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Telangana assembly elections 2018: KCR’s early polls gamble put to test

It was the most unlikely pairing that defined the Telangana election. On Wednesday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu held a joint rally where they attacked both PM Narendra Modi and caretaker CM K Chandrasekhar Rao for shattering the ‘dreams’ people had when Telangana was created five years ago.

And thus culminated a journey that had begun with Gandhi and Naidu walking out of the former’s house in Delhi to declare they would be allies: the formation of the Maha Kootami (Grand Alliance that also comprises the Communist Party of India and the Telangana Jana Samithi).

Together, the two leaders — with their allies — made the December 7 polls far more competitive than anyone had thought. The incumbent, KCR, as the CM is popularly called, perhaps realises the challenge. After spending the past month criss-crossing the state, he spent the final day of campaign in his own constituency of Gajwel.

KCR had decided to dissolve the assembly early. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief had perhaps calculated that with a fragmented opposition, the sheer weight of his own personality, his governance record and party strength, the election would be a walkover, and give him time to play a larger role in 2019. Whether the gamble will pay off will be clear only on December 11.

Read more: Vote share of 2014

The Telangana assembly has 119 seats. In 2014,the TRS won 63 seats with a vote share of 34%. But it won over legislators from other parties, primarily Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP), and eventually grew to 90 seats. The Congress won 24% of the vote share, and TDP — then in partnership with BJP — won 14%. So by the logic of arithmetic, the Maha Kootami believes that it has the numerical edge.

What adds to its confidence is local anti-incumbency. The TRS has repeated most of its legislators. The TRS believes its wide margin gives it enough cushion. Even if there is a slide, the party has to lose over 30 seats to be pushed out of power. It is also banking on the support of the AIMIM, the influential Muslim party of Hyderabad.

As the campaign ended, two broad themes became clear – identity, and welfare and jobs.

The 2014 election, right after the state was formed, was an emotive one, for a long and cherished demand had just been met. KCR has sought to recreate the same emotions, by both claiming that people should reward those who struggled for statehood and by pointing to Naidu’s presence as proof that ‘outsiders’ — code for those from Andhra Pradesh — want to control Telangana politics.

Read more: Win map of 2014

But the Telangana card got partly neutralised by Sonia Gandhi’s successful speech where she called Telangana her child and Rahul Gandhi’s repeated assertions that UPA decided to create the state.

The second broad theme is welfare. KCR believes a range of concessions and services he has offered to citizens will see the TRS home. The Maha Kootami has upped the ante on welfare too with the Congress alleging KCR did not meet his promises.

The Maha Kootami has also claimed that KCR has failed on job creation and instead promised that a lakh young people will be given jobs within a year of it coming to power. As India’s newest state heads to polls, it is this mix of a complex arithmetic and campaign themes that will define the polls.

For full coverage on Telangana elections,click here.

First Published: Dec 06, 2018 07:27 IST

Source: HindustanTimes