In Telangana, its KCR's early poll gamble vs the grand alliance

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 28, 2018 12:37 hrs
KCR

The country’s youngest state, Telangana, goes to the polls early next month with 119 seats up for grabs. The newly formed state was due to go the polls only early next year alongside the general elections. However, Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) dissolved the assembly in September, paving the way for early elections.

The Muslim vote in the state could be crucial as they comprise nearly 13% of the state’s population. A CNX-Times Now opinion poll predicts that the TRS will regain power in the state with a projection of 70 seats. This differs from a CVoter poll earlier this month suggesting that the Congress-TDP alliance would come to power.

History

Once a part of Andhra Pradesh; the demand for a separate state goes back to the late 1960’s with the ‘Jai Telangana’ movement. In 2001, the TRS was formed by Rao with the sole agenda of creating a separate state. With the consent of then President Pranab Mukherjee, it was announced that Telangana, a new state would be formed in June 2014.

In the previous elections, the state of Andhra Pradesh as a whole went to the polls. Then, the TDP and the TRS were the big winners while the Congress performed poorly across an undivided state. In the Telangana region, the TRS won easily with 63 seats and Rao becoming its Chief Minister.

Congress and its alliance

The Congress now, has entered into a “Mahakutami”, i.e. a grand alliance with the TDP, CPI and Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) in an effort to consolidate voters against the ruling party. They’re hoping to capitalise on Chandrababu Naidu’s presence and expertise in the region. “Our alliance with TDP will help us a lot as its leader N Chandrababu Naidu who had ruled united Andhra Pradesh has his presence in every taluka”, said Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan to the Economic Times. This is the first time the two parties are joining hands. If the alliance wins big, it will be a major blow to the BJP and the incumbent KCR.

In its manifesto, the party has promised schools for Muslims and free electricity to churches and mosques and make Urdu the second official language in the state. With strength in the southern part of the state, the backing of backward class voters will be important in securing victory. It also promised to reservations to Telangana locals in new industries. If a victory for the alliance does happen, there could be consequences for 2019. Gandhi and Naidu can boast of a way to beat the saffron party and perhaps offer others a roadmap in forming alliances that can do the same in other states.

BJP

The BJP isn’t competing very hard in the state. They’ve never had a strong showing before separation as well. This hasn’t stopped the party and Prime Minister Modi from campaigning and hitting the TRS and Rao hard; calling him an apprentice of Sonia Gandhi. Amar Devulapalli, a senior journalist, in a column for Moneycontrol explains the BJP’s thinking in the state –

The BJP is wary of what is happening in Telangana and is treading cautiously. It’s no secret that the BJP in Telangana is not putting up an aggressive battle and is focusing on the handful of seats it has at the moment”.

The party has never performer well here when it has contested on its own. Last time around it won five seats with the help of an alliance with the TDP. In a way, the party only a lot to gain in the state; perhaps seeing a good performance here as inroads to the South where the party has yet to gain a firm footing.

TRS & AIMIM

The TRS is the incumbent and its leader KC Rao will face a tough challenge from the grand alliance led by the Congress. One major victory for him came with the very formation of the state he now presides over. While the party is relatively young, it has already managed to have a substantial impact. He also signed an agreement with the government of Maharashtra for the use of Godavari river water for Kaleshwaram project.

The party is very much family driven. Rao’s family members - Rama Rao, Kalvakuntla Kavitha, and T Harish Rao have a firm footing in the party but outside other party leaders and candidates aren’t very popular. However, the party did get two former Congress leaders who jumped ship to the TRS– former state Minorities Commission Chairman and TPCC Vice President Abid Rasool Khan and Mohammed Khaleequr Rahman, former national coordinator in the AICC's minority department.

The party has entered into a friendly alliance with the All India Majlis E Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), appealing to the Muslim voters in the state to support the TRS on account of its pro-minorities initiatives. Early last year, Chief Minister Rao, in a speech at the State’s Legislative Assembly spoke about increasing the quota for socially and economically backward Muslims in the state from 4% to 12%. He said in part, “We will make an Act, start implementation and go there (Delhi). If they don’t do it, we will fight out with Centre”.

The AIMIM led by Asaduddin Owaisi will largely concentrate on Hyderabad and other areas like Nizamabad, Mahabubnagar and Karimnagar. Previously, the Congress with former Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy enjoyed some success but 2014 proved otherwise.

The state could prove to be pivotal regarding a number of factors. Does a grand alliance prevail and provide a roadmap to defeat the BJP? Will the very formation of the state that goes to the polls help KC Rao keep his hold on the state?

More columns by Varun Sukumar

More from Sify: