Settlers, Muslims & Other Deciding Factors in Telangana Election

As the youngest state in country goes to poll on 7 December, there are several factors that will play key role in deciding the outcome of the election. While consolidation of the Andhra settlers’ votes is key for the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), an unofficial alliance with Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM is key for Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s (popularly known as KCR) Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS) for Muslim votes.

The Quint explains the key factors which will affect the election outcome in Telangana.

Andhra Settlers: Key For TDP

Chandrababu Naidu campaigning in Old Hyderabad region ahead of Telangana elections. 

Andhra settlers in Telangana are one of the biggest vote banks for the TDP. The settlers constitute around 20 percent of Telangana’s population and the community is a consolidated vote bank.

The settlers, however, are concentrated in the Old Hyderabad region of the state, which consists of parts of Hyderabad city and Ranga Reddy district, forming close to 30 percent of the population in these areas.

The Old Hyderabad region has 27 Assembly constituencies. Seven among these 27 are considered strongholds of the AIMIM led by Asaduddin Owaisi, which leaves 20 seats for a three-way fight between the Opposition alliance, the TRS and the BJP.

Twelve of these 27 seats had gone to the TDP and the Congress in the 2014 elections, which gives the Opposition alliance hopes of increasing their vote share in the region. As AIMIM has managed to consolidate support in their seven seats over the years, the alliance is hoping to eat into the five seats held by the BJP and two held the TRS.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu had campaigned actively in the region to appeal to the settlers.

Undecided Muslim Voters

Muslim voters showing their inked fingers at a polling booth 

As per the 2011 census, Muslims constitute 12.5 percent of Telangana’s population. According to political observers in Telangana, there are more than 30 Assembly constituencies with more than 15 percent Muslim voters and 13 Assembly constituencies with 10-15 percent Muslim voters.

The TRS government is hoping to win over the Muslim votes in the state with their popular schemes such as Shaadi Mubarak, special budget for minorities, schools for minorities and scholarships.

The Opposition, however, has been attacking the KCR government over their failure to deliver on promises made to the Muslim community. His party is also accused of not implementing 12 percent Muslim quota as he had promised.

The Opposition alliance has been harping on KCR’s proximity to the BJP as a campaign strategy to attract Muslim votes.  

The Muslim votes in Telangana have been split over the past elections. While the Congress has been benefiting from the Muslim votes in the rural areas, in the urban areas of the Telangana, the Muslims votes are predominantly shared between the TRS and the AIMIM.

Owaisi’s AIMIM and TRS

AIMIM Chief Asaduddin Owaisi.

"I feel that the TRS has a very good chance of coming back (to power) and I see KCR becoming the chief minister again," AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi told PTI in an interview recently.

The unofficial alliance between the TRS and the AIMIM is a crucial dynamic in the Assembly Election. Several AIMIM candidates have been openly courteous towards the TRS for the welfare schemes such as minority budget, Shaadi Mubarak scheme and schools, just like their leader.

The AIMIM doesn’t have a strong base outside the seven seats they hold in the Old Hyderabad region. However, they are supporting the TRS (unofficially) in the other 111 constituencies, this could help the TRS to eat into the Opposition’s vote bank, especially the Congress’ Muslim vote bank.

The Agitated, but Divided Dalit Votes

Students protesting against Rohith Vemula’s suicide. 

The Dalit community was an important part of the struggle for a separate state. It was during this time when KCR promised to make a Dalit the chief minister of the state. For the Dalit community in the Telangana, the disappointments began with the KCR going back on this promise and appointing himself the chief minister.

The government’s failure to fulfil the ambitions of the Dalit community in the state has worked against KCR. The promise of three acres of land for Dalit families, which was a highlight of the KCR’s manifesto, has remained a non-starter.

The lack of Dalit representation in KCR’s cabinet has also been an issue irking the community.

Although not a major election issue, KCR silence on the incidents of caste violence in the Telangana, has brought opposition among the Dalit youth in the state.

While the Dalit votes are expected to go against the TRS, the lack of unity among the Dalit voters is expected to result in the votes getting split between several parties, essentially diluting the community’s impact as a strong vote bank.

KCR: Autocrat vs Only Certain CM Candidate

Telangana CM KCR addressing a gathering at Praja Ashirvada Sabha at Parade Grounds, Hyderabad on 2 December. 

According to an ADR survey, 62 percent respondents felt it was ‘very important’ to have a chief minister candidate, and that it would be a deciding factor for them during the election.

In Telangana, it is only the TRS that had projected an chief ministerial candidate. The Mahakutumi, the Opposition alliance, which had a tough time in seats sharing itself, is yet to have a clear picture on who the chief ministerial candidate would be. According to sources, there are as many as 11 chief minister aspirants in the Congress party.

While this works in KCR’s favour, his image as an autocratic ruler has irked many. KCR is accused of lack of transparency. During his terms, is alleged had to very limited democratic, public interactions. Even his ministers had limited opportunities to interact with him, expect during the cabinet meetings.

Welfare Schemes Vs Original Promises

KCR’s trump card in the campaign is his stock of welfare schemes. The ongoing project of providing double-bedroom houses for the poor, delivering drinking water through tap connections and the Rythu Bandhu scheme, under which land-owning farmers get Rs 4,000 per acre, have been harped on by KCR and other candidates during their rallies.

Apart from them, there several other schemes such as providing free sheep, washing machines for Dhobi community and schemes for for fishermen, handloom weavers, toddy tappers etc.

Even though he launched several welfare schemes, many of his original promises made while forming the Telangana state have not been fulfilled. KCR had promised to provide one lakh jobs to youth in 2014 manifesto. But at the end of his term, students, youth and the unemployed are on a warpath against the government for its failure to fill vacancies in government departments as promised. Similarly, the promises of giving 2-bhk houses and three acre land of Dalits, too, remain unfulfilled.

The failure in ensuring such basic facilities are expected to overshadow the welfare schemes.

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