Telangana assembly elections 2018: Will KCR?s TRS be able to topple Congress-TDP alliance?

By Elton Gomes

Political parties in Telangana will be contesting in the state’s second assembly polls on December 7. As poll dates came closer, political parties were involved in a high-decibel election campaign, with last moment efforts to appease voters across the state.

Telangana caretaker Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) attacked the ‘unholy’ alliance between the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). Congress President Rahul Gandhi hit back and said that the Congress-led alliance will win the elections “hands down”.

KCR lashed out at his rival parties. The caretaker Chief Minister asked the voters to not let “migratory forces” assume power.

Earlier, AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen) President Asaduddin Owaisi responded to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s recent remarks in Telangana that Owaisi would have to “run away” from Hyderabad if the BJP came to power in the southern state. Owaisi said he was an Indian by choice, and an equal citizen and a partner in the country.

The numbers

Telangana, India’s youngest state, was supposed to have its second assembly elections in May 2019, but caretaker CM KCR dissolved the assembly in September 2018, and convinced the Election Commission to hold early elections in Telangana and four other states.

Major political parties contesting the elections are KCR’s Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Congress, Telangana Jana Samithi, Communist Party of India, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), and the BJP.

With an objective to defeat TRS, the Congress has aligned with the TDP, TJS, and CPI to form the Mahakutami, or the grand alliance. The BJP will be contesting alone.

In the 2014 assembly election, TRS won 63 seats. Congress came in second with 21 seats, AIMIM secured seven, and the BJP won five. The TDP, which was then an alliance partner of the BJP, won 15 seats. The five remaining seats went to “Others”. Telangana assembly has 119 seats, with 60 being the majority mark.

In 2014, the Congress won 24% of the vote share, and the TDP won 14%. So by the logic of arithmetic, the Mahakutami believes it holds a numerical edge over TRS.

Where does TRS stand?

According to India Today’s Political Stock Exchange (PSE) survey, the TRS government has gained four percent in a month. A total of 48 percent respondents supported the present KCR government for the next term as compared to 44 percent last month, the survey showed.

KCR’s move of going for early elections was considered to be a masterstroke. However, an unexpected alliance between the TDP and Congress shook things up. To add to KCR’s woes, the (CPI), a long-time ally of the Congress, and the newly formed TJS also became part of the alliance.

The Congress-led grand alliance will be a formidable threat to TRS, since Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu is looking to overthrow the BJP as well. The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N has fielded candidates in 13 constituencies, and the outcome will be a big boost for Naidu in forging an anti-BJP alliance at the national level.

KCR’s challenges

Apart from the grand alliance, KCR will also have to deal with rising rural distress in Telangana, wherein the state’s farmers have been demanding a higher minimum support price for their produce.

Additionally, farmer suicides have been on the rise: 898 farmers committed suicides in 2014, while the corresponding figures for 2015 and 2016, were 1,358 and 632, respectively, according to NCRB data.

The Congress-TDP alliance has also claimed that KCR has failed on job creation, after having promised that one lakh young people will be given jobs within a year of it coming to power.

Congress-led alliance will win ‘hands down’: Rahul Gandhi

The Congress-led alliance is confident of winning the Telangana assembly elections “hands down”, party President Rahul Gandhi said on Wednesday, claiming the TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao was showing signs of “nervousness and insecurity”.

Speaking at a press conference in Hyderabad, Gandhi said the question of chief ministership in the event of the alliance coming to power was premature and the task to be focused on was to win the elections.

He claimed that KCR used abusive language during campaigning and said it showed signs of his nervousness and insecurity. “Also if you listen to the Chief Minister’s body language…and the type of comments he is making in some of his speeches…I think yesterday he was quite abusive…he abused a couple of people.

Earlier in his speech also he was abusive…these are all signs of nervousness and insecurity developing. I think he said he is going to take rest…these are all signs of reality coming to him”, Gandhi said, as per a Times Now report.

Does AIMIM have a chance?

Akbaruddin and Asaduddin Owaisi are staunch supporters of KCR, and hold a significant voter base in several constituencies. Akbaruddin Owaisi, brother of AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, is contesting from Chandrayangutta constituency in Old Hyderabad.

The Muslim community, estimated to be 12.7% of the state’s population, is seen as a major influencing factor in 40-45 of the 119 constituencies. Political observers estimate that 29 assembly segments have more than 15% Muslim voters, while 13 have 10-15% Muslims, and 43 seats have high single-digit Muslim presence.

KCR dissolved assembly

Earlier, in September, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao dissolved the Telangana assembly, and took a huge step towards holding early elections in the southern state.

Analysts said that the move may have been prompted by a desire to fight a possible Congress-TDP alliance in the state on his own terms, even as speculation grew about his growing closeness to the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Furthermore, if the Telangana assembly elections were held along with the Lok Sabha polls, the TRS would have been caught between a national contest between the BJP-led NDA and the grand alliance. KCR’s Telangana-centered narrative would have gone for a toss.

Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius

Assembly pollselectionsK. Chandrasekhar Raotelangana