K Chandrashekar Rao’s recommendation to dissolve the Telangana state assembly marks an interesting point in regional politics. KCR’s wish clearly is for the Election Commission (EC) to club polls scheduled in four other states later this year with that in Telangana.
If his wish is granted, the upcoming state polls will doubtless be considered a semi-final of sorts for the approaching general elections.
This is because the four states where elections are due are located in central, north and east India (Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram). Adding the southern state will make for an interesting sample size for the 2019 polls, given, of course, the usual riders about assembly poll voting patterns being different from general election patterns.
However, KCR will be very anxious if instead of immediate elections, the state assembly is kept in animation, as happened in the case of Andhra Pradesh when Chandrababu Naidu who, shortly after surviving an attempt on his life, resigned from his office in October 2003. Elections were held only after some six months by when Naidu’s TDP was trounced by Congress with a huge margin.
In any case, the reasons for KCR resigning from his chair well before the end of his term are quite interesting and may offer clues on how this situation is likely to play out in the coming days.
By far, the most serious political challenger to the TRS is the Congress. KCR would like to launch into polls before giving the Congress time to take stock and regroup.
The Congress is divided in many camps right now, heads of each of which is a CM claimant. While the high command hasn’t resolved this battle yet, some reports point towards state party chief Uttam Kumar Reddy being considered as Congress’ nominee for the CM’s chair.
The TRS, on the other hand, seems ready with its candidates, funds and vehicles.
Poll sop shower
In the past few days, KCR had, in typical poll mode, announced sops for just about every community — from temple priests to government employees and women self-help groups. Everyone received grants or aid of some kind.
Over the last one week, he also asked his cabinet ministers to clear funds for big ticket projects before they were due to submit their resignations on Thursday.
KCR is on a high given the good monsoon Telangana has received. The Rythu Bandhu scheme, under which he has given Rs 8,000 in two instalments to 58 lakh farmers, has created a positive impression for him politically. The political dividends of this scheme could pay him well if elections are held immediately.
The scenario, however, could change by the next sowing season in March-June next year. Expected water shortage, both for drinking and irrigation, could quite dramatically change the mood among TRS voters within a few months.
Risks of combined assembly and general polls
KCR’s big worry will be having to fight state polls together with Lok Sabha elections. Congress’s projection of Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial face could affect TRS adversely. Since the BJP is not a potent force in Telangana, KCR does not want to risk people voting for the Congress in both the elections.
KCR, the Kingmaker
Apart from pulling the rug from under Congress’s feet by fighting state elections before the latter is ready, KCR will reap another benefit if polls are held immediately and he does well — playing the kingmaker.
Telangana contributes 17 MPs to Parliament, a substantial number. Given that KCR has positioned himself as an anti-BJP, anti-Congress front leader, getting a good tally in the state polls will give him a good bargaining chip with either national party if he so desires before the LS polls.
KCR knows that the BJP could need him if they fall short in 2019. And the TRS chief will be more than happy to play a key role at the Centre with ministerial berths for his MPs. The flip side is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is aware of how KCR led the Congress up the garden path, reportedly promising to merge the TRS with it if Telangana was granted, only to go back on his word.