Bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh has triggered great churning in political parties on both sides of the divide
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
CONGRESS IS THE BIG LOSER. IT HAS LOST ITS CHIEF MINISTER, N. KIRAN KUMAR REDDY, AND ALL GOODWILL IN ANDHRA.
K. CHANDRASEKHAR RAO’S TRS IS LIKELY TO SWEEP
TELANGANA IN ALLIANCE WITH THE CONGRESS
JAGAN MOHAN REDDY’S PARTY IS SETTO BENEFIT MOST IN ANDHRAATTDP’S COST