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Business News/ Opinion / Columns/  Opinion | No surprises in Telangana, but ambiguity in AP

Opinion | No surprises in Telangana, but ambiguity in AP

Andhra Pradesh will likely witness a close contest between the TDP and the YSRCP

 (Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint)Premium
(Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint)

For the first time, two Telugu speaking states are going to the polls with different political agendas. The blues of bifurcation have waned, but the ruling political parties, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in Telangana and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh , expect to continue to milk people’s feelings on the issue.

TRS founder and Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) projected the alliance of the Congress, TDP and Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) as an Andhra-backed one in 2018 and won the Assembly elections by getting 88 of the 119 seats. AP chief minister and TDP leader N. Chandrababu Naidu is trying to play the same card in the AP assembly and Lok Sabha elections, projecting KCR as a villain, but voters don’t seem to be buying it. During debates, speeches and roadshows, there are no questions on surgical strikes, the Balakot attack or the Rafale deal, and no chest-thumping nationalism. Both parties are advocating models of development that focus on corporatization of health, education and industry. Human development or happiness indexes do not seem to be priorities for the main political parties.

In Telangana, elections seem to follow a predictable path. KCR swept both the 2014 and 2018 state polls. Though the Congress-led alliance got nearly 28% of votes in the state elections last year, opposition leaders are queuing up to join TRS.

In Andhra Pradesh, on the other hand, it will be a close contest between TDP and the YSR Congress (YSRCP), led by Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy. Initially Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena party drew interest, but failed to consolidate its influence.

The biggest hurdles Naidu faces are of his own making: In 2014, won on the basis of promises of development, but he has not delivered. His dream project of a new capital at Amaravati has been a non-starter. His promises of unemployment benefit have not materialised. Voters are also not impressed by his alliance with the BJP for four years and subsequent U-turn.

Jagan Reddy, on the other hand, is seen as a fighter, having been in the opposition for almost a decade. Voters seem to sympathize with his single-handed fight. He has selected candidates carefully, ensuring representation of all castes and communities. He has included tenant farmers in the loan and investment network and people say this could be a game-changer.

The sociological angle has lost its relevance in Telangana, but in Andhra caste will count. The Kammas (the caste that Naidu belongs to), a majority of the backward classes, and women are with the TDP. The Reddys, scheduled castes, Muslims, and youth are with the YSRCP. The Kapus, a backward class community that Kalyan belongs to, appear divided and may return to TDP.

Money also plays a major role in Andhra Pradesh elections. The TDP has the upper hand in this regard, with a well-oiled, cadre-based network. Naidu has won elections with a judicious mix of social engineering, money and promises, but will he prevail over the energy and charisma of Jagan? Only time will tell if the winds of change will turn into a storm that could upset the incumbent.

A Chandra Sekhar is coordinator, Human Rights Forum for AP and Telangana.

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Published: 12 Apr 2019, 12:02 AM IST
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