Away from the heat and dust of assembly elections to three BJP ruled states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan dubbed as the semi-final before the 2019 Lok Sabha general elections, an interesting battle is ensuing in the newest state of Telangana in South India for the December 7 polls.
Here the Congress party could witness a revival, five years after it was wiped out in the last general elections – both to assembly and Lok Sabha.
The Congress considered it’s defeat then as the unkindest cut from voters, as it was the Congress that carved out Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh fulfilling peoples’ wishes.
Congress was wiped out from both Telangana as also in Andhra Pradesh in the general elections held simultaneously to assemblies and parliament.
But five years down the line, Telangana’s first Chief Minister and regional party Telangana Rashtra Samiti strongman K Chandrashekhara Rao is facing severe anti-incumbency and a resurgent Congress party that has shown somewhat unexpected flexibility in approach. The Congress tied up with its principal rival in Andhra Pradesh, Telugu Desam Party that broke ranks with the BJP and walked out of NDA alliance to take on KCR together. And for good measure, the Congress has roped in another new political formation, Telangana Jana Samithi and the CPI that still has its pockets of influence.
Congress and Telugu Desam Party appear to have got their arithmetic right as the equation adds up to potent political force.
But it is the chemistry of this confluence of opposition parties, christened Maha-kootami (grand alliance), that is causing concern among the partners.
Sensing a whiff of a chance of victory, Congress leaders in the state unit appear to be less accommodative of the demands from the alliance partners. The realistic assessment of the central leadership of the Congress, that it alone cannot take on the ruling dispensation in states where it had weakened, the local leadership is loath to be magnanimous towards its allies.
Which is why, the grand alliance in Telangana is tottering, unable to come to a seat agreement between the alliance partners. And more important, the constituents of the formation are also unable to come to an understanding on the CM face for the opposition to take on KCR.
In fact, even the Congress party on its own is unable to name its CM face lest it upsets other senior leaders and they kill the party’s revival. There are many claimants to the CM’s position within the Congress ranks, including state PCC chief N Uttam Kumar Reddy and former AP Minister Geetha Reddy.
Telugu Desam party on the other hand and its head and AP Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has been more practical and is advising caution to his leaders. He has taken charge of seat sharing negotiations with the local unit of the Congress and is said to be more willing to consider the Congress reasoning for its reluctance to accept TDP demand for 30 seats. But it is the newest regional formation, TJS led by charismatic leader N Kodandaram that was toying with the idea of breaking out of the alliance and go it alone if the Congress continued with its big brother attitude and miserly approach in seat sharing talks.
In fact, the TJS formally met and proposed the name of Kodandaram as the CM face of the alliance as the Congress was still unable to zero in on its candidate. The Congress leaders in the state are maintaining that the party may not be projecting anyone as the CM and the elected MLAs would choose an acceptable leader later.
It is also the presence of many CM aspirants that the Congress is unable to negotiate the tricky seat sharing and adjustment talks with its alliance partners as regional chieftains want lions’ share for their own followers, as the elected MLAs would come in handy in deciding leadership of the legislative party after elections.
So, the Congress was not willing to part with more than 10 seats to KJS and some 12 odd seats to TDP. It was more dismissive of the claims of CPI and was not willing to consider more than a handful to the Left party.
While the Congress led Maha-kootami is unable to find the right equations to get its chemistry right, the ruling dispensation of KCR has gone flat out already. It has declared almost all the candidates, barring a few seats, and is going all out on the campaign front. The CM is addressing rallies even as his opponents are still haggling about seats and unsure as to where they would contest from.
Unless the grand alliance in Telangana gets its act together, and quickly so at that, its vote arithmetic may fail to add up. And end up on the losing side.
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