Hyderabad: Stunned after its rout in Andhra Pradesh at the hands of the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is now back to the drawing board to try and figure out what went wrong for it in the recent assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
In one of its worst performances, the TDP won just three parliamentary seats out of 25 and 23 assembly constituencies out of 175—two of the worst drubbings the party has received. While the new entrant Jana Sena Party, led by actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan, eroded TDP’s vote share by splitting the votes of the Kapu community (to which Kalyan belongs), party leaders said that it also lost the votes of a section of the backward classes (BC), thought to be the backbone of the TDP.
“We are not sure what happened exactly, because our party did expect JSP to split the Kapu votes. (TDP chief) Chandrababu Naidu has also been unable to understand what went wrong. In that situation, one must applaud the YSRCP for its performance," said a senior TDP leader, who did not want to be named. He added that the party will now concentrate on the forthcoming local body (panchayat) polls, slated to be held in the next few months.
In the months leading up to the elections, the Andhra Pradesh government under Naidu initiated a handful of welfare programmes for farmers (input subsidy) and women from self-help groups and spent over ₹15,000 crore. The TDP was expected to reap benefit from that, but clearly the move did not work. Political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy said that Naidu was voted to power based on a lot of promises he made in 2014, but failed to fulfil many of those.
“If you suddenly create new schemes without fulfilling those, it won’t work. The TDP was really arrogant. Throughout its five years, there were a lot of irregularities," Reddy said.
Naidu has now been defeated by a father-son duo. In the 2004 and 2009 elections, YSRCP chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s father and former Congress chief minister (of joint AP) Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy won 29 and 33 out of the total 42 Lok Sabha seats, leaving the TDP with just five and six seats. Like his father, Jagan also undertook a long ‘padayatra’ (walkathon, of over 3,400 km across Andhra Pradesh before storming to power.
Chandrababu Naidu’s future as party leader now hangs in the balance. The senior TDP leader cited above said that it is not clear if Naidu will step down. “It was a huge jolt for the TDP. All ministers in his cabinet lost. His son Lokesh lost in a constituency (Mangalagiri) which has a large section of the BC voters, and it falls within the capital region itself. Such large anti-incumbency does not build up in a day, and if TDP can’t read that, then it has a problem," Reddy added.