Battle lines clearly drawn in Telangana

With the announcement of poll schedule for Telangana by the Election Commission of India, the battle lines are clearly drawn in the state.

As per the schedule, India’s youngest state will witness single-phase polling on December 7 to elect the new state assembly. As being anticipated, Telangana will go to polls along with four other states.

Even before the announcement of the schedule the state had already got into poll mode with the dissolution of state assembly on September 6. Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao dissolved the assembly nearly nine months before its term was to end.

The same day he announced candidates of ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) for 105 seats. This put the TRS ahead of its rivals.

The very purpose of advanced polls was to catch the opposition unprepared and also to avoid polls along with Lok Sabha elections. KCR did not want TRS to suffer in case of any anti-incumbency wave in Lok Sabha polls.

The TRS chief also did not want to give time to the opposition parties to forge a grand alliance. Even a month after the dissolution of assembly, the grand alliance among Congress, TDP and CPI is yet to take a formal shape. The opposition remained a divided house as evident from reports that Kodandaram’s Telangana Jana Samithi may not be part of the proposed grand alliance.

With the announcement of poll schedule, the pressure will mount on Congress leadership to finalise seat sharing with allies. This could prove a thorny issue for the party, given its long history of rebellion within over distribution of party tickets.

Currently, it is TRS which appears ahead of its rivals. It not only announced its candidates but has also left behind all others in campaigning.

Setting the tone for the campaigning, KCR addressed three public meetings during last one week. Indicating that it will be a bitter and no-holds-barred campaigning, the TRS chief used harsh words to attack TDP president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.

KCR also minced no words in attacking Congress leaders, evoking strong reaction from the latter. He tried to project the elections as TRS versus the rest battle.

The TRS chief also dropped enough hints that attacking Congress for its opportunistic alliance with ‘anti-Telangana’ TDP will form the core of the party’s poll campaign. Displaying his aggressive stand and acerbic attacks against the opponents, KCR is seeking fresh mandate to continue what he calls the state’s march on the path of progress and prosperity.

Political observers say KCR’s attacks will turn bitterer as the poll date nears as he is no mood to allow opposition to regroup. By resorting to bitter and even personal attacks, KCR is trying to engage his rivals so that they don’t get time to question the performance of his government or highlight non-fulfillment of promises made in 2014.

The leaders of main opposition Congress party appear to be falling in this trap. Telangana Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy used some harsh words to hit back at KCR. Only some leaders have understood KCR’s game plan. Revanth Reddy urged people to judge the chief minister by the foul language he is using against the political rivals.

Though Congress party has also kicked off its campaign last week, it may take a while for the party to get into the poll mode. This will depend on how quickly the party leadership announces the party candidates and finalises seat sharing with allies.

With a leader like KCR’s stature in the campaigning, TRS will definitely have an edge over others. Since four other states are also going to polls, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and other key leaders may not be able to run an intensive campaign in Telangana.

BJP also faces a similar situation. Its national president Amit Shah launched the party campaign by addressing a meeting at Mahabubnagar last month. He is also scheduled to address another meet this week.

However, BJP is aware of its limitations in the state. Though Amit Shah claimed that BJP will emerge as a strong force, political observers say the party may find difficult to even retain the five seats it held in the dissolved assembly.

While Amit Shah tried to corner the TRS by asking why it imposed the burden of an additional election on the state, the state leaders of BJP failed to keep up the pressure on the ruling party.

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