Voters in Telangana are staring at two extreme approaches taken by the ruling and Opposition parties in the run up to the elections. The power of voters is enormous and it can lead to any extent of political rout or heavy defeat.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which governed the state from 2014, dissolved the assembly and announced the first list of 105 candidates for the 119-member assembly on September 6. On the same day, TRS chief and caretaker chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao directed candidates to head to their respective constituencies and start campaigning.
This move by Rao, popularly known as KCR, caught the Opposition parties, including the Congress, by surprise. TRS supporters hailed it as a masterstroke as it would give the party candidates a head start to engage with voters and increase their winning prospects.
However, as days progressed, the situation on the ground turned increasingly difficult for TRS leaders. Anti-incumbency meant that the road got bumpy for many candidates. Most of it is related to the failure of the TRS government to fulfil some of the poll promises made during the 2014 elections.
KCR had promised two-bedroom houses to all the house-less poor in Telangana. Out of the total target of two lakh units, only a few thousand have been constructed. Another promise that was not fulfilled was that every poor Dalit family would be given three acres of land.
KCR’s flagship project was Mission Bhagiratha, which was a promise to provide piped drinking water to every household in the state. He had said that he only seek votes after the project was completed. However, he went back on his promise as the project could not be completed on time. This has put TRS candidates in a tough spot.
On top of this, hitting the road early also seems to be taking a toll on the candidates. They are forced to maintain the morale of the cadre and sustain the mood of the people by assurances — in some cases through financial incentives. In some of the videos that have gone viral, TRS workers are seen distributing money, and in one particular video, a candidate is seen promising a huge amount in money to the group he is addressing if it casts its vote for him.
KCR is facing an uphill task in his constituency, Gajwel. His slogan of ‘self-rule’ reverberated well during the 2014 election landing him in the CM’s chair. However, four years later he has greatly distanced himself from the public. He has earned a reputation of being inaccessible to the people as he hardly stepped into the state secretariat.
He spent most of the time either in his heavily-fortified camp office-cum-residence in Begumpet or his farmhouse in Erravalli village on the outskirts of Hyderabad. Despite being a mass leader who spearheaded a separate state agitation, his public interactions have come down greatly over the years. Within the party too, there is a popular opinion that he does not meet his legislators or ministers on a regular basis. This to an extent also seems to have disillusioned the voters.
On the Opposition side is a four-party coalition that has the potential to be a formidable force to take on the TRS. The Congress, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Communist Party of India (CPI) and Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) have come together to form a Mahakutami or grand alliance.
However, it’s been two months since the representatives of four parties began negotiations, there is no formal announcement regarding seat-sharing. Voters are still clueless about which party will contest from which constituency.
With elections around the corner, several candidates from these parties have thrown their hats in the ring and are waiting for a signal from the top leadership. Further complicating things is the news that there are differences between party leaders regarding seat allocation and candidates.
The biggest disadvantage of the Mahakutami is the presence of too many power centres vying for the chief minister’s post. In the Congress, there are many senior leaders who are competing for the post in case the alliance comes to power. Those rallying behind M Kodandaram of the TJS have been vocal in their demand to declare Kodandaram CM candidate to increase the credibility of the alliance. The TDP leaders are also doing their best to not get lost in the melee by bargaining for more seats.
The Mahakutami is yet to instil confidence in the people that it can stick together and become a winning combination. Once there is clarity and the candidates are announced, it has to be seen if the four parties can work as a coalition.
For now, the average Telangana voter is in a wait and watch mode.#KhabarLive