow the Warangal meet with another gathering of Tribals to discuss their specific problems. He promised to support the demand for ten percent of reservations to Adivasis. In a group meeting in Hyderabad some leaders suggested to Rahul to address a meetings of the OBCs also. If the Congress can clear the mess at the top and concentrate on States such as Telangana, it can hope to gain in 2024.
BJP’s focus on reserved constituencies
The BJP has been trying assiduously to build upon the work done by RSS leaders in the constituencies reserved for dalits and adivasis. There are 19 seats for dalits and 12 for adivasis in Telangana. Whoever wins majority of them would come to power. That has been the case even in undivided Andhra Pradesh. In 2018, the TRS did well in all the districts except the undivided district of Khammam. The BJP is keen on gaining traction in these constituencies. The Congress also is concentrating on this segment. The fact that Seethakka, the Mulugu Congress MLA who is a Tribal, presided over the mammoth meeting at Warangal, shows the importance attached by Revanth Reddy to the Adivasis. There is going to be real fight among the three aspiring parties in these 31 reserved seats.
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If the Congress and the BJP have the same pull on the voters, it will be advantageous to the TRS since both the opposition parties will share anti-incumbency vote equally thus giving an edge to the ruling TRS. If either Congress or the BJP becomes weak, it will go against the TRS since the majority of anti-TRS vote will be hogged by the second best party. It is a matter of fact that most of the TRS MLAs are unpopular, as reportedly suggested by poll strategist Prashant Kishor (PK). As of now, the BJP is not in a position to field candidates in some of the constituencies in districts like Nalgonda and Khmmam. If KCR followed PK’s formula and changed the candidates in some of the seats where the sitting MLAs are perceived to be weak, the BJP would welcome the disgruntled MLAs, give them party tickets and try its luck.
Modi popular even where BJP is weak
Naredra Modi has votes even at places where there are no BJP cadres. His seamless popularity across the communities and regions is sure to pay dividends if the party can manage to put up candidates. The BJP’s fortunes depend on that of the Congress party. Bhuvanagiri MP Komatireddi Venkata Reddy has been in touch with the BJP leaders. If he joins the party, he can provide candidates in all the Assembly constituencies in Nalgonda district. If the saffron party can net some prominent former minister in Khammam as well, the problem of finding right candidates would be resolved.
Those keen on seeing TRS defeated prefer the BJP option since the MLAs elected on the BJP ticket will not leave the party. (It happened in West Bengal but not yet in South India). The same cannot be said about the Congress MLAs. That, in fact, is the Achilles Heel, the trust deficit, the Congress suffers from.
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