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Politics of alienation – TRS pays high price జూన్ 12, 2008

Posted by M Bharath Bhushan in Articles, elections, politics, Telangana.
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Future imperfect

Amarnath K. Menon

June 5, 2008

 

 

It was a gamble that backfired.

 

In March, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) chief K. Chandrashekara Rao asked all party MPs and MLAs to quit their seats, forcing by-elections, which he was certain his party would win and thus prove that the seven-year-old TRS and its separate statehood slogan still enjoyed popular backing.

 

 

But the drubbing the party got was a slap on its face. Its miscalculation and bravado led to the TRS strength declining from 26 to just seven MLAs and two MPs instead of four in 2004.

 

 

Desertions are likely even as the party think-tank discovers factors responsible for its poor show include its failure to convey to the electorate the need for the by-elections and Rao’s own irascible conduct.

 

 

His failure to take up a single public issue over the years in the belief that statehood for TRS was the panacea for all problems has cost the party dear.

 

Worse still, Rao, who had won the Karimnagar Lok Sabha seat with a huge margin in 2004 and again by a wide margin of over two lakh votes in the by-election he forced in 2006, managed to win this time by a meagre 15,675 votes. In as many as eight of the 16 Assembly constituencies the erosion of support was so high that TRS finished behind the Congress or TDP and even forfeited deposits in two cases.

 

Both the Congress and TDP have gained lost ground in the region.

 

 

An analysis of the voting trends and victory margins in the assembly segments, in which elections were held for either Lok Sabha or assembly seats, reveals that the Congress managed to secure a majority in 19 segments-13 segments under four Lok Sabha seats and six it won of the 46 assembly segments- where the by-elections were held.

 

TRS came first in 16 places-nine segments falling under the Lok Sabha seats and winning seven-while TDP managed to come third-winning four assembly seats and leading in six segments.

 

 

What cannot be glossed over is the fact that most contestants, irrespective of party, recognised the prevalence of a TRS sentiment and never spoke against it.

The Congress has gained more from this by-election than any other party because many of these seats were with TDP since 1983 which is why the Congress had given in to TRS in the electoral alliance of 2004.

 

The result of the by-polls also belies TRS’s claim that the Congress had won majority of the seats in 2004 in Telangana due to its support.

 

 

Though TDP, TRS and the Congress contested separately, Congress won six seats, which were bastions of TDP, which it hadn’t won in the last 25 years.

 

“This is a bonus for us,” says Veerappa Moily, AICC general secretary, arguing that the Telangana result is a reflection of the popularity of the Rajasekhara Reddy Government and the Congress among the people of the region.

 

The party is tactfully not gloating over its electoral success.

 

“I am indebted to the people of Telangana for reposing faith in me and I will do everything to repay the debt by ensuring water to every acre in the region and stepping up the development and welfare agenda,” says the shrewd chief minister acknowledging that Telangana sentiment is here to stay.

 

 

He asserts that the Congress would come up with “an appropriate decision at the right time on the Telangana issue after taking all its stakeholders into confidence”.

 

The Congress, which relies on the ‘development’ package to garner support, is to stick to it.

 

 

The reintroduction of the Rs 2-per-kg rice scheme for the poor and the Arogyasri health insurance scheme, which enables them undergo expensive surgeries at fractional of costs are among the measures of the Reddy regime that are working to the Congress’s advantage.

 

 

It will then have to keep these and other promises, including creating jobs for the youth, in order to widen its voter base.

 

 

The other fallout of these by-elections for the party is that the results have silenced veteran leaders, including Congress Working Committee and Lok Sabha member G. Venkataswamy, who had argued that the Congress was not sensitive to the demand for a separate Telangana region.

 

Now the Congress is compelled to spell out its stand clearly rather than contend that the issue is before a UPA panel headed by External Affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee.

 

Either on its own or the party with its allies in UPA has to take a firm step forward in announcing the constitution of a state reorganisation commission which will be asked to submit its report in a specified time frame.

 

 

TDP, which has improved its position winning four legislative assembly and a Lok Sabha seat, can reassert its strength for it could get only 11 out of the 107 seats in Telangana in 2004.

 

 

But it is trapped in a Catch-22 situation on making clear its stand on statehood as it is apprehensive of losing a large chunk of its backward class support to the yet-to-be-named party of actor Chiranjeevi to be launched on his birthday, August 22.

 

 

“We will choose experienced aspirants rather than fresh entrants in the general elections,” says TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, whose Mee Kosam yatra rumbling through the countryside enters its eighth week on June 9.

He is wary of Chiranjeevi’s party chipping into the TDP base.

This is cause for worry for the Congress as well.

 

 

Reddy plans to check anti-incumbency by supplementing the ‘development’ package by introducing an innovative scheme to target youth and the unemployed to attract a younger profile of voters to the Congress.

 

 

Additions to the state ministry and changes in portfolios of incumbents are part of Reddy’s initiative to prepare the Congress for the bigger elections.

 

The party is not averse to taking TRS and the Left as electoral allies in the next general election like it had done in 2004.

 

 

“We (Reddy and Rao) are like brothers. We quarrel with each other and come back together,” says the chief minister who is apparently open to a fresh electoral alliance.

 

 

The real test will be another round of by-elections to fill the assembly seats that have been vacated by A. Indrakaran Reddy of the Congress and Y. Dayakar Rao of TDP as they have won the Adilabad and Warangal Lok Sabha seats in the recent by-elections.

 

 

Provided the general elections are not called before the end of this year.

 

 

Source: India Today, 5 June 2008

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