Regional parties likely to dominate poll space in Telangana

Last Updated: Thu, Apr 18, 2019 16:35 hrs
First phase of Lok Sabha polls

India's youngest state, Telangana, born out of the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh recorded 60.5% turnout. This is 13% less compared to last year’s assembly elections. In a risky move that paid off, last year, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao sought early elections and won 88 assembly seats. The state has 17 Lok Sabha seats up for grabs. Prior to the state going tothe polls, state police seized over 31,000 litres of liquor worth over a crore, cash of Rs.37 crore, gold and silver worth over Rs.27 lakh.

TRS and Chandrashekar Rao

There is one party and candidate that dominates the state. The current Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) the party which he founded Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is in a good spot considering his 2018 performance. He hasn’t exactly kept his views on the BJP and Prime Minister Modi a secret calling him a flop and saying he did not deliver. He swept the 2014 and 2018 polls and with a Congress-led alliance, got 28% of the vote share. The two states are linked in their shared history, but now there’s a clear line in the sand. Chandra Sekhar, in a column for Livemint, writes on the how the two states will fare –

TRS founder and Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) projected the alliance of the Congress, TDP and Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) as an Andhra-backed one in 2018 and won the Assembly elections by getting 88 of the 119 seats. In Telangana, elections seem to follow a predictable path.”

Polls show KCR will win a majority and continue to remain in power in the state. TRS Working President KT Rama Rao predicted that a coalition government will come to power in the centre and predicted that his party will win 16 seats. Speaking out the Congress, he said in part, “It is high time that the Telangana Congress leaders introspect their failures rather than resorting to personal attacks against TRS, to keep their flock together.” The TDP and Rao also have the backing of Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), who is expected to retain his seat in Hyderabad.

Both national parties, similar to Andhra Pradesh will have a very minimal presence in the state. This only underscores the importance of regional players in the possible formation of the government at the centre. The Congress however, projecting some level of confidence said they would win 10 seats in the state. On polling day, RC Khuntia, All India Congress Committee general secretary and Telangana Congress party in-charge, despite the low voter turnout and blamed this on the Election commission.

An advantage that the TRS might have is the number of women voters in the state are more than men. About 9 constituencies of the 17, women voters outnumber men. Women voters are supportive of the TRS. This is in part due to the number of schemes that the government has put forward to specifically benefit women - single woman pension, beedi workers pension and opening of residential colleges for women.

The state has problems of farmer distress which has plagued other states as well, which the BJP struggled to deal with. The Telangana water grid project, Mission Bhagiratha, which is nearing completion, is likely to benefit more than 2 crore people ensuring tapped water supply which will save time for those who had to travel long distances for water. For farmers, the issue of crippling debt combined with poor facilities has seen the state struggle. In one instance from last month, the Chief Minister himself personally took it upon himself to address the grievances of a farmer who wrote about his struggles on social media. The Telangana Today editorial praised him for his actions –

“Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao has set a fine example in people-centric governance by coming to the rescue of a distressed farmer. The Chief Minister has rightly appealed to the farmer to take the lead in creating public awareness about corruption and at the same time appreciating the good work by the administration.”

Congress & BJP

The Congress had a poor showing in the state assembly elections winning only 19 seats. Thistime, in the Lok Sabha elections, the party decided it was going solo in the state. Last month, 9 legislators quit the party and joined the TRS. For the Congress, its senior leader and former Union Minister Renuka Chowdry is looking to win in the Khamman Lok Sabha seat against TRS candidate Nama Nageswara Rao. She has won twice before in 1999 and 2004.

The BJP while saying it’s confident of a good showing in the state doesn’t really have a chance of it. Despite this, State BJP leader Rajeshwar Rao Deshpande at a press conference said the party would get majority of the seats in the state. In 2014, the party won three of the combined 42 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. In a column for Moneycontrol, Amar Devulapalli lays out the stakes for the BJP in the state –

The assembly polls showed that the BJP’s stock was down in Telangana. In Telangana, both the BJP and K Chandrashekar Rao’s TRS have a common enemy in the Congress. The TRS would want to keep the Congress, which is the main opposition in Telangana, at bay —this suits the BJP as long as the Congress does not win considerable number of Lok Sabha seats from the state.”

More columns by Varun Sukumar