TDP chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has launched a campaign in Telangana, with a focus on Hyderabad, but on the ground, it appears that the TDP is expecting too much from the people from Andhra Pradesh settled in the capital.
Nine Assembly constituencies in and around Hyderabad have sizeable populations of people with roots in Andhra. These nine seats were among the 15 that TDP won in 2014 in the Telangana region. However, after the TRS formed the first government of the newly carved state, perceptions among the Andhra population have changed and this may make this election difficult for the TDP.
TDP is part of “Prajakutami” or “People’s Alliance” that also comprises Congress, Telangana Jana Samithi and CPI. As per the seat-sharing arrangement, TDP is contesting 13 Assembly constituencies and it appears that the party will face a tough contest in all the seats.
Even in Kukatpally, the hub of “settlers’’ from Andhra Pradesh that is considered to be a TDP bastion, the party faces an uphill task. TDP has fielded Nandamuri Suhasini, daughter of TDP leader late N Harikrishna, who died in an accident on August 29. For Naidu, Kukatpally is a prestige seat because it has a large number of “Andhra settlers’’ and many of them belong to the Kamma community Naidu hails from. In 2014, TDP’s M Krishna Rao won from Kukatpally, but he switched to TRS which has renominated him this time.
Despite the backing of Naidu and the Nandamuri clan, it is a big challenge for Suhasini. Apart from being a novice in politics, she faces opposition within her party in Kukatpally. Before her name was announced, the TDP had almost finalised the candidature of local party leader E Peddi Reddy. Another aspirant M Srinivas Rao had started campaigning on his own even though his name was not announced. While Suhasini’s name was being considered, supporters of Reddy and Rao clashed in Kukatpally. With Suhasini’s entry, TDP in Kukatpally is now divided into three factions.
Why Telangana matters for Naidu at home, nationally
Although the TDP is contesting just 13 seats in Telangana, it is a test for N Chandrababu Naidu who is keen on forming an alliance of non-BJP parties. By tying up with traditional rival Congress and forming a 'Prajakutami' with two other parties, Naidu is testing the waters whether such an alliance succeeds and can be used a template at the national level to counter the BJP. Success in Telangana will be a boost for the TDP at home too, with Naidu facing Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh.
Besides Naidu, her film star uncle Nandamuri Balakrishna, and brothers NTR Junior and Kalyan Ram, also film stars, are campaigning for her. Meanwhile, Suhasini’s aunt D Purandareshwari, who joined the BJP in March 2014, is campaigning for BJP candidate M Kantha Rao, who happens to be a relative of TRS candidate M Krishna Rao. “While Kamma community may vote for TDP, Kapus from Andhra may go with TRS. Muslims and other migrants may also prefer TRS over TDP this time,’’ S Raju, a political commentator said.
There are about 64,000 Kapus, 70,000 Muslims and over 30,000 migrants from different states in Kukatpally. Apart from Kukatpally, people from Andhra are settled in the constituencies of Jubilee Hills, Sanathnagar, Secunderabad Cantt, Qutuballapur, L B Nagar, Serilingampalli, Rajendranagar and Ibrahimpatnam.
According to analysts, the main reason why “Andhra settlers’’ may ignore TDP is that they are not facing any problems from the TRS government or leaders after formation of the Telangana state. “In 2014, Andhra settlers voted for TDP out of fear, but the anti-Andhra slogans and rhetoric during Telangana statehood agitation turned out to be just sound bites. After Telangana was formed and KCR became CM, the interests of Andhra people have been protected. In fact, KCR and TRS leaders went out of their way to assure safety and security of Andhra people in Hyderabad and other parts of Telangana. The talk of attacks on Andhra people and occupying their properties turned out to be rumours. There has been no law and order problem. People from Andhra are living in peace; in fact, more people are coming to Hyderabad in search of jobs and livelihood. So, Andhra settlers are likely to reward TRS just like they did in municipal elections in 2016 when they voted for TRS candidates instead of TDP,’’ said T Ravi, another political commentator.
In Serilingampalli, TDP candidate B Anand Prasad is pitted against Arekapudi Gandhi of TRS. In 2014, Gandhi won on a TDP ticket but later joined TRS which has renominated him. “In spite of the tag of ‘Andhra settlers’, Telangana government considers and treats us as its citizens only. For instance, when Rythu Bandhu cheques were distributed, all Andhra people owning agricultural land in Telangana got the money just like Telangana people. Former founder of Satyam Computers B Ramalinga Raju stood in a queue to return the cheque as did most of us because we don’t cultivate the land. There is no discrimination,’’ said Brahmanda Reddy, a real estate dealer.
Another reason cited by many is that TDP is seen as an Andhra-based party. “Chandrababu Naidu has his hands full in AP. He may not have that much time to handle party affairs in Telangana,’’ a resident of Madhapur said.