Hyderabad: The backward classes, which account for more than 50% of Telangana’s population, are key to winning the forthcoming assembly elections, say political analysts.

Backward classes were seen as the backbone of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). However, the TDP has lost much of its influence with 12 of its 15 legislators defecting to the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and one to the Congress. Now, the Congress and the TRS are vying for the support of backward classes ahead of the assembly elections expected to be held this year.

The ruling TRS had launched education programmes and various other schemes for backward classes after it came to power, in a move that is being seen as part of its strategy to draw more votes from the community in the assembly polls, as well as the Lok Sabha elections, to be held in 2019.

The state government also announced that it would take up a census of the backward classes to find out the exact numbers of the community, categorized by groups. The Congress, on its part, has set up a BC commission to look into issues plaguing the community.

“TRS does not treat backward classes as a vote bank. We believe that empowering backward classes is empowering Telangana, and the party considers overall development of the backward class community as one of its priorities. The state is one of the few that has identified the Most Backward Classes (category) and formed a corporation with a corpus of 1,000 crore for it," said K. Kavitha, the TRS member of Parliament from Nizamabad, who is former chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s daughter.

For the first time in the state’s history, 220 residential schools, each with 18 crore funding, have been especially set up for BC children, said the MP.

However, it will be crucial for the party to choose the right candidates, who should be people who have a good relationship with the community leaders, so that the party can gain the support of the backward classes in the 2019 elections, said a TRS leader who did not want to be named.

One issue that the leaders of the community have often raised is the lack of proportionate representation in political parties and in governance. This is significant as, unlike the 2014 elections when the Telangana statehood was the prime issue, caste and community will take precedence in the upcoming assembly elections, according to political analysts.

Before the assembly was dissolved, the TRS had about 90 members of legislative assembly (MLAs) in the 119-member House, following defections from the Congress, TDP and other opposition parties. The Congress had 13, after losing eight to the TRS.

M. Vikram Goud, secretary, Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee, however, was confident that his party will secure most of the BC votes.

“There is a domination of the Velama (Brahmin) community (believed to be about 2% to 3 % in the state) in the TRS. Though BC leaders have been given ministries, they do not have powers. The Backward Classes will side with the Congress," he told Mint, adding that the Congress is confident on taking on the TRS.

Political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy said that the BC vote bank in Telangana is an “open" one and that enumerating the BC population in the state will give the TRS a huge advantage in the 2019 elections. “It might even be a game changer," he said.

The Election Commission (EC) has set the stage for early elections in Telangana and advanced the revision of electoral rolls in the state. In a communication dated 7 September, the EC said it has decided to publish the final electoral list by 8 October as opposed to the earlier schedule of 1 January next year.

The EC move comes in the wake of Rao dissolving the assembly last week, citing “political fragility" in the state. Rao also set off a political storm last week when he said he met had the EC and that the assembly elections might be held this November. The Congress has asked why he met the EC and how he could know the tentative poll schedule.