Telangana elections: Will the promise made to ‘Sonia Amma’ in 2014 be fulfilled in 2018?
Hyderabad, Sep 18: The death of Y S Rajasekhar Reddy, one of the tallest leaders of the Congress in a united Andhra Pradesh was a major turning point. Struggling to fill in the vacuum caused by the death of Reddy who had won two consecutive elections in AP n 2004 and 2009 was a Herculean task for the Congress.
As the party was reeling with the loss, there came a rebellion in the form of Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, which plunged the party's prospects further. In all this, the Congress faced a further problem as the demand for a separate Telangana state rose higher.
K Chandrashekar Rao intensified the demand and the Congress which was in power both in AP and Centre began discussing the issue seriously. The protests had touched dizzying heights and the Congress had no option, but to give into the demand and finally in February 2014, the nod for a separate state was given.
For the Congress it was a major political gamble. On one hand, the popularity of KCR was soaring, while on the other Jagan Reddy was threatening to eat into the vote bank of the Congress.
In the run up to the big declaration, the Congress knew that it had to play it smart. It was well aware of the fact that Telangana was a highly sensitive issue and the people would back KCR as he was the only political leader in AP, who raised his voice for a separate state, without any let up.
One of the pre-conditions of the Congress to declare a state was that the TRS would need to tie up with it ahead of the elections. While KCR agreed at first, he managed to outsmart the Congress and said that any tie up would be possible only once statehood was declared.
KCR read the cards well and knew that the Congress was desperate. If the state was declared, it was doomed in the Seema-Andhra and Rayalseema regions as the people had vociferously opposed the division of AP. If the Congress did not declare a state, then it was curtains for it in Telangana.
The Congress gave into KCR's demand as it felt that it could save at least one bastion. From AP, it was getting all mixed signals and almost all of the media had gone berserk on Jagan's popularity and the kind of crowds, he was drawing. However in the elections held in AP, the crowds did not translate into votes and it was Chandrababu Naidu who had the last laugh. The people who had seen how Naidu had transformed Hyderabad felt that he was the best man suited for the job, when it came to building a new state.
KCR had his way:
With the Congress giving in and declaring a new state, KCR did an about turn on the alliance. He refused to forge an alliance and said that he would fight the elections on his own.
The 2014 Telangana elections were giving out mixed signals. On one hand the people wanted to reward KCR as he had fought for the cause. On the other they would say, " this state would not have been possible without Sonia Amma's efforts." The big question was who were the people going to reward? Several voters had said that they would give KCR the first chance and in the next elections they would reward the Congress.
Does Sonia still matter:
Fast forward 2018, the state is going in for elections and it is an early one thanks to KCR dissolving the assembly. The question that we asked the voter was whether they still remember the 2014 promise and how they had said that in the next elections, they would reward the Congress thanks to Sonia Gandhi.
The response on the ground is a mixed one. Clearly the 2014 sentiment is not as high this time. They do remember what Sonia Gandhi had done, but when it comes to voting for the Congress, they are unsure.
KCR, it appears had over the years clearly sensed this and would have thought of what the voter had said back in 2014. He has doled out one scheme after another cutting across caste lines. He has been mindful of the farmers, who form a large chunk of the electorate. Further, he has played the regional card very well and often reminded the voter that they should not become slaves of Delhi. This appears to have a large impact in several parts of the state.
Moreover KCR also caught the Congress off guard, when he decided to dissolve the assembly paving the way for early elections. The Congress was banking on a resurgence and clearly needed time at least until May to put up a good fight. It had to stitch up an alliance with the TDP, a party which the people of Telangana say had tried to block the formation of a new state.
KCR too is going to town with this issue and is reminding the people as to how the TDP had tried to stall the formation of Telangana.
KCR made two major political gambles-one in 2014 and another in 2018. In 2014, the gamble to stay away from the Congress paid off. The one in 2018 where he decided to face the voters early has paid off, it appears at least as of now.