Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is heading for a significant majority of about 87 out of the 119 seats in Telangana. The Congress may get 19 and All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) 7 seats. The other parties of the Praja Kootami, Telangana Praja Samiti, Communist Party of India (CPI), and Telugu Desam Party (TDP), drew a blank. The BJP managed just one seat despite the efforts of national star campaigners like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath campaigning in the state.

When TRS chose to go for elections before completing its full term, it caught the opposition unprepared. TRS declared its first list and moved into campaign mode before the others. The opposition led by the Congress cobbled together a people’s front, Praja Kootami, pulling together divergent political interests of Prof. M. Kodandaram who led the Telangana separatist movement, CPI, and TDP, which is perceived as a party that manoeuvred to prevent the formation of Telangana.

The Kootami struggled to finalize tickets leaving little time for the candidates to ground a coherent campaign. The Congress strategy of aligning with disparate political forces was confounded further by their internal dissensions and whimsical distribution of tickets based on non-transparent processes.

Initially, sensing anti-incumbency, the TRS campaign began hesitantly, focusing on the party’s welfare schemes like Raithu Bandhu, Kalyana Lakshmi and 24-hour power supply.

Some of the rhetoric of Kootami partner Chandrababu Naidu claiming to have put Hyderabad on the world’s information technology map gave the TRS an opportunity to revive the Telangana “sentiment" and paint the Kootami as a threat to the Telangana identity.

Several public meetings were held jointly by Rahul Gandhi, Naidu and Prof. Kodandaram. Popular revolutionary singer Gaddar too joined the campaign. The paradox of seeing polar opposites on a single platform, some critics say, shocked the voters and led to a shift of votes to TRS despite the initial anti-incumbency.

In Telangana, the Congress had some public sympathy as a party that staked its future to ensure the formation of Telangana state. Prof. Kodandaram had political capital as a non-partisan voice in Telangana, and Gaddar was an icon of revolutionary politics. Both failed to make any impact with voters. However, TRS leader K Chandrasekhar Rao covered all the constituencies and relentlessly attacked Chandrababu Naidu and his political strategy of aligning with the Congress. Five sitting TRS minsters and the speaker of the house, however, lost the election.

Prof. Padmaja Shaw is former head of the journalism department at Osmania University.

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