The Congress in Telangana is yet to get out of the shock defeat it suffered in the recent assembly polls. The rout of the Congress-led grand alliance to K Chandrasekhar Rao's Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) was much beyond the grand old party's expectations, say top sources in the Congress. The party, until the last moment, was expecting to put up a good show if not a comfortable win. However, when the results came, the alliance stood with a meagre 21 seats against the TRS' mighty 88.
Days after the drubbing, the Congress blames it on a number of factors with the main reason being the failure of a cobbled up alliance and the inability to fight the money power of the incumbent TRS.
A top source in the Congress told Onmanorama that the people of Telangana did not accept the party's alliance with Andhra-based Telugu Desom Party (TDP). “Chandrasekhar Rao, towards the end of the campaign, was able to shift the entire poll narrative as a fight between the people of Telangana and (Andhra CM) Chandrababu Naidu. His argument that Naidu was trying to rule Telangana by sitting in his home state seems to have worked well,” the source said. Telangana was carved out of Andhra in 2014 after decades-long protest.
The source said, in hindsight, Congress leaders are of the view that it could have won around 40 seats had it gone alone in the polls. The leader, who did not wish to be identified, added that the party lost a lot of time stitching up the alliance while the TRS got more than three months to campaign.
“Many Congress leaders were unable to come to terms with the alliance. They were against reviving the TDP in Telangana where it was almost extinct,” the source added.
Chandrasekhar Rao, the first chief minister of the youngest state of the country went to polls after dissolving the assembly nine months ahead of the end of its term.
The source added that the Congress also struggled with organisational issues. “The district committees were dead in several districts,” he said.
KCR's money power
Congress leaders in the state said KCR spent crores of rupees in each constituency whereas the cash-starved national party was left with hardly any option. “KCR had despatched crores of rupees to each constituency much before the elections were announced,” a leader said.
By aligning with the TDP, the Congress was hoping to cash in on the settler voters, who are residents of Telangana coming from various parts of Andhra. But the results proved that most of them were supporters of Jaganmohan Reddy, the leader of the YSR Congress in Andhra. Jagan formed the YSR Congress by splitting the Congress in Andhra following the demise of his father and former Andhra chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy. “Jagan worked in Telangana to ensure that the Congress-TDP alliance is defeated so that he does not have to face similar threat in Andhra,” the source said. Andhra is scheduled to go to polls next year along with the Lok Sabha polls.
EVMs to blame?
Right from the moment trends became clear on the counting day, senior leaders in Telangana
have been blaming the electronic voting machines for the party's rout. They are still unable to digest the kind of suffering they faced because they feel the situation on the ground was much different. “Several TRS MLAs were not allowed to enter villages and our rallies witnessed massive participation. Had the support been translated into votes, the situation would have been much different,” say some senior leaders. They seriously doubt the credibility of the voting machines, an allegation rubbished by the TRS as baseless.
The source that spoke to Onmanorama was ready to acknowledge the role played by some of the welfare measures initiated by the TRS government in their victory. “Rao was able to convince the people that the schemes would be stopped once the Congress came to power,” he said.
AICC secretary in charge of Telangana Krishnan Sreenivasan is also of the view that the money power of KCR was the main factor that led to Congress' failure. “We could not fight the money power of the KCR. Crores of rupees were spent in each constituency,” he said.
Asked about the alliance with the TDP, he said it needs to be assessed how much did it work.
KCR vs Congress
Top leadership of the Congress is also of the view that the party lacks a leader of the stature of KCR in Telangana. Be it in Telangana or any other states where a regional party is strong, the national parties need leaders who match the stature of the local leaders to put up a good fight, they feel.
The huge setback in the assembly polls have left the Telangana Congress clueless as to how to prepare for the Lok Sabha polls due in six months.