With YSR Congress looking certain to sweep the Jun 12 Andhra bypolls, will equations in the state politics change? The Andhra Assembly has 294 seats in all with 148 as the magic figure. The Congress, which is the ruling party, has 152 seats and has the support of the Praja Rajyam Party. The Majlise-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) with seven MLAs and three Independents are also supporting the Congress. The opposition, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has 86 members.
It is not that the Kiran Kumar Reddy-government in Andhra will collapse straightaway if the YSR Congress sweeps the by-polls. The YSR Congress, till the last reports came in, had won eight seats. It still will have the required support to survive a scare. Both the TDP and YSR Congress also said they were against any mid-term crisis for the government.
But the fact is, with each win in the by-polls, the YSR Congress will eat into the Congress's majority and sow the seeds of a larger threat. The Congress government would fear possibility of mass exodus of party members to the Jagan camp. For, most of the local Congress leaders were picked by the late chief minister of the state, YSR Rajasekhara Reddy, and for them Jagan is a far greater symbol to express loyalty than 10 Janpath Road.
The Congress although understood that the writing was on the wall but yet expressed hope of putting up a good show in at least eight to nine of the 18 seats that went to the polls on Jun 12. It said, more it succeeded in reducing the margin of loss, lesser would be threats to the government. The party leadership also promised to 'reward' some of its dissenting MLAs with cabinet berths after the by-polls if they had remained with the party and not cross floors.
Another theory doing the rounds was that the Congress and the TDP were working on a tacit understanding between them to deal with Jagan, considered a common enemy. This was a classic case of political manipulation where the ruling and the opposition parties join hands to stop a upcoming third force. The Congress could face a tough challenge if the TDP joins Jagan but would thank Chandrababu Naidu if his outfit abstains from a probable no-confidence motion.
The TDP leadership, however, confirmed that given to choose between the Congress and YSR Congress, it would opt for the former. The TDP, given its present state of affairs, would not welcome a mid-term poll and instead build itself for the scheduled election two years away.
Stakes are high for all parties. Even for the YSR Congress, clear favourites to win the by-polls, it is not just winning a battle of prestige with the Congress. Victory is necessary for it to get a platform to challenge the bigger forces in future. Anything less could throw it into the dustbin of history.
On the other hand, YSR's victory would put people like Naidu's future under question. It is very crucial for him to lead his party well in the by-poll issue. The TDP's under-confident self was clearly visible when one of its MLAs accused the Congress of working out a deal with Jagan to derail its chances.
As for the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), results in Parkal (this is the only seat where it contested) would be key for a loss that would give Jagan a strong opportunity to enter the Telangana.
The by-polls could also influence the upcoming presidential polls, for the 294-member strong house forms an important part of the electoral college. A whopping win for Jaganmohan Reddy may disrupt the Congress's plans to see a UPA-backed Preisdent in action.
However, the by-poll results may go long in determining the fate of the Telangana movement. Given the fast eroding base of the Congress, it might not be an impossibility now to imagine the old 'dividing-the-state' politics coming into play in Andhra Pradesh in the near future. Not results, but the consequences that matter more for the latest Andhra elections.