The stage is set for a no-holds-barred electoral battle in Telangana. CM and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) founder K. Chandrasekhara Rao has been hurling the choicest epithets at his arch rivals at recent rallies. To KCR, who had insisted on early polls despite dissenting voices in his cabinet, the emerging situation appears quite unpredictable due to the Congress forging an alliance with its erstwhile arch rival, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
The arithmetic of Opposition unity has challenged KCR’s initial confidence of bagging more than 100 of the total 119 assembly seats. This unexpected alliance has also roped in KCR’s bête noire, former Osmania University professor M. Kodandaram and his Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS), besides the CPI.
As against the 34 per cent voteshare of the TRS in the first Telangana assembly polls in 2014, the Congress and the TDP had managed 25 and 12 per cent, respectively. The TRS just managed to cross the halfway mark with 63 seats. The TDP had contested in alliance with the BJP, and after deducting the latter’s 4 per cent voteshare, the Congress and the TDP together still account for 33 per cent, just short of the TRS. If the TJS and the CPI add at least 2 per cent, then the Opposition will be ahead of the ruling TRS. And if the anti-incumbency voteshare adds up to the Opposition, then the TRS is bound to suffer reverses, especially in nearly 15 constituencies it won with margins of less than 5,000.
No wonder KCR and his star campaigners, including his children, former minister K.T. Ramarao, and MP Kavitha, besides his nephew, former minister, T. Harish Rao, are going hammer and tongs against the Congress-TDP alliance. They have chosen to target TDP chief and Andhra Pradesh CM N. Chandrababu Naidu, who was allegedly heard trying to lure an independent or nominated MLA during the legislative council polls in an audio clip. Many thought the note-for-vote scam was brushed under the carpet despite forensics confirming the voice was indeed Naidu’s. And in a video clip, Revanth Reddy, then a young TDP leader, was seen handing over Rs 50 lakh, allegedly as ‘advance’, to an MLA. Revanth Reddy also assured the MLA that his initiative had Naidu’s blessings.
Meanwhile, TRS has allegedly made a discreet ‘deal’ with the BJP to reopen the note-for-vote case and embarrass both the Congress and the TDP. Revanth Reddy, who joined the Congress recently, is out on bail in the case. “I shall win with a margin of at least 30,000 votes as against 10,000-odd last time,” he says. However, TRS too is optimistic, hoping KCR’s welfare and development programmes such as the ‘startup facility’ in the IT corridor, waiving of farm loans, completion of irrigation projects on the Krishna and Godavari rivers, ‘Rythu Bandhu’ insurance cover for crop loss due to unforeseen weather conditions, and old-age pensions.
Congress leaders, however, ridicule KCR’s claims of development. “What development? Is making the state financially bankrupt, a Rs 1.35 lakh crore budget deficit, an achievement?” asks senior Congress leader K. Jana Reddy. “Giving away freebies in the name of welfare schemes, and financing it through borrowings, cannot be seen as ‘good governance’.” The leader of the Opposition in the assembly also alleges that the KCR family received unprecedented kickbacks related to large-scale embezzlement of irrigation project funds.
While the TRS has already chalked out its campaign—KCR will be addressing a record 120 rallies before December 7, when the state goes to polls—former Congress president Sonia Gandhi has agreed to address a couple of rallies for the Opposition, and current president Rahul Gandhi is likely to address more than half a dozen. However, he may have to concentrate more on Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where pollsters are giving his party a brighter picture. It is not yet clear whether Naidu is willing to share the dais with Rahul or Sonia.
- In 2014, the TRS had bagged 34 per cent of the votes, the Congress 25 per cent and the TDP 12 per cent.
- The Opposition alliance has also roped in the TJS, led by former Osmania professor M. Kodandaram.
- “Is making the state financially bankrupt KCR’s achievement?” asks senior Congress leader K. Jana Reddy.
By M.S. Shanker in Hyderabad