It is an open secret that Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) president and the state’s caretaker, is a superstitious man with immense belief in numerology.
When he dissolved the Assembly on 6 September 2018, eight months ahead of its end term, pundits saw it as a move guided not just by numbers and electoral arithmetic, but superstition too.
As India’s youngest state heads to early Assembly polls on 7 December 2018, here’s all that you need to know about battlefield Telangana – the main players, the number game and key issues surrounding it.
Video Editor: Vishal Kumar
Let's Understand the Early Polls
A united Andhra Pradesh has voted for both state Assembly and the Lok Sabha at the same time — from 1999 till 2014. However, since August 2018, media reports suggested that KCR was getting ‘battle-ready’ to dissolve the Assembly and go to polls in winter 2018, along with Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram.
So when KCR dissolved the Assembly on 6 September, his supposed ‘lucky’ date, it did not come as surprise to many. Hours after dissolving the Assembly, he released a list of 105 candidates who will fight the elections from Husnabad, the very place he launched his 2014 campaign. So, why eight months early?
REASONS FOR EARLY ELECTIONS
- For one, the TRS chief would have been in the middle of a national contest between BJP-led NDA and Congress-led Mahagatbandhan, as The News Minute points out. This would hamper the ‘Telangana-centered’ narrative that KCR and his party solely rely on.
- At the time, KCR would have also thought of the possibility of traditional rivals, the Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP), forging an unconventional alliance like the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to fight elections in the state. He did not want to give them the time to work together, an Economic Times report said.
- The report also reasoned that TRS will be in a better position to secure around 12 percent minority votes – through direct or indirect partnership with Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM if the polls are nor held simultaneously with the general elections.
The Main Contenders in Battlefield Telangana
The main contenders for this election remain to be the KCR-led TRS, which was in power for the last four years, and the Congress-led 'Mahakutami' (or 'Grand Alliance'), which included the Telugu Desam Party among many others. The BJP, although not a main contender, is expected to swing some percentage of vote share its way. In all, there are now as many as nine political parties vying for power in the state.
TELANGANA RASHTRA SAMITI
Telangana’s first ever chief minister, KCR will look to return to his seat. His party, TRS, has only become stronger in the state, after it assumed power in 2014. While it formed the government with a wafer-thin majority of 63 out of 119 assembly seats, KCR managed to engineer defections to increase the strength of the party. In 2018, when the assembly dissolved, the TRS had a total of 90 MLAs in the house.
KCR is seen as the “shrewd” politician who is leading his party from the front, all while introducing several welfare measures to woo the different sections people. The many schemes introduced by him are under irrigation, agriculture, education and infrastructure sectors.
The 'Mahakutami', translated as the 'Grand Alliance', comprises the Telangana Congress, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) and the Communist Party of India (CPI). This alliance is also dubbed as the ‘Prajakutami’, as in the people’s alliance.
While the Congress, considered the main opposition party, was “almost absent” for the four years that the KCR government was in place, the party has made its presence felt over the last year by holding rallies against the government. The Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP, which was once a solid opponent in the state, has been reduced to playing a second fiddle this election.
Uttam Kumar Reddy, a former minister in the Andhra Pradesh cabinet, will lead the campaign for the party but the chief ministerial candidate will be finalised only after the election. Congress leader Revanth Reddy, who is considered a powerful speaker, is also reportedly leading the campaign by exposing alleged corruption by KCR and his family. M Kodandaram, who heads Telangana Jana Samithi is also considered a key player as he has a following among the youth, unemployed and farmers.
THE BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY
The BJP might have grown into a force to be reckoned with over the last few years, but in Telangana, hardly has a strong presence. According to a Hindustan Times analysis, the party is going through an “identity crisis” in the state, amidst reports that they might have an “understanding” with the TRS.
ALL INDIA MAJLIS-E-ITTEHAD-UL-MUSLIMEEN (AIMIM)
Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM is considered strong in and around Hyderabad, with almost 24 constituencies under the Greater Hyderabad region. The AIMIM is considered strong in at least 7 of these seats.
The Issues that Matter
Despite welfare schemes such as Rythu Bandhu which gives financial aid to farmers and Mission Kakatiya which enables better functioning of irrigation tanks, the farmers of Telangana are suffering from unstable prices and a steep drop in rates.
Only recently, the TRS-led government announced a loan waiver of up to Rs 1 lakh to 42 lakh farmers. However, according to some reports, 4,500 farmers have killed themselves in the state over the last four years.
Telangana has the third-highest level of unemployment among graduates in India, as per a report by Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). Around 39.07 percent youngsters between the age of 20-24 are unemployed in the state. Among those between the 25-29 age group, 16.11 percent are unemployed.
Tackling widespread criticism, the TRS announced an unemployment allowance of Rs 3,016 per month in its poll manifesto. The Congress has also promised jobs for unemployed youth – but, curiously, has not spelt out what they would do in order to generate jobs.
The major irrigation projects that have paved the way for agricultural development but has created land acquisition and and compensation angst among farmers. According to a report in The Times of India, as many as 23 irrigation and road projects were adversely affected due to land hurdles.
The aggrieved farmers from Khammam urban, Chintakani, Thallada, Konijerla, Wyra, Penuballi, Kallur, Vemsoor and Sattupalli mandals recently organised a sit-in opposing the proposed greenfield project, citing the alleged imminent loss of large tracts of agricultural lands due to the impending land acquisition for the project.
KCR’s conspicuous silence on the recent caste-based attacks – of Pranay’s murder and then an attack on Sandeep – has made an impression on the electorate, especially the Dalit voters, giving them the impression that their ballot is only sought for during elections, but then are “rejected by prejudices,” as argued by TS Sudhir in Sakshi Post.
How Telangana Voted in 2014
The Union Cabinet of India approved the creation of Telangana on 3 October 2013. Barely six months after that, the state went to polls on 30 April 2018.
In the results declared in May 2014, the TRS emerged as the single largest party with 63 seats out of 119. The Congress won 21 seats, while the TDP managed to win only 15 seats. Interestingly, the BJP won only five seats.
The TRS won a 34 percent vote share, while Congress registered 26 percent of votes, according to a ECI website.
A News Minute report pointed that in 2014 elections, one in every three voters who voted for the BJP in Lok Sabha did not vote for the party in the state assembly elections. It is not surprising, therefore, that while the saffron party’s share was 10.5 percent in general elections, it had come down to 7.1 percent in the state elections.
71 constituencies out of 119, the BJP-Telugu Desam Party (TDP) alliance did significantly better in the Lok Sabha polls than in the state polls. It may have contributed to the overall impression that the alliance was not really working, at least when Telangana was concerned.
At the time when the Assembly was dissolved, the TRS had 91 MLAs, having secured 26 defections and winning two by-elections. 12 out of 15 TDP MLAs and 7 out of 21 Congress MLAs were among those who defected to TRS.
What Pre-Poll Surveys Say
The Aaj Tak-India Today survey predicts a massive victory for the TRS, with 43 percent voters predicted to cast their ballot for the KCR party. The Congress, on the other hand, is expected to garner 18 percent vote share.
Interestingly, 11 percent of those surveyed wanted KCR to be the next prime minister, while 44 percent voted for PM Narendra Modi and 39 percent for Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
Another survey conducted by VDP Associates, claims that the TRS is all set to win at least 80 seats, while Congress is expected to win around 20 seats. The survey predicts that BJP will win seven seats, with AIMIM gets eight.
But, If TDP is Not a Strong Opponent, Why Are TRS & BJP Lashing Out at Naidu
If there is a common thread in campaign theme of the TRS and the BJP, it's certainly their unsparing attack on the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu.
The pre-poll pact of TDP, the ruling party of the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, and the Congress for election to the 119-member Telangana house, has also come under fire by the TRS and BJP, which have repeatedly dubbed it "unholy.”
After all, how can the TDP, a party formed in 1982 by actor-turned-politician NTR on an anti-Congress plank and to uphold Telugu self-respect in 1982, join hands with the very outfit, they ask.
TRS and BJP leaders allege that if the Congress-TDP alliance comes to power in Telangana, it would be Naidu who would be calling the shots from the Andhra Pradesh capital of Amaravati.
Congress and TDP leaders have strongly countered their arguments, saying they joined forces to fight the "divisive and destructive politics" of the BJP and end the "misrule" of the TRS government, which let all sections of people down with its "false promises.”
In this heady waters of political calculations and arithmetic, who will get to conquer Hyderabad, will only be known when the ballots return full on 7 December.
. Read more on Telangana Elections 2018 by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsTelangana Election: Will TRS & KCR Emerge Victorious Again? . Read more on Telangana Elections 2018 by The Quint.