Confident of returning to power and to avoid a possible clubbing of Assembly polls with Lok Sabha elections, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao Thursday chose to dissolve the Assembly and seek a fresh mandate.
The decision brings the curtains down on the first elected government in Telangana where the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), of which Rao is the founder president, has 82 members in the 120-strong Assembly. Rao handed over a resolution to dissolve the Assembly to Governor E S L Narasimhan, who accepted the decision and asked Rao to continue as caretaker CM.
The Election Commission, in all likelihood, will hold Telangana elections along with Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram, where polls are due later this year. Sources said the EC is logistically prepared for conducting elections in Telangana in November-December.
“Availability of voting machines and deployment of adequate security forces will not be a problem. As for the electoral roll, there is a provision under law for short-term revision,” said an EC official. Telangana’s Chief Electoral Officer has also dispatched a report on the status of poll preparedness and the EC will hold a meeting Friday to discuss this report.
High among the reasons Rao, popularly known as KCR, chose to sacrifice more than eight months was to delink the Assembly elections in Telangana (due in April 2019) from the Lok Sabha elections, also expected in April-May 2019. He is wary that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will steal the campaign narrative if state and national polls are held simultaneously.
The decision also comes at a time when the BJP has already launched Mission Telangana 2019, and a high-pitched campaign can overshadow Rao and the TRS, and dent their vote bank.
The BJP was quick to point this out. “Is KCR afraid BJP will snatch victory from him if polls are held after eight months?” said state party chief K Laxman. BJP President Amit Shah is scheduled to launch the party’s election campaign from Mahbubnagar during his four-day visit to the state starting September 12.
The state government’s achievements notwithstanding, the TRS believes projecting KCR exclusively in state campaigns, as distinct from national elections, will prove beneficial. According to party sources, KCR, who had become the face of statehood for Telangana, retains a magnetic appeal and rustic charm among people. This is a key reason he announced a list of 105 candidates immediately after dissolving the Assembly. Sources said KCR attracted votes, not necessarily the candidate or the party.
KCR is also apprehensive of the Congress gaining strength in the state. If the Congress does stage a comeback in Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan, which go to polls in November, the Telangana Congress will be emboldened and put up a stiff fight. The Congress is likely to forge an alliance with N Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP to take on TRS.
Besides this, KCR did not want Telangana and Andhra elections to be clubbed. “In such a case, it is expected rough and retributive language is used against political leaders of both states, especially against Andhra Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu. At least 25 Assembly constituencies in and around Hyderabad are dominated by Andhra people. TRS may risk their votes. If it is just Telangana that goes to polls, TRS leaders will stick to local issues and may not whip up Telangana sentiment by targeting Andhra Pradesh,” political analyst Telakapalli Ravi told The Indian Express. Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh are due in May 2019.
Another critical factor that KCR may not accept, but Opposition leaders noted, was the creeping anti-incumbency sentiment among the electorate. “KCR is afraid anti-incumbency will wipe out his party. He is scared of losing power, which he and his family misused,” claimed Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president N Uttam Kumar Reddy.
While the Congress accuses KCR and the TRS of failing to deliver on election promises, it has slowly started mobilising grassroots cadre in many districts. The Telangana Congress, which could not capitalise on the fact that it was the UPA that carved out a separate state of Telangana in 2014, is making a determined effort to take on the TRS.
“The Telangana Congress is trying to get its act together but is still ill-equipped to take on TRS. It was in total disarray in 2014 and unless internal fighting stops they won’t be able to put up a good fight,” said political analyst Ravi. On the other hand, the BJP has launched a low key but extensive door-to-door campaign to get a toehold in the interior areas of Telangana.