For all the noise generated by the exit polls on Monday evening, what really injected a dose of reality into the speculation about what the future may hold was the small and innocuous announcement of the civic poll results in Andhra Pradesh. The results of the elections held on March 30, after the polling process had been set in motion in the country, have shown that the TDP has done well in Seemandhra and the Congress in Telangana. The two traditional rivals in the state had recently been shaken up by a self-assured TRS in Telangana and Jaganmohan Reddy’s assertive YSR Congress in Seemandhra, each confident of forming the government after the state polls, being held simultaneously. All caveats apply, such as a different dynamic operating in these polls, which are more about individuals and local issues than about parties. But they may well turn out to be straws in the wind.
Uttar Pradesh, it is believed, will effectively decide which party gets to form the government in Delhi. But could a state like Andhra Pradesh be more expressive of what’s going on in Indian politics today? Andhra Pradesh may be the one southern state where both the Congress and the BJP are caught in a tricky situation. It may well hold lessons for India and shape the form and course of the new government much more than we may imagine.
This time, Andhra Pradesh could be the bellwether — it could reflect what is happening nationally. Mismanagement and the tendency to score self-goals are arts that the UPA 2 government perfected here. It created the Telangana problem, with considerable imagination, and then went on to (mis)handle it. On a more serious note, in both 2004 and 2009, the state epitomised the UPA’s successful performance and management of its political problems. It is also the state where, this time around, the BJP has scored its biggest and most significant southern ally — the TDP.
Except for a party from Andhra Pradesh, NTR’s TDP in 1984, a regional party has never been the second-largest in the Lok Sabha. Exactly 30 years ago, when Rajiv Gandhi got 415 seats for the Congress, the TDP won second place in a spectacular national debut.
Currently, Andhra Pradesh is being seen as important for the UPA. But even the NDA only made it to government because it had a big alliance partner in the state and, therefore, the ability to squeeze the Congress’s seats there. Winning more than 50 seats in UP is not the only important thing. When the TDP joined the NDA, it added substantially to the coalition’s kitty. Thirty-six of the state’s 42 seats were won by the TDP in 1999.
Andhra Pradesh chief ministers, be it Chandrababu Naidu or Y.S.R. Reddy, have had a significant impact on governance at the Centre. Naidu’s …continued »