Unpopularity of Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu seems to have pulled the Congress-TDP alliance down in Telangana.
Bengaluru: Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief K. Chandrashekar Rao’s snap-poll gamble paid off Tuesday, with the party leading in 85 of the state’s 119 seats by afternoon.
India’s newest state was due to hold its second-ever assembly election alongside next year’s Lok Sabha polls, but a host of political calculations drove KCR to advance the date.
It was clear as the results poured in that the TRS’ policy of ‘praja kalyan (public welfare)’ through a host of initiatives had thrashed the ‘Prajakutami’ or people’s alliance of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Congress, with the former rivals together leading in all of 23 seats.
One remembers what a confident K.T. Rama Rao, spokesperson and son of KCR, had said on the day of polling: “Don’t worry, hum century marenge bhaiyya (We’ll score a century).”
The TRS’ confidence came from the conviction that addressing the long-held grievances of Telangana — which sought separation from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema on the ground that it had been deprived of “Neellu, Nidhulu, Niyaamakaalu (water, funds and jobs)” — would win it hearts and votes. It turned out to be right.
The party’s performance at the head of Telangana’s first government also seems to have overshadowed the fact that the Congress-TDP manifesto included more promises.
That the Congress’ evocation of its role in Telangana’s statehood — it was cleared by the UPA government — failed to translate into votes was another sign that five years after bifurcation, the state’s people were voting for development alone, and not identity.
“One should remember that all his welfare schemes had something for every household,” said Hyderabad-based political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.
“Even the rich benefited from the Ryhtu Bandhu Scheme (under which each farmer gets Rs 8,000 per annum per acre). The Aasara scheme (pension for the poor, elderly, especially abled and other vulnerable sections) also gave him (KCR) a lot of goodwill,” he added.
“Alliances did not work, clearly, because KCR’s promises on welfare schemes had reached the last mile when they called elections,” he said. “This gave a huge boost to the TRS even though they were a bit shaken up when the Congress decided to come into the picture.”
More than the Prajakutami, the election seemed a rejection of TDP chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, experts said.
It has been reported that a lot of voices warned Naidu against leading the campaign as it would hurt the prospects of the Congress, but he did not listen.
Naidu is said to be deeply unpopular among Telangana’s people as there’s a strong belief he overlooked their concerns before the bifurcation, with considerable resentment over the fact that he never explicitly supported the statehood agitation.
Why Naidu failed
Political analyst Rajesh Kamireddy said Chandrababu had everything — media, money and muscle power — but still failed to do well.
“One thing is clear that no local Telanganite wants Chandrababu Naidu back,” he added. “The TRS played their cards quite confidently and that was reflected in how they released their manifesto just three days before the polling day,” Kamireddy said. “Ultimately, we can say that it’s a win of the people of Telangana.”
Leaders in the Congress agreed that joining hands with the TDP had proved political harakiri.
“Naidu pulled down the Prajakutami, but he also brought in much-needed impetus for the campaign. Had it not been for him, there would have been no media or money for the Prajakutami,” said a senior Congress leader who did not want to be named.
Telangana Congress spokesperson M. Krishank said the Congress had learnt a huge lesson.
“After our fantastic performance in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, [I can say that] we should have gone it alone in Telangana,” he said. “We would have fared better. It turned out to be more of a sentiment clash between KCR and Chandrababu Naidu, which was not what it should have been.”
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