As the Congress-led Opposition combine is battle-ready to take on the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) juggernaut, Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) is embarking upon a comprehensive electoral strategy to frustrate the efforts of his rivals.
Such a strategy include the following:
1. Painting Mahakutami as proxy for Andhra Pradesh leadership
Painting the Congress-led Mahakutami as proxy for Andhra Pradesh leadership, TRS supremo KCR plans to revive the Telangana sentiment on the poll eve. The prime attack of TRS against the Mahakutami is on TDP. It is a calculated move on part of TRS as the Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP is a marginal player in the Congress-led alliance.
Unless the grand alliance wins the polls with a slender margin, the TDP will not have a decisive role in the Telangana government. Yet, TRS targets Congress for its alliance with TDP, describing it as an Andhra Pradesh party. Given the continuing differences between the two Telugu states post-bifurcation, and Andhra Pradesh chief minister and TDP president Naidu taking a position unpalatable to Telangana on a host of issues confronting the two states, TRS expects to rouse the Telangana sentiment again. TRS expects that Congress is therefore vulnerable to attack as Telangana electorate believes state TDP to be working under the dictates of the Andhra Pradesh chief minister.
2. Capitalising on dissidence within Congress
The Congress is facing dissidence in as many as ten constituencies among the first list of 65 candidates which the party has announced so far. In fact, Congress rivals expected the dissidence to be in more seats. However, TRS expects that the dissidence may mount as Congress and its allies release the full list of 119 candidates.
Though TRS also faced severe dissidence in as many as 30 seats, the ruling party could somehow manage it to a larger extent. The resource-rich ruling parties can always score over their Opposition rivals in such matters. Congress, which was busy finalising seat-sharing and selection of candidates, could not exploit the discontent in TRS over the selection of candidates, especially on the issue of re-nomination of almost all its sitting MLAs, many of whom face anti-incumbency. But now, the TRS leadership is strategising promoting rebels from the Opposition camp, especially from the Congress, by capitalising on the dissidence over seat-sharing and selection of candidates.
3. Micro-managing constituencies where Opposition has an advantage
The Congress camp feels that the first list has a large number of strong candidates if their individual capacity in winning the elections is concerned. The party spokesperson Dasoju Sravan Kumar said that majority of Congress candidates are two to three time MLAs, former MPs, former ministers and those who lost narrowly in 2014 when the Telangana sentiment was at its peak and the party was facing anti-incumbency after a ten-year-long spell in power.
Even the TRS leaders privately acknowledge this and claim that their leader KCR, who is a master strategist, will certainly have an effective strategy to neutralise this. TRS expects to undertake micro-management in identified constituencies where either Opposition candidates are strong or where TRS is facing internal dissonance.
4. Will Congress votes transfer to its allies?
TRS believes the Congress vote may not transfer to its allies — TDP, TJS and CPI. KCR called upon his party machinery to focus on such vulnerabilities of the Opposition conglomerate. Due to heavy competition for Congress candidature in many constituencies, the party finds it difficult to contain discontent in the seats allotted to allies. The problem is much more acute in the seats that are likely to be given to Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS) led by Professor Kodandaram.
Congress leaders feel that CPI and TJS nominees are not winnable candidates and the party has to make sacrifices for the sake of alliance even as the allies are still sulking over inadequate representation for them in the grand alliance. As the nomination process comes to an end, the confusion and commotion in the Congress-led grand alliance may come down.
Yet, TRS expects disgruntlement in the rank and file of different parties. Congress and TDP are historic rivals. Kodandaram, who led the Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC) that led the movement for a separate state, was very critical of Congress and TDP during the movement. Thus, TRS hopes that the vote transfer within the Congress-led alliance will not be complete, asserts Taduri Srinivas, TRS spokesperson.
5. Banking on government’s welfare schemes
Converting the beneficiaries of his government’s welfare schemes into vote banks forms the core of KCR’s electoral plank. KCR government’s welfare schemes like pensions for the old, widows, and the differently-abled, Kalyana Laxmi and Shaadi Mubarak, the financial assistance scheme at the time of a girl’s wedding, the Rythu bandhu, capital assistance of Rs 8,000 per acre etc are quite popular. Though there may be inadequacies and lapses in the implementation of welfare schemes, TRS still expects large a vote bank in the form of beneficiaries of these schemes.
6. KCR’s popularity
The field-level reports indicate that many of TRS members in the dissolved Assembly seeking re-election are hugely unpopular among the voters, even as KCR enjoys public support. Therefore, realising this folly, KCR intends to convert the election into a sort of a referendum on himself as his party and its MLAs face anti-incumbency to an extent. KCR’s son and the Minister for Information Technology KT Rama Rao, describing KCR as lion, said that there are as many as 20 chief ministerial aspirants in Congress and the leader will be chosen by Delhi and sent to Hyderabad in a sealed cover. This is a clear attempt to convert the election into a personality fight, with KCR having an edge.
7. Mobilising minorities and caste groups
Social engineering by targeting Muslim vote through understanding with MIM and mobilising specific caste groups is yet another strategy of KCR. In fact, the Assembly was prematurely dissolved to delink the state elections from Lok Sabha polls as KCR feared anti-Modi sentiment would drive the minority vote towards Congress. Similarly, through targeted welfare schemes, KCR tried to rally OBC voters, who were strong supporters of TDP in the united state.
8. KCR’s sharp speeches
KCR intends to disarm Opposition with bitter criticism. He is known for his sharp speeches. Involving the use of powerful Telangana slang is the cynosure of TRS campaign. The chief minister has already addressed few public meetings and is expected to undertake a whirlwind tour of the state. Thus, he wants to set an election agenda, making the Opposition follow him.
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