TRS President K Chandrashekhar Rao, Congress President Rahul Gandhi & TDP President Chandrababu Naidu. (Source: BloombergQuint)

Telangana Polls 2018: Will KCR Overcome Alliance Arithmetic?

India’s newest state, Telangana, will hold its state election on Dec. 7 after Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao dissolved its assembly in September.

Will KCR’s Ploy Yield Dividend?

Rao, or KCR as he is popularly known, said that he was forced to dissolve the state assembly on Sept. 6 after opposition parties wanted to “demoralise the state”. Political commentators reject this view and said that the chief minister is looking to cash in on his current popularity. The state election was earlier scheduled to coincide with the 2019 general election.

Telangana Polls 2018: Will KCR Overcome Alliance Arithmetic?

Telangana was bifurcated from Andhra Pradesh by the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act of 2014, also known as the Telangana Act. Elections were held along with the general election of 2014 in which TRS won 63 out of total 119 seats. The Congress won 21 seats, the Telugu Desam party bagged 15 seats and the Bharatiya Janata Party was able to muster 5 seats. However, legislators from the Congress and TDP later defected to the TRS, taking its tally to 90. This led to accusations that the TRS was poaching MLAs from rivals.

The vote shares of the TRS, Congress and TDP was 35 percent, 25 percent and near-15 percent, respectively. This time, the elections are expected to be a different ballgame, with the Congress, TDP, Telangana Jana Samiti and CPI(M) uniting to form a “Mahakutami” (grand alliance) to take on the ruling party.

Telangana Polls 2018: Will KCR Overcome Alliance Arithmetic?

Challenges For TRS

KCR may be the key figure behind the formation of the state, but the electorate will judge the government on its performance, where there may be chinks.

  • Rising rural distress in Telangana is a cause for worry, with farmers demanding a higher minimum support price for their produce.
  • Farmer suicides is also on the rise in the state: 898 farmers committed suicides in 2014, while the corresponding numbers for 2015 and 2016, were 1,358 and 632, respectively, according to NCRB data.
  • Delays in delivery of key schemes such as the two-bedroom house scheme, land redistribution programme for marginalised communities and failure to fill up 1.5 lakh job vacancies.
Telangana Polls 2018: Will KCR Overcome Alliance Arithmetic?

Test Of Opposition Unity

The four-party Mahakutami was derided by TRS as an alliance of contradictions with the TDP and Congress—which are fighting each other in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh—coming together. The alliance’s constituents don’t see eye-to-eye on various issues. This was evident in the seat-sharing agreement, finalised after rounds of deliberations.

The X-Factor: AIMIM

The Owaisi brothers—staunch supporters of KCR—hold a significant voter base in several constituencies. Akbaruddin Owaisi, brother of AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, is contesting from Chandrayangutta constituency in Old Hyderabad. The Owaisis are likely to bring a significant share of the minority votes to TRS.

KCR’s National Role

KCR is gearing up to play a larger role in national politics. He flirted with the idea of a non-Congress, non-BJP federal front and met regional leaders like TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and DMK chief MK Stalin. Thus, Dec. 11 will also decide whether KCR will be relevant in national politics.