Mahabubnagar (Telangana): A hundred kilometers away from the sights and sounds of the Hi-Tech city, the main business district of Hyderabad, is Mahabubnagar, a district that presents a truer picture of Telangana, where the installation of fancy street lights is reason enough to re-elect a legislator.
“Poore India mein ithi achi design nahi hogi (nowhere in India do they have such good designs)," says Deshya Naik, a 38-year-old small time businessman. The lack of a road itself isn’t considered that much of a problem in this region, which has at least one gold painted statue or more at almost every junction, each jostling for space to commemorate eminent personalities.
“All these years no one even cared for our constituency, now at least they have started some work," says Jayaprakash Goud from the Kodangal Assembly, standing on a dusty road full of stones.
Goud and other villagers are excited about the development likely to come their way and not what they have apparently missed out on.
But infrastructure development isn’t the parameter to gauge performance. It’s either party or personality that counts in these parts of the newly formed state, setting up fierce contests, especially between the ruling Telugu Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the ‘Praja Kutami’ or people’s alliance (Congress-led grand alliance with the Telugu Desam Party, Communist Party of India and the Telangana Jana Samithi).
The southern district that borders other states, including Andhra Pradesh, has a strong presence of the Congress and Telugu Desam Party, giving the alliance a good chance to retain its influence over the region in the run-up to the next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
Telangana chief minister K.Chandrashekar Rao, whose party wields considerable influence in the northern districts of the state, is hoping to regain control over Mahabubnagar, from where he has been elected to Parliament earlier.
“Almost every seat in this district is a prestige battle for us," a state-level TRS functionary said. Rao has been trying to negate the influence of his AP counterpart, N.Chandrababu Naidu, on southern Telangana. Naidu is leading the initiative to rope in regional parties into the fold of a loosely evolving mahagathbandhan or grand alliance against Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP.
Rao has also gone after Congress’ firebrand and maverick leader, A.Revanth Reddy, who enjoys a rockstar status among youngsters beyond his constituency. Reddy’s reputation was further compounded when Rao ordered the former’s detention in the early hours of Tuesday. Reddy had given a call for a bandh in the Kodangal constituency to disrupt a mega TRS rally on the same day. The early morning drama has further enraged Reddy’s supporters, who are now more resilient to ‘teach Rao a lesson’.
“Only those who speak like this get more following," says a government health official, pointing out to Reddy’s provocative and politically charged speeches.
Reddy, who won the 2014 Assembly elections on a TDP ticket, and had since switched to the Congress, was one of the aspirants for the chief minister’s post if the alliance formed the government.
But the TRS is fighting hard to retain its government.
The TRS won eight of the 14 constituencies in this district in 2014, mostly riding on the Telangana statehood agitation wave. But caste has regained its significance in Mahbubnagar, where Reddy’s are known to dominate the politics.
“With the emergence of Rao, Reddy’s, who dominated the politics of the state for decades, are feeling left out," according to political analyst and former MLC K. Nageshwar Rao. Except the reserved constituencies, most candidates of any party belongs to the Reddy community, including the TRS. “KCR (Rao) knows his politics here as well," according to the TRS functionary cited above.