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Which way will Andhra tilt?

Andhra Pradesh has always had a role in the formation of the Central government with its 42 Lok Sabha seats. Interestingly, for the past two decades it is either the TDP or the Congress, which had kept the UPA or the NDA governments going. While the TDP was the lifeline of the NDA government, the Congress in the 2004 as well as the 2009 polls, contributed a good number of seats for the UPA-I and

UPA-II. Now with the bifurcation of the state, the Congress is on the back foot.

Andhra Pradesh is in a peculiar position as it is voting to elect two assemblies and 42 members of Parliament for two states – Andhra and Telengana. The two regions have emerged as two distinct and electoral battlegrounds in the current elections. Undoubtedly, the bifurcation of the state dominates the electoral debate this time. This will be the most extraordinary election the state has witnessed since its formation in 1956. This is the last time the elections are taking place in the United Andhra Pradesh.

While stakes are high for the two major parties – the Congress and the Telugu Desam –both have shrunk in the past five years due to various reasons. If the Congress has lost its citadel, the TDP which rose to power on the slogan of ‘Atmagauravam,’ is almost fighting for survival.  For the TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu, it is a question of now or never as he had been out of power for the past ten years. Another defeat would be difficult for him to keep his flock together.

This election will also see the performance of four   small new parties, which have emerged in the past five years. The near paralysis in the last five years caused by the death of former Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy in an air crash and the subsequent mishandling by the Congress including frequent change of leadership and the bifurcation issue had led to a large- scale exodus from the Congress. Today, there is a leadership vacuum in both the Telengana and Andhra regions for the Congress.

The TRS is upbeat   because it was instrumental in creating a separate state for which it had been fighting from 2000. The TRS is now playing games with the Congress The Congress calculations have gone awry because it was hoping that the TRS would merge with it. Congress may have thought that creating Telangana would be a masterstroke, which will help it pocket most of the 119 assembly seats of the region along with its 17 Lok Sabha seats. While it is possible that it may still gain some parliamentary seats, the TRS may walk away with more seats in both the Assembly and Lok Sabha. Now there is a three-cornered fight between the TRS, BJP-TDP combine and the Congress in the region. It is a question mark whether the Congress will be able to upstage the TRS by convincing the people of the region that it was the UPA, which gave the separate Telengana. As for the Telugu Desam, its chief Chandrababu Naidu who played a major role in the NDA days from 1998 - 2004 has ultimately decided to have an alliance with the BJP hoping to ride the Modi wave.  Despite the decision to become part of the NDA, on the ground the workers are not very happy to work with the BJP.

Telugu Desam is on the slide in Telengana because of its lack of clarity on the bifurcation. This is going to hurt the party while it is fighting in the Andhra region mainly against the YSR Congress, which had opposed the bifurcation tooth and nail. Telugu Desam workers are also unhappy that the TDP has not only welcomed those from the Congress but also given some of them tickets ignoring the claims of the local workers.

Congress is on the back foot in the Andhra region with its 25 Lok Sabha and 175 Assembly seats.  Most people in the region are sour about the bifurcation.  Former Chief minister Kiran Reddy has rebelled and formed his own outfit – Jai Samaikyandhra. The YSR Congress has emerged as the major challenger to not only the Congress but also the TDP. The party launched by Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of late Rajashekhar Reddy has two MPs and 15 MLAs. His party is predicted to do well in the Andhra region.  A post poll alliance between the BJP and YSRCP is not ruled out. Jagan has already made the right noises against the Congress that he would never align with a party that favored a separate Telangana.

Another small party has emerged in the Andhra region apart from the YSR Congress and Samaikhya Andhra party. Pawan Kalyan, brother of the Union Tourism minister Chiranjeevi has recently launched Jana sena.  Many feel that he may dent vote shares of main parties in both Seemandhra and Telangana.

The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), which had won seven of the eight seats it contested in the last assembly elections, has its own vote bank. It would obviously be looking for votes in the Muslim dominated districts in Telengana. While the stakes are high, the Congress would prefer a hung Assembly. It may throw up very surprising results because it is still not clear who will get what but the indications are that there may not be a decisive verdict with a
fractured polity.IPA
Kalyani Shankar

Kalyani Shankar

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