By Sushil Kutty
Elections often throw up surprises. Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao isn’t one for unexpected surprises though. He is confident his party, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi, will keep control of the Telangana assembly at the expense of the Congress and the BJP. Reports say money and liquor are inundating the poll-bound state while KCR battles charges of plotting unending family rule. The Telangana Chief Minister is immune to such accusations, and he is convinced overwhelming numbers of Telangana voters will once again vote Bharat Rashtra Samithi to power with him at the helm poised for launching a national role.
Also, there is nothing “bad” that is casting a shadow on BRS prospects. Posters of Enforcement Directorate sleuths interrogating KCR’s daughter Kavitha in March of this year have gone with the wind – and people have pronounced short memories. The Chief Minister is seeking a third straight term and his idea of addressing rallies is to remind voters that a vote against the BRS is a vote cast against Telangana, so be careful with the voting finger.
There is nothing left to be said after that for both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party though there was talk of a Congress resurgence, mid-August or thereabout. Both the Congress and the BJP are bit players in the outgoing assembly – the Congress with five seats and the BJP with three, a speck in the 119-member Assembly. The reality is, the BJP isn’t looking forward to stray from another poor showing and is resigned to playing permanent underdog. Making inroads is its only discernible ambition.
The BRS will contest almost all the seats and continue to have a friendly understanding with Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). The BRS has 104 seats in the current Assembly and the AIMIM seven. The Congress and BJP may put up their candidates’ lists by the weekend but, to be honest, there is neither anticipation nor excitement to fill in the empty days and nights till then.
That said, the BRS may not win as many seats as it did the last time even if the ruling party is exuding confidence by repeating more than 100 candidates. The BRS has stuck to caste- and religion-wise ticket distribution. The Reddys cornered 39 slots for an “abaadi” of under 7 percent. The share of Other Backward Classes is only 20 percent even if OBCs account for 52 percent of the Telangana population.
Only three Muslims made it to the BRS list. The KCR government has the Muslims’ back in many ways and that translates to a great deal for the Muslim vote bank. The Israel-Hamas “war” will definitely have an effect on voting, and the clear-cut stance of the Congress to stand with Hamas will help the party with the Muslim vote-bank.
There is talk of rebel-trouble in BRS but voters are not likely to buy into rebel-gameplans. The Congress is banking on Rahul Gandhi’s image makeover to pick up seats. The BJP’s recent reshuffle of top-level leaders at the state-level was indication it was not expecting much from the Telangana elections despite all the tall claims. Maybe, there is substance to the charge that the “BJP is the B-team of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi”.
KCR continues to reap from leading the Telangana state movement. His policies targeting specific castes and communities will continue to work to the advantage of the BRS. And 10 years of stable rule is also advantage-KCR. The Chief Minister is the party’s ace in the hole. Like somebody said, KCR enjoys a “bhandar of goodwill” which translates into tremendous voter support despite the anti-incumbency and the bad apples who once again got tickets.
The BRS manifesto isn’t out yet and many earlier election-eve promises haven’t been fulfilled. Like, for instance, double-bedroom homes for the poor. What’s significant, though, is the opposition could not make a case out of the broken promises of the KCR government. The Rs.4000 pension for senior citizens and widows, for example. KCR got away with several such shattered poll promises.
In other words, BRS and KCR will be back at the helm, as if there never was a pause. Both the principal opposition parties, the Congress and the BJP, could not match the BRS in rhetoric, which is a huge failure because political legitimacy and elections are won by hard-hitting politically charged people-centric rhetoric.
If KCR wins despite the broken poll promises it will say a lot about the competition. If KCR battles nepotism and charges of family rule, he is not alone in the Telangana/Andhra Pradesh political landscape, where political dynasties have been endemic for decades. That Asaduddin Owaisi escaped the charge is Ripley’s ‘Believe It Or Not’. Bottom-line: KCR owns Telangana. (IPA Service)