Telangana: Four years on, the vote is still for the sentiment and not the caste factor
Hyderabad, Oct 17: India's youngest state, Telangana polls in December. Will K Chandrashekhar Rao retain power or will the Congress upset him. While that would be known December 11 after the December 7 polling, let us take a look at the issues in the state and how the political parties are faring.
In almost every state in India, caste plays a major card in every election. However that is slightly different in the case of Telangana, where sentiments dominate the caste factor. While as of now, it looks like the TRS may sail through, history has shown that Telangana can be a giant killer as well.
Who is ahead:
Several psephologists say that the TRS is ahead. There are a couple of advantage that the party has. First and foremost it is considered as a local party, which had led the agitation until the state was formed.
KCR on the other hand has had a mixed track record. While some term him as a feudal lord, others say that he has hit the right chord with his welfare schemes. However is this enough to take him through?
Also Read | Infographic: How Telangana voted in 2014
The Congress on the other hand has been quietly re-building. Some analysts say that there could be a resurgence of the Congress. However the TRS gained some advantage by declaring the candidates early, while the Congress which is in an alliance with the TDP and CPI is yet to do so.
The Congress has managed to stay united and under Uttam Kumar Reddy, there has been not much infighting. Moreover the party has also roped in strong leaders such as Revanth Reddy and Nagam Janardhan, which could be seen as a plus for the party.
While there seems to be no voice of dissent as of now, the announcement of candidates could see some feathers being ruffled. The dissent would crop up if any Congress leader is upset with a TDP candidate being given a ticket.
The Congress has been going to town against KCR making allegations of nepotism, corruption while also accusing him of being a feudal lord. The Congress cites examples of KCR's ministers being unhappy about not getting to meet him. The Congress further says that KCR is most of the time consigned to his camp office that is called Pragati Bhavan.
KCR is also referred to as the Dora (landlord) and Pragati Bhavan as his palace. Moreover with people such as Gadar, joining hands against KCR, a negative sentiment against him is being built up.
Observers say that songs against KCR are gaining in popularity. In fact today they are more in number. One song goes on to speak about how students, women and men alike sacrificed their lives to attain a separate state. Today look, it is a feudal landlord who rules us, says one song.
There are pro-TRS songs no doubt, but the ones against the party are outnumbered as of today.
The Congress further accuses KCR of corruption. The party says that there has been corruption in the Kaleshwaram irrigation project, Mission Bagiratha and Mission Kakatiya.
The caste factor:
The fact that none of the parties are being led by a strong OBC leader despite the community being highest in number only goes on to show that the caste factor does not play a major role. Analysts say that it is not as though the caste factor was not there. It is just that it has been replaced with the sentiment factor owing to the Telangana movement.
After the OBCs come the SC/STs, minorities and the Reddys. However in the election it is the OBCs would be the deciding factor. However for the OBCs, the factor that has mattered the most has been agriculture, considering that a majority of them belong to that sector.
Traditionally the OBCs have sided with the Telugu Desam Party in the past and this thanks to N T Rama Rao. It was NTR who had given them maximum representation in the form of tickets and berths in the ministry. However over the years that sentiment has been wiped over thanks to the Telangana movement.
The Congress on the other hand would bank heavily on the SC/ST votes and also the ones from the non-Hyderabadi Muslims. In the city of Hyderabad, the minorities would back the MIM all out. The party in fact looks good currently to retain its 7 seats or add two more to its kitty.
The other important vote bank is that of the settlers. This would be crucial for the Congress and here its alliance with the TDP may help. The settlers from the Andhra and Rayalseema region would like to see a TDP resurgence as they would want one of their own at the helm of power
Telangana however has a history of springing a surprise. When both NTR and Chandrababu Naidu lost power, Telangana had played a major factor.
Back in 1989, NTR had contested the elections from three constituencies. This included Kalwakurthy in Telangana's Mehboobnagar district. While he won from the constituencies in Rayalseema and Andhra, he lost the one from Telangana.
His son-in-law Naidu suffered a major setback when he lost the elections in 2004. While one of the dominant reasons was the Y S Rajasekhara Reddy factor, Naidu's TDP suffered huge losses in the Telangana region, which was then part of a united Andhra Pradesh.
This syndrome has not been restricted to the TDP alone. The Congress too lost heavily in 1994 and 1999. The Congress would hope that syndrome comes into play in 2018 and a giant like KCR would lose.
It has been four years since the state has been formed. The people of the state have always been sentimental and this mood continues even till date although the issues are different.
The people of the state especially in the rural areas still chose populist measures over other issues. For instance, the Raitha Bandhu and Raitha Bhima schemes have been extremely popular. As part of the Raitha Bandhu scheme, the KCR government offered Rs 8,000 per year for any farmer with over an acre land. He has now announced that if voted back to power, the amount would be enhanced to Rs 10,000.
Knowing fully well that the farming community votes entirely on sentiments, both the Congress and TRS have made major announcements for the community. The Congress says if it comes to power, it would announce a Rs 2 lakh loan waiver and also fix an unemployment allowance of Rs 3,000. The TRS on the other hand promises a Rs 3,016 unemployment allowance and says that it would announce a farm loan waiver of up to Rs 1 lakh.
Knowing fully well of the sentiment factor, KCR has gone to town with the same. He reminds the people that the Congress is in an alliance with the TDP and if voted to power, leaders from the Seema-Andhra region would rule the state. This is very much on the lines of the 2014 campaign when KCR played the people of the two regions against each other.
The Congress on the other feels that KCR cannot capitalise on sentiments alone. The party leaders say that during the peak of the movement in 2014, the TRS had managed to win only 63 seats. If the sentiments were so high in favour of KCR, he should have romped home with 80 to 90 seats at least they say.
The Congress would also be mindful of a promise the people of the state had made to them in 2014.
It was the Congress led UPA which passed the Telangana bill which paved the way for the formation of a new state. When the people had voted the TRS to power, they had said that this was because the party fought for the state since day one. The Congress which helped create the state will be rewarded the next time, they had also said.
Will TRS capitalise on the sentiment or will Congress be rewarded as had been promised in 2014. To find out, you will need to wait another 55 days.