Telangana poll today even as parties whip up regional sentiments

Polling officials carrying EVMs and other polling materials leave for their respective booths on the eve of the Telangana Assembly election. Photo: PTI

With Telangana polls today, an anti-incumbency feeling against the ruling BRS is palpable in the state.

The direct contest is between the BRS and the Congress, and both parties have whipped up the Telangana sentiments in good measure during the campaigns.

While the BRS has been projecting its supremo and Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao as the father of the state, the Congress went to the voters claiming it was Sonia Gandhi who made the Telangana possible in 2014.

The voters are now like a 9.5-year-old child, who has been asked to select his favorite parent: Father or mother.

K Chandrashekar Rao
K Chandrashekar Rao

Telangana favoured the TRS (now BRS) in the first two elections after the formation of the state. The Congress is approaching the Saturday, November 30, poll with renewed energy, but it has to be seen if the grand old party could surmount the BRS's cadre strength at the grassroots level.

With BRS and Congress engaged in a direct electoral battle, the BJP has been sidelined. However, the votes the saffron party would win might decide the fate of the two major contestants in several of the 119 Assembly constituencies.

Telangana sentiments
The unified Andhra Pradesh alternated between the TDP and the Congress, but after the formation of Telangana, the new state backed the TRS in 2014 and 2018. Both victories could be attributed to Chandrashekar Rao's role in the Telangana movement, demanding a separate statehood.

The BRS is playing up the Telangana sentiments to win the polls this time also. It highlighted the government's welfare schemes for farmers, backwardclasses, and minorities. However, there is a counter-argument that Chandrasekhar's family flourished more than Telangana.

Even a section of BRS leaders is upset over the dynastic rule — comprising Chandrashekar, son, daughter, and nephew — in the party. Corruption charges, including the one involving the Kaleshwaran lift irrigation project, have been levelled against the party. Youngsters are angry over the government's failure to create employment opportunities.

Still, the BRS is pinning its hope on farmers, who have benefitted from the various welfare schemes.

Three yatras and Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president A Revanth Reddy's shrewd leadership resurrected the Congress, which faced a debacle in the 2018 polls.

Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra during the party's 'Bharat Jodo Yatra', in Ghaziabad, Tuesday, January 3, 2023. Photo: PTI

Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra laid the foundation for the resurrection followed by the padayatra — or foot march — by Opposition leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka. The Opposition leader covered 1,364 kilometres across Telangana in 108 days.

Revath Reddy followed up Vikramarka's march with his Vijayabheri Yatra, which energised the party workers. The Congress's impressive victory in the May 10 Assembly polls in Karnataka provided further impetus for the party in Telangana.

The Congress has taken a leaf out of its Karnataka campaign and has made six guarantees to the voters. Poll strategist Sunil Kanagolu, who coordinated the Congress campaign in Karnataka, is heading its war room in the Telugu state.

The BJP factor
The BJP, which won just one seat (it later won two bypolls) in the previous Assembly polls, showed its strength in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and the 2020 election to the Hyderabad Corporation. However, the setback it suffered in Karnataka, and the Congress finding its feet in Telangana have hit the saffron party hard.

The BJP is trying to woo the backward community's votes by projecting former BRS leader Eatala Rajender as its chief minister candidate. Rajender hails from an OBC community. Additionally, the party is locked in triangular contests in 42 constituencies where it has considerable clout.

The caste factor
Other backward communities comprise 52 per cent of Telangana's population. Scheduled castes and tribes form 10 and 15 per cent, respectively. However, the major parties have fielded the majority of their candidates from the 23 per cent communities outside the backward and scheduled castes and tribes.

Reddys and Velammas (Rao) form the majority of candidates and they have been seeking votes by offering various welfare schemes for other communities. The parties have also promised schemes for farmers. Telangana with 3.17 voters has 56 lakh farmers, and all parties know the importance of keeping the peasants in good humour.

The profit each crop carries could be understood by a cursory look at the fields. Paddy gives way to turmeric, and turmeric steps aside for maize according to the prevailing market price. The farmers, who sow according to market price, have a larger say in the elections, and December 3 will reveal who they have backed this time.

Gameplan of smaller parties
Minorities comprise seven per cent of Telangana's population, and their votes, too, would prove detrimental in the election.

The Congress is of the firm belief that the minorities will support the party like they did in neighbouring Karnataka.

However, Asaduddin Owaisi's All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is posing a threat to the Congress. The Majlis, which has candidates in nine constituencies, is contesting in alliance with the ruling BRS.

The CPM, which is going alone in the polls, has 19 candidates, and the party will throw down a challenge at the Congress in Khammam and Nalgonda regions.

The TDP, realising the anti-Andhra sentiments in Telangana, is not in the fray this time. The Congress took note of the sentiments and decided against a merger with YS Sharmila's YSR Telangana Party. Despite pledging support for the Congress, Sharmila, sister of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, is not active in the campaign.

Actor Pawan Kalyan's Jana Sena Party is contesting eight seats in alliance with the BJP. However, he, too, is staying away from the BJP campaign meetings, ostensibly due to the anti-Andhra sentiments.

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