Trouble at the Gandhi Bhavan in Hyderabad for tickets should not worry the Congress leaders. In fact, it is a good augury. It is proof that the prospects of the Congress in the Assembly elections in Telangana are looking bright unlike in 2014 when the Congress had no fighting chance in Telangana and in Andhra Pradesh, it was as dead as a dodo.

The Congress leaders, instead of worrying about the bedlam at the Gandhi Bhavan, should find out the reasons for the sudden hike in demand for Congress tickets. If they think hard, it may not be difficult to find the reasons.

When Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) supremo K Chandrashekar Rao dissolved the Assembly and went for early elections six months ahead of the completion of its term, the Congress remained paralysed with the shock of the unexpected development.

If dissolution was one bombshell, then announcing candidates for 105 Assembly seats was another. With surveys revealing that the BJP may not be all that hot in the next general elections, Chandrashekar Rao decided to go for the Assembly polls much early banking on his welfare schemes.

He reportedly felt that if he waited till May, he may have to face the ‘rub off’ from the anti-incumbency that Modi is carrying on his shoulders now and it might act as a spoilsport as far as his battle for Telangana is concerned.

Just as the way Chandrashekar Rao did not get Telangana the way he wanted, the announcement of elections for Telangana Assembly was also not as immediate as he had foreseen. The Telangana elections were clubbed with all the four Assembly elections in the north and that too at the end of the list. Now Chandrashekar Rao has to wait till December 7 for the voters to give their verdict.

The Opposition also had something to surprise Chandrashekar Rao. The Telangana Chief Minister had never thought of the possibility of AP Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, with whom he has a running feud, would become pally with the Congress, notwithstanding the fact that ideologies of both the Telugu Desam and the grand old party being as different as chalk is from cheese.

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The development had made Chandrashekar Rao get back to the drawing board once again to rework his strategy since more than his welfare schemes, he knows what pays the dividends in politics is playing the feeling of hatred as a political device. As long as the Congress was his only rival in the State, he wanted to use welfare schemes in his armoury as weapons against the Congress as the people in Telangana acknowledge the fact that both are responsible for the formation of Telangana State and therefore, they do not hate the Congress.

But when the Congress embraced Telugu Desam Party, the TRS has found its target – Chandrababu Naidu – though his party is contesting only a few seats in the election.

At the moment, the TRS is not all that bothered about flaunting the welfare schemes that it had implemented during the last four-and-a-half years. Instead, it had decided to summon the spirit of 2009-2014 Telangana movement to paint Chandrababu Naidu’s image with a tarred brush.

It began hitting out at Naidu as to how he had turned out to be a betrayer by unduly favouring Andhraites at the cost of the people of Telangana during his nine-year rule in undivided AP.

Chandrashekar Rao, who tends to become emotional at times, while addressing an election meeting recently, used uncharitable words against Naidu which suddenly brightened the prospects of the Congress-TDP-TJS in about 34 Assembly seats, including 24 under the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), where people of Andhra origin live. The surveys revealed that they had taken the comments to their heart and are seething inwardly.

The TRS was quick to realise that 34 was a very significant number and began damage control exercise. K T Rama Rao, interacting with the people of Andhra origin at a function billed – Our Hyderabad – said that Chandrashekar Rao was not against Andhraites but only was against Naidu.

Rama Rao said that Chandrashekar Rao had nothing personal against Naidu and that treating him as his political rival, he made certain comments. He recalled how Chandrashekar Rao wanted to donate Rs.100 crore for the construction of Amaravati at the time of foundation stone laying by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and how he withheld making the announcement as it would not be nice since Modi did not announce anything.

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Chandrashekar Rao’s comments, it is perceived, had lifted the prospects of the Congress which were at the lowest ebb when the Assembly was dissolved. But as the days went by, the fight between the two – the TRS and the Congress has become almost neck to neck.

This is considered to be one main reason why the Congress wants to retain as many seats as possible for its candidates, while the TDP, under instructions from Naidu, decided to satisfy itself with 14 seats while the Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) still wants the number of seats allotted to it should not be in single digit.

Naidu did not want Telangana TDP to make an issue out of the lesser number of seats allotted to the party since Telangana is only a small part of national anti-BJP game plan that he is scripting now where the Congress would be playing a major role.

Now, the TRS is treading the path very cautiously but is faced with the problem of how to ignite Telangana sentiment without attacking Chandrababu Naidu as, if it does, it runs the risk of hurting the Andhra voters and if it does not, its welfare schemes alone might not be able to see it through the electoral warfare as it cannot foment Telangana passion by attacking the Congress.

Though the TRS leaders are making every effort to explain to Andhras that Chandrashekar Rao was not against them but was only against Naidu, it is not having traction with them, at least for now. There are some people who are digging up anti-Andhra statements that the TRS leaders had made in the past like how Andhra biryani tastes vis a vis Hyderabad biryani and how pious and scholarly Telangana brahmins are compared to their Andhra counterparts who they said were given more to ostentation. All hat and no cattle.

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But it would be foolhardy to assume that the TRS would not be successful in its present attempt to inflame Telangana sentiment. While making a distinction between Naidu and Andhraites, the TRS is sure to single out the AP leader for an attack on the issues that no one could argue about. The most powerful weapon would be Naidu’s letters to the Centre against Telangana taking up irrigation projects, contending that they would hurt the interests of Andhraites.

Already caretaker Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao had slammed Naidu on irrigation projects and made it clear to the people of Telangana that if the alliance won the election, there would be a Chief Minister who would be a puppet in the hands of Naidu. In such an eventuality, Telangana is sure to face problem in execution of irrigation projects.

As irrigation is one of the main issues on which Telangana movement was fought, this aspect is likely to connect with people at least in constituencies where there are no Andhraites. This might influence people to allow a second term for the TRS as four and half years is too small a period for Chandrashekar Rao to show results on all fronts.

Those who have benefited individually are expected to support the TRS and those who might because of the ongoing projects too might be tempted to go in the same direction.

Another weapon the TRS might use is the sudden visit of the Congress general secretary Ashok Gehlot to Amaravati ostensibly to knit a national coalition against the BJP but it is given to understand that they have discussed Telangana elections too.

Already the TRS is going to town saying that voting for the Congress-TDP alliance means surrendering Telangana’s self-respect at the altar of Amaravati and Delhi. Gehlot’s visit to Amaravati would help the TRS to further fuel this sentiment.

Assuming that Gehlot had not discussed Telangana which is unlikely anyway, the TRS would still go in for it as in elections, like in a war, no one plays by the rules. Whoever strikes first will have the advantage.#KhabarLive


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