The fast-approaching Telangana assembly polls could be a precursor to the general elections next year. With this backdrop, #KhabarLive does a SWOT analysis of the parties in fray:

Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS)
STRENGTHS: The party believes that its biggest strength is its president K Chandrasekhar Rao. KCR had forced the then UPA government at the Centre, to announce a separate Telangana state, and this is considered the biggest plus point of TRS. The party was formed in 2001 with the agenda of creating a separate Telangana state.

Various welfare schemes, such as Rythu Bandhu and Rythu Bima, have reached many households, and are taken as a big achievements. The party is strong in North Telangana and the slum areas in Hyderabad. Support form AIMIM will help it in certain Muslim-dominated areas outside Hyderabad.

WEAKNESSES: The party leadership is strong and KCR’s family members — KT Rama Rao, Kalvakuntla Kavitha, and T Harish Rao — have a prominent standing in the party. However, legislators, MLAs and even ministers are not seen as having the same stature, with which people can relate to. Out of 119 candidates, around 30 former MLAs are contesting again, are considered weak in terms of popularity, thus giving an edge to opponents in respective constituencies.

Also, KCR’s inaccessibility as a leader and chief minister has not gone down well the MLAs and the general public. The Congress could successfully drive home the point of KCR’s family-centric rule, and corruption allegations against the family.

OPPORTUNITIES: Statehood for Telangana is just one achievement. What lies ahead is the biggest challenge of development. The TRS government has made a beginning in this regard. Signing an agreement with Maharashtra government for the use of Godavari river water for Kaleshwaram project was a huge achievement for KCR. The TRS had an opportunity of showing more progress by the time of going to polls, which were earlier slated for April-May 2019.

However, KCR made a calculative move of dissolving the assembly and going for early elections. The TRS argues that new schemes were visualised and planned, but an opportunity to do more did not get enough backing from the Centre. Other opportunities for TRS were development of Hyderabad with newer projects such as Regional Ring Road, completion of SRDP, and development of Tier II cities like Warangal.

THREATS: For the first time, the party is facing a strong threat — both from within and outside the party. KCR and his inner circle were caught by surprise when the Congress joined hands with its longtime enemy the TDP, and parties such as CPI and TJS to form a formidable alliance. Pro-Telangana forces, as well as sections such as teachers and students, who stood by TRS during 2014 elections, have distanced themselves from the party.

If migrant votes and the TDP support base of BCs are transferred to the Mahakutami, the TRS will face a tough time in several constituencies including Ranga Reddy, Hyderabad and Khammam districts. Because of cases filed against Revanth Reddy and Jagga Reddy, there was a resentment among the Reddy community against the TRS. However, it has receded of late because of the Chandrababu Naidu factor.

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While one MP, Konda Vishweshwar Reddy, quit the party, another Rajya Sabha member, D Srinivas, is no longer active in the party. Two MLCs have quit the party. Some others who quit the party because of denial of tickets, blamed KCR’s autocratic rule and praised his nephew, T Harish Rao. Both Harish Rao and KCR’s son, KTR, have said they are not claimants to the CM’s chair.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
STRENGTHS: The BJP is contesting in all 119 segments in Telangana. It has a dedicated vote bank in urban areas, including Greater Hyderabad. The BJP candidates are mainly banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma, and the schemes of the central government. Recently, Sreepeetham seer Swamy Paripoornananda, ex-MLAs from TRS Babu Mohan and Bodige Shobha, and leaders from various parties joined the BJP.

The party national leadership is focussing on Telangana, and has been extending all support to state leaders, including sending Union ministers and party general secretaries to campaign for BJP candidates. At the least, the party hopes to retain the five seats it holds now, and at the maximum, is banking on doing well in 14-15 assembly seats.

WEAKNESSES: The party is still weak in rural areas and does not have a cadre in the districts. What goes against the BJP in Telangana is that it has never performed well while contesting the elections on its own. The five seats it secured in the last elections was because it was in alliance with the TDP. Besides, some leaders are unhappy with the party parachuting politicians, who have been given tickets while ignoring loyalists.

OPPORTUNITIES: The advantage for the BJP is that it has nothing to lose and everything to gain. The party’s central leaders has been stating that the Telangana elections will be their road to victory in the south. Considering that the BJP has never been in power in any of the southern states except Karnataka, it is aiming to make foray into Telangana, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

THREATS: The BJP is contesting all the 119 seats in Telangana, but has not been able to find strong candidates in many segments.

Besides, the BJP has the image of being a North Indian party, a point repeatedly harped upon by TRS leaders in their election meetings. Another problem is that all the top leaders, from PM Narendra Modi, to party president Amit Shah, speak in Hindi, something which is a disconnect with most Telangana people, except in some urban pockets. The party also has a paucity of star campaigners at the state level.

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All India Majlis Ittehad ul Muslimeen (AIMIM)
STRENGTHS: The Old City of Hyderabad, with a seizable Muslim population, has remained a vote bank for the AIMIM. Over the years, no party, including other Muslim outfits or national parties such as the Congress, TDP, TRS and the CPI have been able to break into the citadel of the AIMIM. The party has been contesting seven assembly seats and one MP seat (Hyderabad) for the past several decades, and has been victorious on all occasions. This time around, the MIM wanted to contest more seats, but was persuaded by is alliance partner, TRS, to limit itself to its familiar turf. However, it is contesting from an eight seat, Rajendranagar, this time.

WEAKNESSES: The major weakness facing the AIMIM is that it has been charged with being a second front of the BJP, and if the Muslim electorate in Old City suspect so, the party may be in for setbacks. This perception of the party being a second front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emerged in recent year with the AIMIM contesting elections in Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, where it indirectly ensured that the Muslim votes got split, helping the BJP win.

OPPORTUNITIES: Despite being charged with being a second front of the BJP, the AIMIM has made significant gains in elections, from local bodies to assembly, in other states. In Hyderabad too, the party can expand its base outside Old City in areas such as Jubilee Hills, where its candidate stood second behind the winner in the 2014 elections, and secured over a lakh votes. Similarly, there are at least four to five other assembly seats, where it can fancy its chances of winning, provided it does not run foul of the TRS, its partner.

THREATS: One main charge against the AIMIM is that it is a onefamily party, the Owaisis, and that it can face an existential crisis if the family runs out of heirs. Besides, there is some opposition within, who are trying to challenge this one-family rule, and want the AIMIM to become more democratic. Few Muslims families not aligned with the Owaisis have been waging a running battle with the family over the issue of complete dominance of party affairs. Thus, in the event of the family losing control, there is a danger of the AIMIM disintegrating.

STRENGTHS: The coming together of these four parties has given a fillip to the opposition election campaign. It was TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu, who struck an alliance with Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, which led to formalising of the alliance at the state-level. Both, the Congress, with a strong presence in Nalgonda and Mahabubnagar districts, and the TDP, which has the backing of Seemandhra people in Greater Hyderabad, are banking on antiincumbency factor to sweep the TRS out of power.

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The Congress is strong in South Telangana districts, whereas the TDP has a significance presence in Khammam and Ranga Reddy. Backing of BC voters (who were with the TDP till 2009 and later with TRS in 2014) will become crucial for the combine. The TJS has helped to bring in pro-Telangana forces. The Congress has strong candidates, who have earlier worked as ministers, along with MPs who can win on their own despite the party’s current position.

WEAKNESSES: What remains untested is the grand alliance itself. The TDP was formed as an anti-Congress party, and with the coming together of these two parties, it remains to be seen whether votes of one party will get transferred to the other alliance partner. Similarly, the Telangana Jana Samithi is an untested party, and indications are that it may not be able to win even one of the eight seats given to it.

The influence of the CPI, which has now been limited to Nalgonda and Khammam districts, does not guarantee victory in the three seats it is contesting. Delay in seat sharing and candidate selection of the Congress and the Kutami had caused considerable damage. Having no strong leader to take on KCR is another weak point for the alliance.

OPPORTUNITIES: If the grand alliance does work, and succeeds in ousting the TRS from power, it can have a big influence on the General elections slated for April-May 2019. Both Rahul Gandhi and Chandrababu Naidu can show this as an example of success, and persuade other non-BJP parties to cement a broad but cohesive alliance, and hope to bring it to power at the Centre. In Telangana, the success of such an alliance can restore the TDP as still a force to reckon with in the state.

THREATS: Infighting over posts and cabinet berths can bring down the alliance. In the Congress itself, there are at least five to six chief ministerial contenders, and if the TDP puts up a good performance, it can become more demanding. Already, demands are being made from the TDP that they should get the CM’s seat in the event of putting up a good performance.

Thus, consensus on the CM’s post, and cabinet berth distribution can become a big damper in the alliance emerges victorious. The TRS’s stand of showing AP CM Naidu as threat to Telangana — stating he is opposing irrigation projects — and claiming he will have a big say in the governance, is slowly sinking into public’s mind. #KhabarLive