An election which appeared to be a no-brainer with a faceless opposition is becoming a close contest day by day and failed promises could haunt chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao
Popularly known as the ‘Father of Telangana’, chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao recommended to dissolve the state Assembly earlier than scheduled in September 2018. There was no valid reason given for this move. Political commentators argued that he wanted to decouple the state elections from national elections which were scheduled to be held together. Even in 2014, both state and Lok Sabha elections were held together and the Modi wave which was at its peak had little impact in the state. So, it doesn’t add up.
Resignations, however, are not new to KCR. He may be holding the record for resigning the most times as an MLA and/or MP. He is a firm believer of vaastu and has never completed his five-year tenure, whether as an MLA or an MP. Now that polls are scheduled to be held in the state on December 7, let's look at how they may pan out.
Sheer arithmetic of mahakutami
An election which appeared to be a no-brainer with a faceless opposition is becoming a close contest day by day. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has 90 members in the Assembly (helped by defections), which is 77% of the strength of the house. However, the formation of a grand alliance (mahakutami) comprising of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Congress, Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) and Communist Party of India (CPI), the presence of smaller parties like All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and a rejuvenated BJP under Amit Shah has complicated matters for KCR.
The mahakutami would have enjoyed a 6.5% lead over the TRS in 2013 and had they contested together, the TRS's tally would have been 51, eight short of majority. The TRS benefitted immensely from the split of votes and many parties contesting separately. Even at the peak of the Telangana movement, TRS could manage just 63 seats, four more than majority. The focus is now on delivery of promises after four-and-a-half years in power, and this, together with the joining of opposition forces, is giving KCR the jitters.
The opposition has built its campaign around broken promises of KCR, and dictatorial and single-family rule. Earlier polls predicted a TRS sweep. However, the ABP-C Voter survey, which was aired after the mahakutami finalised its seat sharing talks, predicted that the grand alliance will win the state with 64 seats, and TRS would finish second with 42 seats. According to C-Voter's analysis notes, "KCR is the most popular leader in a standalone and run-off style polling. However, the electoral arithmetic of TDP and Congress is testing his party. Perhaps this is also a critical weakness of the TRS — standalone, it is unable to take on the TDP and Congress." The Times Now-CNX survey, on the other hand, predicted a TRS win. It, however,
may not have taken the grand alliance as one entity and hence, received criticism.
Anger amongst key voter groups (Muslims/Dalits/Youth)
Telangana has a considerable population of Muslims (13%) largely in Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Mahbubnagar, Nalgonda, Medak, Nizamabad and Karimnagar districts. According to the CSDS post-poll survey, about 17% of the Muslims vote for the TRS. To wean away the Muslim vote from the Congress and consolidate his position further, KCR played the appeasement card. He promised 12% reservation for Muslims in government jobs, two-bedroom houses and so on. These promises remain unfulfilled. Also, a section of the Muslims suspect that the TRS will ally with the BJP after the polls. Recently, KCR lost his cool at a youngster who asked him on the status of reservations. It showed the TRS leader's nervousness ahead of the elections.
A section of the Dalits is also angry with KCR. Incidents of atrocity against Dalits have surged in the state under him. The scheduled castes and scheduled tribes account for 30% of state’s population. Thirty-three percent of the scheduled castes supported the TRS in 2014.
KCR is being branded anti-Dalit by opposition on account of the following
1. Removal of Dalit leader T Rajaiah from the post of deputy chief minister.
2. Not paying a visit to the Hyderabad University after Dalit student Rohith Vemula’s suicide.
3. Torture of Dalits in police custody for raising their voices against the alleged KCR family-backed sand mafia.
4. Insulting BR Ambedkar by changing the name of a project named after him as Kaleshwaram project.
5. Failure to provide three acres of land to every scheduled caste/scheduled tribe family.
KCR promised one lakh jobs to the youth in 2014. However, Telangana has the third highest rate of unemployment in the country, causing disenchantment among the most vocal players of the separate state movement.
Telangana is among the top five states in India in terms of farmer suicides. During the past four years, 4,500 farmers have committed suicides in the state. The major reason for suicides is not getting proper price for farm produce. Though the government has launched the Rythu Bandhu or Farmer’s Investment Support Scheme, 40% of the respondents in a survey believe that the TRS government could not stop farmer suicides and failed to live up to his promises. The Congress has upped the ante promising farm loan waiver to woo the distressed farmers.
Posh lifestyle at taxpayer’s expense
Being a staunch believer of vaastu, KCR decided to build a new home-cum-office over a nine acre plot in Begumpet. The new official residence has allegedly cost the state exchequer Rs 50 crore. In the past, he ordered luxury vehicles for himself and his convoy. This doesn’t go well with his image of a person who is a champion of the poor and downtrodden. A section of the educated middle class is unhappy over such frivolous expenses.
KCR and Modi at loggerheads
Amid all this, KCR was hopeful of a friendly BJP helping him in the elections in lieu of support in the Lok Sabha polls. However, Narendra Modi has been attacking KCR lately. On November 26, Modi thundered, “It is good that he (KCR) has dissolved the Assembly early; you can get rid of your troubles early.” KCR hit back, alleging Modi was “spreading lies for votes”, referring to him as a “foolish” Prime Minister. The BJP is keen to play a key role, pushing for a hung Assembly, which is a cause for worry for KCR.
Will KCR’s gamble pay off? We have to wait till December 11. But it's crystal clear that what appeared to be smooth sailing for the TRS, is turning out to be a very close contest. History is not on KCR's side too. Both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Chandrababu Naidu lost when they called for early polls in 2004.
Last Updated 30, Nov 2018, 3:33 PM IST