As time ticks, options reduce for opposition in fight for Telanganas Assembly


15 February 2023

Both parties are facing the brunt of dissent and lack of coordination between leaders for its various programmes and initiatives

HYDERABAD: One of the first political beliefs that will be shattered when Telangana goes to the elections at the end of the year will be that a padayatra in a Telugu state by a leader will lead to their party winning power — with leaders of both main opposition parties having had a go at it, Bandi Sanjay Kumar having covered over 1,000 kilometres in several phases of his Praja Sangrama Yatra and A. Revanth Reddy having just started his regional variants of the ‘Haath Se Haath Jodo’ walkathon. Three leaders who conducted a padayatra came to power — Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, N. Chandrababu Naidu and Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy but they were all in Andhra Pradesh.

The second of the myths that will crack are two truisms that political analysts argue, but are mutually set against each other — one is that no Telugu leader has won power for a third consecutive term and the other that there can be no hung verdict in a small state like Telangana.

A cursory reading of three different party surveys in recent times which could be accessed shows that Chief Minster K. Chandrasekhar Rao is in all likelihood set to yet again make history by using the current situation to script another win.

Despite the spirited rhetoric and campaign of the two main Opposition parties, and the inevitable slant of anti-incumbency of two terms in the electorate, the born-again Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) is likely to gain from the divide of anti-Rao votes to record a highly probable third win.

Both the Opposition parties are stuck with their own internal dissent and disorientation issues, which the recently concluded Assembly amplified as a public opinion; with key leaders of the Opposition being Parliamentarians, only one leader stands tall in Telangana at the state-level, Chandrashekar Rao. If anything, the next in the race is his own son and minister K.T. Rama Rao.

The two potential rivals from the Opposition, Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka and Etala Rajendar, were softened by Chief Minister Rao with his conduct of friendliness and reach-out with goodwill. In the coming days, a plethora of such mind games from the BRS boss will further widen the schisms in the national parties in the Opposition.

The BRS is also rapidly course-correcting on some of its weaknesses and addressing criticism that has deeply stuck in the minds of the people. After a week of highly urban-facing E-vehicles fest and race aimed at Hyderabad, plans are being prepared for the grand simultaneous inauguration of the new Secretariat, a giant Dr B.R. Ambedkar statue and a spectacular memorial for Telangana martyrs.

These three icons, if likely inaugurated on Dr Ambedkar’s birth anniversary (the previous plan to open it on CM Rao’s birthday was canned), will render several criticisms against the government moot — respecting Dalits, doing justice to memory of the martyrs of Telangana agitation and working from the Secretariat and being accessible to the common people.

This will leave Telangana Congress president Revanth Reddy and BJP state chief Bandi Sanjay little ammunition for attack if they continue their padayatras. The two parties have also not found ways to break the formidable secular vote bank the BRS has created through two of its schemes — the Aasara pensions and Rythu Bandhu. Other welfare schemes, like Shaadi Mubarak and Kalyana Lakshmi, KCR Kits and Kanthi Velugu, give the BRS a strong and breach-resistant block of committed voters.

The BJP is badly lacking leaders and cadre; even as the Congress is still recovering from its past loss of leaders. Both parties are facing the brunt of dissent and lack of coordination between leaders for its various programmes and initiatives.

The BRS also has a strong narrative set on a national scale to combat the BJP, even as it will repeatedly use hints of a post-poll tie-up with the Congress at the Centre to leave the battleground confused enough for it to smoothly touch the tape in the first-past-the-post system. This added to the party’s moneychest, leaders, election machinery, media and social media game leaves the 2023 elections less of a close match than rivals would want.

Neither the Congress nor the BJP has yet been able to find a strong breach or an unimpeachable argument on why Telangana should not give Rao a third shot at power. And their time is running out.

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