Mohammed Iqbal Omar
The State legislative elections that were conducted through 2018 were monumental in not only showcasing but also allowing for a shift in public opinion and influence of the political parties in India to say the least. The legislative elections of Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Rajasthan stand testimony to the previous statement as all of the States in question had a complete or in-part change of power.
While the elections where there was a change in power have been upheld as vital to understand in light of the 2019 general election the political situation of the nation and have been stated to be paramount to the campaigning and influence for the same, there was one legislative election that stood out- the Telangana Legislative Assembly Election. The election in Telangana was the only State legislative election where the current party in power retained power completely and gained a larger majority than the prior term making it a paramount election to analyse.
The Telangana Rashtra Samiti retained power in the youngest State of India, winning by a landslide majority of 67 seats over the Indian National Congress alliance and ensuring the unanimous return of K Chandrasekar Rao as the Chief Minister of Telangana for a second term following his early dissolution of the legislative assembly for an early election. The influence of Chandrasekar Rao is not exclusive to the State of Telangana as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti is also expected to win seats in the upcoming Andhra Pradesh legislative elections.
Chandrasekar Rao and his Telangana Rashtra Samiti have proven to be a major factor in South Indian Politics since the creation of the State in 2014 and are thus a major influence in how the politics of the south will shape following the 2019 general elections. The future of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti has also been cemented by the growing power and influence of KT Rama Rao, current working president of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and the son of Chandrasekar Rao.
The victory in the 2018 legislative elections comes following the major victory of the TRS in the first legislative election of the State where they won by a majority of 42 seats over the Indian National Congress opposition. The two consecutive victories have been accredited mainly to the pivotal role of the TRS and its founder Chandrasekar Rao in the struggle for the creation of the State of Telangana which was also the reason behind Chandrasekar being long held as the mascot of Telangana pride and the helm of Telangana identity.
Chandrasekar Rao before founding the Telangana Rashtra Samiti citing discrimination and injustice against the people of Telangana by the Telugu Desam Party, was the Deputy Speaker of Andhra Pradesh State Assembly in 2000. The history of Chandrasekar Rao and the TRS with the United Progressive Alliance has been influential in the position of the party towards the Indian National Congress.
Shortly following the creation of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti in 2001 it entered into an alliance with the Indian National Congress in the 2004 elections wherein the TRS won 26 MLA seats and 5 MP seats. In the first span of the United Progressive Alliance Government, Chandrasekar served as the Union Minister for Labour and Employment. The demand for the creation of the State of Telangana was deferred by the Indian National Congress which caused him to resign from his portfolio.
Following close to seven years since resignation of Chandrasekar Rao the demand for the creation of the State of Telangana was decided on by the UPA Government in 2013. The creation of the State was thus majorly credited to the struggle and efforts of Chandrasekar Rao and his party which creates a sense of “Telangana Pride” which has been a major factor in public support for the party complementing their emphasis on welfare measures and support from AlMIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi and the minority muslim population.
The Indian National Congress’ major alliance that it hoped would cinch the victory in the State called Mahakutami included the Telugu Desam Party, Communist Party of India and the Telangana Jana Samithi. This alliance however owing to the strong opposition and its proven electoral capacity failed to achieve success and lost by a larger margin than the Indian National Congress’ initial 2014 electoral loss. This lost has been majorly attributed to mass public sentiment against the alliance with Telugu Desam Party in particular, which proved to be the electoral demise of the alliance in the State.
The major contention against the alliance came through two allegations from the TRS and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The first contention came upon the ideological differences between the Telugu Desam Party which was created by NTR with an anti-congress and pro telugu identity and the Indian National Congress. This led to claims that the Telangana Indian National Congress was controlled by Chandrababu Naidu from leaders of TRS and BJP and allegations that if the alliance came to power the actual power would be held in Delhi and the Andhra Pradesh capital of Amaravati.
While the first contention was addressed by Chandrababu Naidu wherein he stated that the alliance was necessary and was a “democratic compulsion” the contention was a factor in the failed campaign of the alliance. The second contention of the alliance comes from allegations that the leader of the Telugu Desam Party opposed irrigation projects in Telangana and would thus not allow irrigation projects to take place.
This was rooted in an open letter addressed to Chandrababu Naidu by T Harish Rao, TRS leader wherein he claimed that he conspired against Telangana in mainly irrigation and power. In the letter in question he also included a list of 19 issues raised by Chandrababu Naidu which were against Telangana’s interest. The letter and the allegations were rejected by the Congress Alliance but the impact of the two contentions can be seen in the electoral result wherein the Indian National Congress was able to retain power in only seven of its previously held constituencies.
The public support shift against the Telugu Desam party comes also from the sentiment of requiring independent identity and suspicions on the commitment of the Telugu Desam Party towards development in the State of Telangana. This loss of the Telugu Desam Party will provide a predictable yet interesting shift of power in Andhra Pradesh wherein the Telugu Desam Party while maintains stronghold will face a more powerful opposition.
This also calls into question the influence and power of the Indian National Congress in the Southern States which will be indispensable to the Indian National Congress’ electoral performance. The reduced influence of the Congress and the bitter taste of Southern Alliances following the Mahakutami will affect the alliances it has with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu and JD(S) in Karnataka but to what extent is an answer that time will provide.
The impact that Chandrasekar Rao can have on South Indian are amplified by his influence and majority in Telangana, and his interests in the Andhra Pradesh legislative elections. The power and influence of his son, KT Rama Rao in party and State politics has cemented the position of Telangana Rashtra Samiti as a major South-Indian political force allowing for Chandrasekar Rao to get more involved with national politics without leaving the State as was confirmed by a key party leader’s statement to the Times of India thus making him a major political leader in the southern region wishing to make his mark on national politics which this vital electoral victory allows for.