Telangana Chief Minster K Chandrashekhar Rao seems set for another term in power with his Telangana Rashtra Samhiti poised to sweep the Assembly polls in the southern Telugu state on Tuesday.
As at 11.30 am, the Election Commission of India website showed that the TRS was leading in 89 of the 119 seats. This is 26 seats higher than the party’s final tally of 63 in the last assembly election in 2014.
In terms of vote share, the party had 48.2% at 11.30 am, up from the 34.3% it polled in 2014.
There will be revisions in these figures as the counting progresses. But given the sizable lead, it is difficult to see the Mahakutami or grand alliance of the Congress, Telugu Desam Party, Telangana Jana Samhiti and others making a comeback that could test the TRS.
Members of Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s family, who were the focus of the Opposition during the election campaign, were comfortably placed in the constituencies they contested. While Rao was ahead of his opponents in Gajwel by 27,329 votes, his son KT Rama Rao led by over 53,000 votes in Sircilla. Another relatives, the Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao, was in the lead by 13,000 votes.
There was a huge gap of 20% in votes share between TRS and Congress at 11.30 am, about 11% more than the 2014 figures.
It is clear from the trends that the Congress’s idea of a grand alliance has come a cropper in the state. The perceived rural-urban divide on which the Congress was banking now looks like a mirage, with the TRS mounting a strong performance in almost every region of the state.
The results show that the Congress erred by focusing on arithmetic and joining hands with the Telugu Desam Party, which was widely seen as anti-Telangana during the bifurcation movement to separate Telangana from Andhra Pradesh that started in 2004. Telangana was finally formed in 2014. The alliance gave KCR a great plank to divert the campaign from the focus on his government’s performance to the question of Telangana pride, projecting Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu as the main enemy to be defeated.
In the run-up to the polls, Congress insiders were banking on a perceived anger among dominant caste groups of Kammas and Reddys. The TRS is led by Rao, a Velama whose community is a minority caste group in the state. However, it seems that this idea was faulty. Rao had kept the major communities happy through shrewd distribution of tickets. He retained most of his sitting MLAs and ministers as candidates.
Rao had called for an early election, even though his term was supposed end in May. This was a bid to avoid facing both the assembly and parliamentary elections together, especially if he decides to join the National Democratic Alliance. This meant that every step was planned way ahead of his opponents. He announced the candidates for most of the constituencies by early October, even before the Opposition could cement the alliance. The Congress faced serious internal strife as it delayed announcing candidates to November.
The Congress’s bid to break KCR’s Telangana movement legacy by including in its alliance the Telangana Jana Samhiti, headed by Telangana movement veteran M Kodandaram, has flopped.
Meanwhile, the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen of Asaduddin Owaisi looks set to retain all the seven seats it currently holds in the Telangana Assembly. The party, though not in a formal alliance, had positioned itself as a friend of the TRS and was expected to take a chunk of the Muslim vote away from the Congress. The BJP, which banked on the entry of the monk Paripoornananda to bolster its prospects, was leading in five seats, the same as its final tally in 2014.
The Telangana result is bound to have its impact outside the state. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu will have to now face the additional embarrassment of defending a failed alliance with the Congress in Telangana. The two parties are traditional rivals: in fact, in 1982, TDP founder NT Rama Rao launched the outfit expressly to take on the Congress. A mounting anti-incumbency sentiment and the strong challenge from the YSR Congress of Jagan Reddy could push Naidu to reconsider his arrangement with the Congress in the state. The Congress has lost much of its base in Andhra Pradesh and carried the blame of bifurcating the state in 2014.