Telangana Polls: Why TRS Is Still The Favourite In An Election That Could Go Down To The Wire

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With just a few days to go, the state of Telangana has already started to feel the heat of the elections. The 29th state of India, which came into existence in 2014, will go to polls for the first time on December 7, 2018.

The election could go down to the wire with the newly formed Mahakutami, which consists of the Indian National Congress, Telugu Desam Party, professor M Kodandaram's Telangana Jana Samithi and the Communist Party of India, taking on a formidable opponent in caretaker chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao 's TRS which has the support of Asaduddin Owaisi's All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).

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K Chandrasekhar Rao 's TRS enjoys an edge in this Assembly election. (Source: India Today)

On one hand, the TRS is confident about coming back to power. The same was reflected in one of the speeches given by TRS chief's daughter and TRS MP Kavitha Kalvakuntla when she said, “KCR alone is enough to get us back to power.”

On the other, a desperate Mahakutami, consisting of parties which according to most people stood little or no chance, finally has things falling into place. The grand alliance did face a lot of hurdles in the initial stages with respect to the sharing of seats but seems to be coming together as we approach the election.

Parties and important parameters

Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which won 63 Assembly seats in 2014, was considered to be the outright favourite until the Mahakutami was formed. KCR dissolving the state Assembly at least 9 months before the state actually had to go to polls has garnered severe criticism and has given the Opposition a chance to point fingers.

TRS, on the other hand, sticks to its version, saying, the social welfare schemes introduced will get them through this time around. TRS also enjoys the support of Owaisi's AIMIM, which has a strong hold in the Old City and has been winning 7 Assembly constituencies since the past three decades.

Schemes like Rythu Bandhu, Rythu Bheema, Mission Bhagiratha and pension advancement to the senior citizens and differently-abled people have worked in TRS' favour and will have a major impact on this election.

TRS has also been attacked by the Mahakutami leaders, including Rahul Gandhi.

Chandrababu Naidu has been criticised for supporting the BJP in the presidential elections, the vice presidential elections, GST and demonetisation.

The Opposition has been seen trying to colour the TRS as Telangana-RSS and the B team of BJP, primarily to use even the BJP's shortcomings against the TRS.

Like it is Narendra Modi versus others at the central level, it has ended up becoming KCR vs others in Telangana, which is what the Mahakutami hoped for.

Another factor that could impact TRS' vote share is a section of the student community of Osmania University turning its back on KCR. A significant number of students in the university, which was the heart of the Telangana movement, have gone against KCR who according to them didn't even 'bother' to visit the campus once and thank the students for their support after becoming the chief minister.

Considering the fact that in 2014, the OU student community stood with the TRS. One would have to say that the TRS did lose some ground there. Also, party cadre revolting in the Adilabad district due to the discrepancies in the seat allotment process can also cost the party.

The elections in Telangana will definitely be fought over the sentiment of Telangana, which KCR has been trying to use in almost all his public meetings. By attacking the Congress party for joining hands with TDP, a party which always opposed the separation and has got the image of being an 'Andhra party'.

All in all, the success of the TRS will depend on the reach of their social welfare schemes that they have been heavily banking upon and the charisma of their leader, KCR as specified by Kavitha Kalvakuntla.

Mahakutami

The Mahakutami has given all the four political parties a great chance in Telangana, given they stand united.

A total of 19 Assembly seats were won or lost over a vote difference of less than 5,000 votes in 2014. If the cadres of all parties decide to work together and manage to swing these seats, the Kutami has the potential to go all the way.

On the other hand, a lot of candidates in all these parties have explicitly stated their disappointment regarding the allotment of seats, meaning that if the lack of unity continues on ground, it could favour the TRS. The Kutami woke up late in the day, there was lack of unity in the initial stages. Candidates were kept in the dark about the seat sharing due to which their campaign began much later compared to the TRS which could benefit the ruling party.

TDP

No resident of Telangana ever imagined that they would one day hear Chandrababu Naidu say, 'Jai Telangana', which he did innumerable times during his campaign.

That very image of TDP being against Telangana could prove to be fatal. TDP chief and AP CM, Naidu, speaking at a public meeting in Hyderabad's Nampally said, “TRS is the B team of the BJP. AIMIM should now think about which side they want to be on'. The TDP chief along with Rahul Gandhi was evidently seen trying to drive this narrative home during their visit. This is a clear attempt at trying to get AIMIM to their side, which could prove to be fatal to TRS because the AIMIM's foundation is against the BJP and aligning with the BJP would mean loss of Muslim votes for them.

The Telugu Desam Party should see Mahakutami as a blessing in disguise and a lifeline in Telangana. The party seemed non-existent since the state division. The Telangana sentiment based on which the agitation lasted for over 60 years is also against the party. We get a sense that TDP has gotten into the alliance keeping in mind 2019 and the present situation at the national level.

Naidu time and again pitching for the mahagathbandhan at the central level during his campaign in Telangana proves the same. The party has been allotted 14 seats this time around. The party has played to its strengths, like in the case of the Kukatpally candidate and former CM NTR's granddaughter Suhasini, who has been granted a constituency which has a majority of Andhra votes.

Other candidates like Mukesh Goud from the Goshamahal constituencies and son of former home minister, Virender Goud from the Uppal constituency and Secunderabad candidate K Gyaneshwar are also expected to put up a fight and give the TRS a run for their money.

The Congress

The party which won 21 seats in 2014 also didn't stand a chance against TRS and KCR until the formation of the Mahakutami according to most political analysts. Aligning with the TDP could go both ways for the party in Telangana. If KCR manages to drive home the 'TDP is anti-Telangana party' narrative, it could prove to be fatal for the Congress. On the other hand, the TDP has played to its strengths in most constituencies and so did TJS and CPI, meaning that the overall tally could grow immensely due to the alliance.

The alliance came with its own banes for the Congress party. In the process of keeping its alliance partners happy, the Congress party has successfully managed to upset a lot of candidates within the party. The most formidable name of all is that of four-time MLA and son of former AP CM, Marri Shashidhar Reddy, who has been denied the Sanath Nagar ticket.

The joining of Revanth Reddy from the TDP which could have an impact has been nullified by the TDP joining hands with the Congress. Internal disputes between TPCC president Uttam Kumar Reddy and other members like Revanth Reddy and Shashidhar Reddy can severely go against the party and the alliance.

Speaking to DailyO, Shashidhar Reddy said, “Uttam Kumar Reddy not only has issues with Revanth and me but everyone that matters in the party.”

However, Rahul Gandhi's visit, calling for unity, could have an impact.

Telangana Jana Samithi

The Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) will be fighting 8 out of the 119 seats this time. TJS chief professor Kodandaram, who lead the Telangana agitation alongside KCR, garnered great support from the masses but the same seems to have faded ever since.

However, the TJS chief even now has enough following to have a positive impact. For the TJS, a party which lacks manpower and cadre in the state, this is an amazing opportunity to carve out some support. To sum up, Kodandaram's following is possibly the only thing that the party could bring to the alliance.

Communist Party of India

The Communist Party of India, which was evidently upset with the seat sharing, won just one Assembly seat in 2014. The party spokespersons went on record to say, “We will not stay in the alliance if we are not given five seats.” However, the party will be contesting from only three Assembly seats. The party garners good support in the SC/ST constituencies and playing to their strengths could end up being a boon to the Mahakutami.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen

Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM has been ruling over seven constituencies which are located around the Charminar in the Old City of Hyderabad. This time around the party is also contesting from Rajendra Nagar making it 8. Going into the election, even this time around, the situation seems to be pretty much the same. With a major Muslim vote bank in all these constituencies, AIMIM is definitely the outright favourite. The AIMIM has pledged its support to the TRS which by far has successfully maintained a secular image.

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Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM  won seven seats in the last Assembly election. (Source: India Today)

However, with leaders of the Kutami dropping hints that they would welcome the AIMIM, the tide could change. A lot depends on the seven seats the AIMIM is backed to win in this election where every seat could matter.

Bharatiya Janata Party

For long now, the BJP has failed to understand the fabric of Telangana. The Hindutva agenda has by far, faced only rejection from the people here. The party won five seats in 2014.

Controversial candidate from Goshamahal, Raja Singh Lodh, former state party president Kishen Reddy and sitting Uppal MLA Nvss Prabhakar are expected to get through even this time around but the state party president K Laxman seems to be struggling going against TRS' Muta Gopal and Congress' Anil Kumar Yadav.

The BJP's aim will be to increase the tally in 2018 and have an impact in the formation of the government. According to ground reports, the BJP's tally could go further down this time around.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting Nizamabad and the state's capital could have an impact on the election but TRS' Kavitha thinks otherwise.

Speaking to DailyO, she said, “The PM was here even last time around but what happened? The fabric of Telangana is different, people will not accept this.”

Controversial MLA Raja Singh has also caused some trouble for the party by making provocative remarks during his campaign and threatening Akbaruddin Owaisi.

Speaking to DailyO, people belonging even to his community have condemned the same and accused him of being the reason for the rise in communal tension in the constituency.

This is how Raja Singh has practised for years now but whether or not it will this time is a matter of concern for the party.

Mahakutami's Mukesh Goud is expected to give Raja Singh a tough fight in Goshamahal. The BJP fights to better its record and make inroads but is far from forming the government in Telangana.

However, the BJP could still have a major impact in two cases.

1) It could cause damage to the TRS with the Mahakutami leaders trying to colour TRS as the 'BJP' s B team'.

2) Could prove to be instrumental if it comes down to the number without any party having a clear majority. In which case, the party has no option but to support TRS as the Mahakutami with the Congress and their long lost ally TDP isn’t an option.

BJP supporting the TRS could mean that the AIMIM, which fundamentally is against BJP, might have to look for an alternative.

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The BJP may support the TRS. (Source: PTI)

To conclude, it is still too early to call and it anybody's election.

However, personally, out of having done ground reports, I feel the TRS still holds the goodwill, which along with KCR's charisma and AIMIM (if they don't pull out) is enough to pull through.

Also read: Telangana Assembly Election 2018: Why Chandrababu Naidu does not want to bargain hard with Congress

Source : https://www.dailyo.in/politics/telangana-assembly-elections-kcr-tdp-chandrababu-naidu/story/1/28069.html

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