Telangana will hold the key to which party comes closer to the two-third majority figure in Andhra Pradesh. There are 119 Assembly seats under 17 Lok Sabha constituencies in the 10 districts that make up Telangana. In the first phase on April 16,154 Assembly seats under 22 LS constituencies 17 in Telangana and five in north coastal Andhra go to the polls. The delimitation exercise benefited Telangana the most with Assembly constituencies going up from 109 to 119.
The Congress had won 48 seats in Telangana in 2004. Since it had an alliance with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS),which won 26 seats,it had a total of 73 seats from Telangana alone,from its tally of 186. This time,the Congress does not have a tie-up in any of the 119 seats in Telangana.
It will be a vital test for the Congress. While it is going alone,its former partner,the TRS,has joined the Maha Kutami or Grand Alliance with the TDP and Left parties as partners. In 2004,the TDP had won 10 while the CPI and CPI(M) won 10.
Cut to 2009 and the Grand Alliance comprising TDP,TRS,CPI and CPM appear to have gained ground in this region. The unity being displayed by the alliance after they buried the hatchet over seat-sharing arrangement has in fact unnerved the Congress.
In a self-goal of sorts,Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee chief D Srinivas invited the wrath of the Election Commission as well as the people by his remarks at a public meeting at Nizamabad when he claimed he would chop of the hands and heads of those who dare to attack minorities. The anti-Hindu remarks appear to have incensed voters in the region.
The Congress will also have to offset any setback in its performance in coastal Andhra where Chiranjeevi has major mass appeal. Srinivas says the Congresss strength lies in its pro-poor schemes. I am confident people will stand by us, he says.
For the TRS,it is the ultimate test after biting the dust in the April 2008 by-elections when it contested 16 seats after its MLAs resigned but managed to win only seven. The TRS has been spearheading the Telangana cause since 2004. There were signs of the sentiment diminishing and the partys popularity had hit a low by 2008. It is a test for both TRS and the Telangana cause, says TRSs G Jagadishwar Reddy.
TRS performance is also important for the Grand Alliance if it is to make any impact on the poll outcome. Wary of the dip in popularity of the TRS which showed in the 2008 by-polls,the TDP did not yield to pressure from TRS to let it contest all the seats in Telangana. TRS finally settled for 48 while the rest have been shared between TDP,CPI and CPM.
Chiranjeevis Praja Rajyam Party appears to have squandered away initial goodwill due to gross mismanagement in the party and questionable selection of candidates. His PRP is contesting all the 119 seats in Telangana.
Forty-five Assembly seats in north Andhra are also going to polls along with five Lok Sabha constituencies. The 2004 polls saw a tough fight between the Congress and TDP in north Andhra. Congress won 20 and TDP 12. All eyes are on the performance of PRP here as Chiranjeevi is very popular in coastal Andhra,especially in Visakhapatnam,Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts.