In what perhaps signals the end of the road for the party in Telangana, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is unlikely to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the state. After facing a drubbing against the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in last year assembly elections (TDP win 2 out of 119 sets), the party has now decided to not contest, and is likely to support the Congress instead, informed senior leaders.
TDP leaders from Andhra Pradesh also said that they had been avoiding mud-slinging on Telangana as a state, given that party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu wanted the Telugu Desam Party to be active in both states. “But with us not contesting in Telangana, we will go all out to raise the issue of ‘Andhra pride’ at the cost of criticizing Telangana its chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR)," a senior TDP leader, who did not want to be identified, told Mint.
The TDP leader informed that his party was earlier contemplating to contest the Malkajgiri, Khammam and Secunderabad Lok Sabha seats (out of 17 seats), but decided against it at the last minute. “There are lakhs of settlers (people of Andhra origin) in those constituencies. And until now, we were not really talking ill about Telangana or the government because it would have been detrimental to our interests there. However, now we will do to KCR what he did to Naidu in the 2018 Telangana assembly elections by raking up the Telangana sentiment against him," he stated.
In the 2018 Telangana assembly elections (held in November), KCR had targeted Naidu constantly in his public meetings by asking people if they wanted “Andhra" rulers again. The Congress, TDP, Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) had joined hands to take on the TRS. However, KCR had the last laugh as he led his party to a stunning victory by winning 88 of the 119 seats, while the Congress and TDP won just 19 (8 have since defected to the TRS) and two (one defected to TRS).
Even before last year’s assembly elections, the TDP was severely weakened as 12 of its sitting MLAs (who won in the 2014 state polls) had defected to the TRS, while another had shifted his loyalty to the Congress, along with a huge chunk of the party’s cadre. Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) treasurer Gudur Narayana Reddy said the Congress has appealed to the TDP for support in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
While the TDP may not be a strong force to reckon with anymore, analysts believe that it still has some influence in pockets like the Kukatpally and LB Nagar assembly seats (in the Greater Hyderabad areas, and which have a considerable chunk of people with roots in AP).
“TDP as a party and ideology have gotten sidelined, especially after the TRS came to power again. Things would have been different had the Congress won the assembly elections last year. Currently, Naidu is also facing an uphill task in AP and he would want to focus all of his energy there. If he loses this time, this could be the end of the road for him as chief minister. Coming to Telangana, it is the right decision at this stage for the TDP," opined political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.
Reddy added that the depending on the political situation later, the TDP can relook at its state and take stock of the party’s Telangana unit five years later.