By Sushil Kutty
The still nascent state of Telangana is up for its first great opportunity with Telangana Chief Minister, the great K. Chandrashekar Rao – ‘KCR’ for short – poised to make his exit if the exit polls of November 30 are to go by. The exit polls have given Telangana to the Congress and KCR’s Bharat Rashtra Samithi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party are behaving like sore losers.
“Sore” because both the BRS and the BJP are refusing to accept the exit polls’ predictions. The two had no objections when early on, the exit polls predicted a “close, tight fight”, which was better than to be told they would be out of reckoning in the heats itself. Curiously, while the BRS seemed to accept the fait accompli, it was the BJP which refused to concede defeat to exit polls.
Exit polls are only predictions – an assessment of what could be, and not what will come. The real numbers will be out only on December 3 when the votes will be counted and the results declared. Till then suffice to say that exit polls have a habit of coming too close for comfort of all parties in the fray.
In Telangana’s case –- Sonia Gandhi’s Congress, KCR’s Bharat Rashtra Samithi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. Earlier, during the day and up until 6 pm, Telangana voted without pause and the predictions of the exit polls were expected for not only Telangana, but also for the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram.
Telangana promised an edge of the seat suspense. But by 9 pm when primetime TV talk shows were in full slanging match-mode, the exit polls were showing the Congress ahead by a mile and more, leaving BRS behind – and the BJP way, way behind. Will the promised rout of the BJP and the BRS come true, vindicating the exit polls? For Telangana, two exit polls have predicted big Congress wins while a couple have held back with the prognosis of a “tight contest”.
The youngest state of India is in a tri-cornered contest. The outcome on December 3 will set the stage for the next five years. Both KCR and his party BRS had set their eyes and expectations on a hat-trick. Now KCR must be on tenterhook. If the BRS tastes dust, KCR’s national ambitions would fly out the window. Who does not know that KCR wants to be Prime Minister and foist his son KTR as the next Chief Minister of Telangana?
More important, whoever thought the Congress would lay claim to Telangana? Fear that the exit polls cannot go wrong has gripped BRS. KCR’s campaign for a first BRS term – a third TRS term – might come to naught on December 3. KCR was up against not only double anti-incumbency but also against a rejuvenated Congress which is still running on Bharat Jodo Yatra steam.
A Congress victory on December 3 and the Congress will be on a strong Telangana wicket for the 2024 general elections, which should put the jitters in the BJP. With Karnataka in the kitty and Kerala a fine prospect, the Congress will be at the top of its game in South India in 2024, where the Bharatiya Janata Party has been trying to get a foothold for donkey’s years and not making it beyond a couple of “governments” in Karnataka.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on record that Telangana is the BJP’s gateway to South India. The exit polls have dispelled that notion. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doomed to wait. The chances are fairly good that a Congress victory in Telangana could shut the BJP out of South India for another five years. The south Indian states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala account for up to 150 Lok Sabha seats.
The BJP wanted to make amends for losing Karnataka with victory in Telangana. That might not happen with the exit polls suggesting the BJP might get fewer seats than even Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM. If the Congress wins Telangana, as predicted by the exit polls, a big part of the credit must go to state Congress President Revanth Reddy, who will be challenged for the Chief Minister’s post, assert some Congress insiders.
The Congress had 22 MLAs in the outgoing assembly compared to the Bharat Rashtra Samiti’s 88. Of the 17 MP seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party had 4 and the BRS 9, leaving one for the AIMIM and ‘3’ to the Congress. A Congress victory in these assembly elections will leave the 2024 general elections in Telangana wide open with the Congress getting into the battle with a psychological edge over the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi. (IPA Service)