Hyderabad: With the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) on the decline in Telangana because of an exodus of its leaders to other parties, both the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and main opposition Congress, ahead of the 2019 state assembly elections, are looking to capture the weakened TDP’s core backward class voter base.
After the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and the creation of Telangana in June 2014, 12 out of 15 TDP members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) defected to the TRS, and last October, TDP’s working president A. Revanth Reddy shifted loyalties to the Congress, taking some district-level leaders along with him. With just two MLAs left, the TDP has been weakened in Telangana.
With nearly 50% of the population comprising backward classes, with about 130 different sub-groups, one simply cannot ignore the community in the state. This is something that even chief minister K.Chandrashekar Rao acknowledges. Rao, at an event last week, said the 50% cap on reservations in the state is not sufficient as backward classes, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and minorities make up nearly 90% of the population, hinting that the cap should go.
“The backward classes will shift to the TRS. The chief minister has brought out welfare measures (through various schemes) for the community," said TRS member of Parliament from the Bhongir constituency, B. Narsaiah Goud.
That the TRS has been eyeing the backward class community is quite evident given the specific schemes it has launched after it came to power in Telangana. For example, the state government started a sheep distribution scheme for the Golla and Kurma communities, which primarily comprise shepherds.
Similarly, the government has also launched the Kalyana Lakshmi scheme for backward classes, under which a one-time financial assistance of Rs75,000 is to be provided to the families of brides to meet wedding expenses. The Mahatma Jyothiba Phule Vidya Nidhi programme provides Rs20 lakh scholarship for eligible students to pursue higher studies abroad.
“A large section of backward classes are looking for new patronage in the state. By introducing many welfare schemes specific to backward classes, Rao is hoping to attract the votes for the TRS in 2019," said political analyst Palwai Raghavender Reddy. He added that backward class voters in Telangana have a perception that the Congress party never cared for them.
Reddy also said the TRS government was in the process of appointing backward class leaders to various committees and to nominated posts to ensure the community’s loyalty to the party. While acknowledging that the backward classes in Telangana are looking for political empowerment, a senior Congress leader who did not want to be identified said his party, too, was looking to prepare a strategy to attract the community.
“We are in the process of coming up with schemes to be implemented for the backward classes when the Congress comes into power," he added.