– Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi
In what has now become a two-horse race in Telangana, the BJP appears poised to play the role of a spoiler after its big South game plan went awry due to the silent and sudden revival of the Congress.
Although it is difficult to dislodge a well-entrenched ruling BRS, with Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao having doled out this welfare scheme or the other for every grouping with a sizeable vote, for example, say backward, or Dalits, or women or the poor in general with several freebies thrown in for good measure, over the last few months. But first, an aggressive BJP and then the Congress hammered his image, painting him as the most corrupt leader who could see nothing beyond his family.
It was after a while that the BJP that prepared the ground against KCR seemed to vacate its position and instead got into a behind-the-scenes understanding with the regional party with a national ambition. Now this is the idea and the narrative spread by the Congress successfully among the masses that the BRS and the BJP are one team.
But, after Congress surged ahead riding on the popularity of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra the BJP seemed to have given up its fight against the BRS and instead is now hoping to split the anti-establishment vote to prevent Congress from emerging as the winner, in as many constituencies as possible.
As late as till mid-2023, the BJP had been going hammer and tongs against the ruling BRS with its firebrand leader Bandi Sanjay whipping up a fierce and sharp campaign and generating euphoria among cadres, and supporters. The BJP appeared to be serious with its Telangana plan what with the party holding its national executive meet in July and the series of visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior leaders like Home Minister Amit Shah generated positive sentiments for the party.
But after the BJP replaced its state unit chief, it seems its campaign lost its steam, though even today senior party leaders descend on the state for rallies and road shows. Now, the direct fight on the ground is between the ruling BRS and the Congress.
The Karnataka assembly election results impact slowly began to cast its shadow in Telangana too, aided by the positive sentiments generated by the Bharat Jodo Yatra of Rahul Gandhi that breezed through Telangana, energizing the party cadres and waking them up. Incidentally despite the near decimation of the party in national politics, the party still has some amount of support in each and every village of the party.
Only now, slowly the party is reaching out to its supporters through the mass contact programme of Rahul Gandhi, which is expected to be taken around the country in the second phase to mop up more support in other states as preparations for the 2024 Lok Sabha general elections.
In Telangana, the Congress efforts seem to be bearing fruit if the plethora of pre-poll surveys and trackers run by various private television channels are any indication. Barring the media, directly or indirectly influenced by the ruling BRS, all the TV channels and pollsters put the Congress ahead, in a position to form the government. A few mention that the fight was fifty-fifty at the moment and that it could be anyone’s game.
Political analyst Harathi Vageesan is of the opinion that it will depend entirely on Congress to lose this election. There is a lot of groundswell against the ruling dispensation and if Congress manages to channelize this, it has a fairly good chance to form a government.
A quick look at the local TV channels and what they say about the likely outcome. While the popular TV9 channel puts the Congress ahead, NTV says the Congress will form the government and so does TV5. Another channel, ABN sees a clear-cut Congress wave, and ETV stays it is a rough fight that is on. More interesting is the survey of Sakshi TV, owned by the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy who broke away from the Congress to form his own party and won power in a truncated state, predicts that the Congress has an edge.
Now Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao dismisses these surveys and poll trackers as “gossip and rumours” and reiterates that he was coming back for the third time in succession. However, internal surveys of his party too indicate a tough time for the BRS.
And in case the Congress wins in Telangana, it would target Andhra Pradesh too for a revival there would be a logical extension of its current-day politics. It would be interesting to watch what role YSRCP, the current ruling party that is a breakaway Congress party, would play in local and national politics vis-à-vis the Congress.
At present Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy has thrown in his lot with the ruling BJP at the centre is wholeheartedly supports the central government in the parliament and outside the parliament on every issue.