Just as the assembly elections are due to held on December 7, parties are keenly observing who will win the crucial Telangana assembly elections.
By Sam Arackal
It is December 2018. Some eight months before there was an aura of invincibility cultivated by the ruling TRS party by splitting the opposition parties that made the party without strong opposition. On the other hand, the populist measures implemented by the ruling party covered a large section of the society that did a consolidation act. In between what changed the fortunes of opposition? Of course, old scenarios changed and new scenarios emerged much to the chagrin of the ruling party.
Congress has recovered it lost ground
The first and foremost reason for worry for the ruling party is the recovery of Congress from the state of anti-incumbency which it suffered in 2014 assembly and parliament elections. There was a wave against the Congress in 2014, which was left rudderless, leaderless after the bifurcation. From that state of nothing, a new leader emerged from the powerful Reddy community Uttam Kumar Reddy who galvanised the party by side-lining multiple power centres with the blessings of party high command Rahul Gandhi.
In 2014 assembly elections when the Telangana State formed, and TRS won the mandate with 33% of votes in the Vidhan Soudha, Congress’ tally was 24%, and TDP’s vote share was 14%. A simple calculation of 24+14= 38% more than that of TRS. If it is added with the support of other parties like CPI or TRS splinter group of Kodandaram, there are chances the share reaches 40%. But wait. Still, we cannot be assured unless and until the case of anti-incumbency factor is thoroughly checked or what constitutes the swing factor. It is into this area we need to see.
Anti-Incumbency Factor Check
Before going into anti-incumbency factor let us look into the core constituency of TRS. The ruling party has Velama community firmly in its fold. Part of Reddy community and a large section of BCs, Muslims, Christians form their support base.
Any brand will fail if the brand promise is not kept. One of the flagship programs is two-bedroom houses for ordinary people. In fact, the government wanted to construct 3.5 lakh houses in the first phase with the aid of Rs 10,000 crore from the centre. But according to a report in ToI, the project is showing no signs of progress by the end of 2015.
Any other populist program like subsidised rice, subsidised power to farmers, reimbursement of fees to students, subsidised lunch was successfully implemented by other parties like AIADMK, Congress, or AAP in the respective states where they had power.
Only a housing scheme can act as a brand differentiator, and in that very area, KCR failed.
Here, we need to remember one thing; it is the aspiration of the middle class the party needs to take care of. Offering food security is a tried idea which has its appeal among the blue-collar workers that to part of them, and others opt for food brought from homes or going to mess for healthy eating. If looked at who comes to have the subsidised lunch, it is noticeable that the lowest strata of the society in the queue and those who have slightly better income opt out of that. The interpretation is clear; a five-rupee lunch will continue even if another party is ruling.
Now let us check the status of fee reimbursement. According to a report on January 4, 2017, several academicians and political party leaders slammed the government over its hesitation in clearing the fee reimbursement dues. This made (TJAC) chairman M Kodandaram warn government. Now that Prof. Kodanadaram in Mahkutami carrying the message and he being the front-runner of TJAC, the student opinion, parent’s opinion can swing in favour of Congress who was giving a secure deal.
Hence, the anti-incumbency factor against the government by the students who act as first-time voters opting to change the government.
Rising Insecurity Among Business and Workers
Demonetisation and GST have reduced the income of small-scale traders.
Even though many are critical to a Congress regime, people have a feeling that the old state was better where there was less intrusion on their financial independence. A vast majority of Muslim traders feel insecure with a cashless society, and they are alright with cash transaction where the banks have little power to eat on their wealth during every transaction. The same mentality is applicable for small-scale traders who feel the old system was better for businesses.
There is every likelihood that these segments will vote for the alliance if the candidate has better credentials. In the case of Mahakutami where TDP is a significant player, the trading community has a trusted partner, hence will vote for it, depending on the credibility of the candidate projected by the party.
Women are the ones who lost income during demonetisation. When the price of cooking gas increases, they feel insecure. The lower income groups are incensed and are looking for a chance to take vengeance. It is natural that women in lesser income families come in large numbers to vote for Congress alliance to teach BJP a lesson.
TRS although it claims to be anti-Congress and anti BJP, its moves appeared it has an understanding with the BJP at the centre.
First of all, the party vows to eliminate Congress, not BJP. When opposition party heads find it challenging to meet the Prime Minister, KCR meets the PM at ease. All these raised suspicion in the minds of people who think.
On Swing Factor Where Communities Unite to Oust TRS
What happened after Telangana state was formed is the removal of the powerful Reddy community from the centre stage. For decades together, they ruled AP. The community of KCR Velama caste is 3% in AP whereas Kammas as 4.8% and Reddys 6.5%. In the past elections, part of these communities voted for TRS that brought the party to power. Now imagine a scenario where a combined rally of Congress and TDP taking place district wise. The rallies of Rahul attracted huge gathering which clearly states there is strong negative opinion against the government. And during the combined rallies of TDP and Congress, there is the strong anti-government sentiment in the gestures of the people. What will happen is the swing factor where the majority of Reddys and Kammas will be solidified to vote for Mahakutami. No doubt, voting percentage of the Mahakutami will swell.
How I can tell most assuredly that TRS will be voted out is the addition of Dalits joining the alliance. SCs comprise 20%, and STs comprise 10% in Telangana (Source quora). TRS chief promised a Dailit would be the first CM once Telangana is formed. But that promise was not kept.
Then after the party came to power Rohit Vemula who is said to be Dalit committed suicide leading to Dalit uprisings. But the ruling party didn’t do much the restore the confidence among the Dalits. After TRS capturing power in 2014, CPM-affiliated Inter-caste Marriages Federation found 19 incidents of caste-based killings in Telangana.
BJP has attracted a large number of Dalits to the party. But step by step part of the Dalits lost their faith in the party and began to switch preferably to BSP or Congress. These are some of the reasons for a swing factor in favour of Reddys, Kammas, part of disenchanted OBCs in the KCR regime.
Modi Effect will Diminish the TRS Appeal among Hindus
In the first week of December 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a fervent appeal to defeat TRS. Modi’s frontal attack has the power to up the voting percentage among Hindu voters. Guess, at whose expense. In 2014 assembly elections, KCR rode on anti-incumbency wave or on a Modi wave that ousted the Congress. Now, that anti-incumbency doesn’t exist at the same level. A new government came in Hyderabad, and when it came to corruption, there was not much difference. Moreover, the 12% reservation offered to Muslims by KCR regime will backfire as offended Hindus with honour will vote for BJP at the expense of TRS.
In this process, the beneficiary will be Congress.
Muslims had been allies of Congress for decades, and they increased power and pelf with their support. Common Muslims will have found easy if MIM goes along with Congress. In its stead, if the leadership goes with TRS who is widely seen as soft to BJP, part of the Muslims will find it safe to go with Congress.
Even political pundits accept that Muslims in villages will opt for Congress and in the city majority of Muslims will vote for TRS. Even among the urbane Muslims, many freethinking Muslims will choose for Congress purely for security reasons and for giving a strong message to BJP that the strategy of splitting the opposition will not succeed.
In the long run, there are chances that MIM will lose its credibilities like Ali Mian or Delhi Imam supporting a Samajwadi party or Janata Dal that helped BJP to come to power.
How Were Odds Stacked Against the Ruling Party?
It is a fact that KCR is intelligent and a political pundit. But at the same time, we can see one thing – if everyone gangs up against the smart actor, then things will be difficult.
Abhimanyu in Mahabharata was a victim of being outsmarted by united rivals. Napoleon was highly efficient in outwitting his enemies. Finally, the outwitted ones beleaguered him and defeated him at the Battle of Nations. In the same way, Hitler perished.
Similarly, the smart KCR also will be defeated by the combined opposition onslaught. KCR could have won if he made a tacit electoral understanding like playing weak candidates and BJP helping the ruling party to come to power. In its absence, it is likely to lose the elections for sure.