Bi­fur­ca­tion of Andhra Pradesh has trig­gered great churn­ing in po­lit­i­cal par­ties on both sides of the di­vide

India Today - - SPECIAL REPORT - By Amar­nath K. Menon

Andhra Pradesh’s di­vi­sion hasn’t just re­shaped maps. It has in­flicted dis­or­der bor­der­ing on an­ar­chy on the Tel­ugu land’s po­lit­i­cal for­ma­tions. De­fec­tions are too many to keep count of and even the chief min­is­ter has de­serted his party. It isn’t sur­pris­ing though given that elec­tions, to as­sem­blies as well as Lok Sabha, are near.

The pas­sage of the Andhra Pradesh Re­or­gan­i­sa­tion Bill, 2013 has res­cued the Congress from the brink of a wipe­out in what was once its south­ern bas­tion, but caught its main ri­val, the Tel­ugu De­sam Party, on the wrong foot. Just when TDP’s N. Chan­drababu Naidu was work­ing BJP for an al­liance to off­set the dam­age caused by his am­biva­lent stand on the cre­ation of Te­lan­gana, his for­mer NDA ally dusted off its old ‘one vote, two states’ slo­gan and backed the bill, leav­ing him to the mercy of a charged elec­torate. This bodes well for Y.S. Ja­gan Mo­han Reddy. An In­dia To­day Group–CVoter Po­lit­i­cal Stock Ex­change snap poll of 1,500 re­spon­dents, across the un­di­vided state on Fe­bru­ary 18 and 19 cou­pled with per­cep­tions of 4,297 oth­ers tracked and gleaned since Jan­uary, re­veals that 43.8 per cent in Andhra Pradesh see his YSR Congress as the real rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the cam­paign against the state’s split. Ja­gan is aware of this. He has launched a no- holds-barred cam­paign against the Congress—even rak­ing up So­nia Gandhi’s for­eign ori­gin and com­plain­ing how he has be­come a vic­tim of vendetta pol­i­tics—to fur­ther strengthen his po­si­tion in the trun­cated Andhra, where the Grand Old Party has lost all good­will.

Te­lan­gana Rash­tra Samithi ( TRS) too is sit­ting pretty for it has won its cause célèbre. The poll shows 57.9 per cent in Te­lan­gana give TRS credit for the state’s for­ma­tion. This puts it in a strong po­si­tion to bar­gain hard with prospec­tive ally Congress—party chief K. Chan­drasekhar Rao has promised to “keep my word” to So­nia Gandhi on the al­liance—for a big­ger share of seats. TRS has also set sights on win­ning this year’s elec­tion to the new state’s 119-seat As­sem­bly and drafted an ac­tion plan for “build­ing a mod­ern Te­lan­gana”, which is more or

less a poll man­i­festo. How­ever, lead­ers who won’t get tick­ets in the event of merger with the Congress—a prospect fore­seen by 45.6 per cent of those polled in Te­lan­gana—will cer­tainly hurt TRS’ prospects if they are fielded by BJP.

Still, TRS has, in Rao, a face to go to polls with in a land that’s par­tial to per­son­al­ity pol­i­tics. YSR Congress has Ja­gan. A face can be a great as­set— the snap poll found that 50.9 per cent in Andhra and 49.l per cent in Te­lan­gana be­lieve KCR, as the TRS chief is known, and Ja­gan are best placed to de­velop their re­spec­tive re­gions. The poll projections re­veal that the YSR Congress can win 18 and the TRS 14 Lok Sabha seats. But this could al­ter if the Congress and BJP strike an al­liance with TRS and TDP in the com­ing days. In this era, the Congress will be the big loser. It ruled Andhra Pradesh for the past 10 years and lever­aged its suc­cess in the Lok Sabha polls here to form suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments at the Cen­tre in 2004 and 2009. Now, its chief min­is­ter N. Ki­ran Ku­mar Reddy has re­signed in protest, as have eight of his min­is­ters as well as sev­eral union min­is­ters and MPs while six other Congress MPs have al­ready been ex­pelled by the party. Its back to the wall, the party is toy­ing with the idea of go­ing to the polls un­der a leader from a back­ward group or the in­flu­en­tial Kapu com­mu­nity such as Union min­is­ter K. Chi­ran­jeevi. But it may still not win even a third of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh. In Te­lan­gana though, an al­liance with TRS is ex­pected to yield most of the 17 seats.

To add in­sult to Congress’ in­jury, the net gainer in both new states is its neme­sis, BJP. In Andhra, BJP will be bol­stered by the likely ar­rival of heavy­weights who have quit the Congress but are un­wel­come in TDP such as for­mer Union min­is­ter D. Pu­ran­deswari, daugh­ter of TDP founder N.T. Rama Rao. In Te­lan­gana, its avowed stand on smaller states has helped build a base which it is now strength­en­ing, and it’s also ex­pect­ing some TDP lead­ers, in­clud­ing leg­is­la­tors, to cross over. This, the party hopes, will give it a size­able pres­ence in the Te­lan­gana House and build it up as the al­ter­na­tive to the Congress- TRS com­bine by 2019.

That may be a lit­tle over­am­bi­tious. TDP, de­spite it propen­sity to self-de­struct, is no pushover in Te­lan­gana. It can yet steal some seats through so­cial en­gi­neer­ing that Naidu is adept at—by field­ing can­di­dates who can bring Ka­pus and other back­ward groups over to the Kamma-dom­i­nated TDP. It also hopes to make good its Te­lan­gana losses in Andhra. This, per­haps, won’t be enough to wrest back power, but it will en­able the party to run Ja­gan close. That will be no mean feat, for the elec­tion to the new 175-seat Andhra As­sem­bly is YSR Congress’ to lose.

His party en­joys sup­port among youth, Dal­its and women and Ja­gan is try­ing to widen his base by ap­pro­pri­at­ing the wel­fare legacy of his fa­ther, for­mer Congress chief min­is­ter Y.S. Ra­jasekhara Reddy. The party is buoy­ant about its prospects and hopes to even win in pock­ets of Te­lan­gana pop­u­lated by people who hail from districts that are now in Andhra. If it falls short, in the face of a TDP-BJP al­liance, the party can woo back ‘rebels’ who win as In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates. Else, it can part­ner or even merge with the Congress as 45.4 per cent of the poll re­spon­dents be­lieve it will. That prospect isn’t im­prob­a­ble. No po­lit­i­cal equa­tion ever is.

Fol­low the writer on Twit­ter @Amar­nathKMenon


Pho­to­graph by M ZHAZO



Pho­to­graph by RA­JWANT RAWAT


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