Unlike in other states, the decline of the Congress has been precipitous in Telangana.
The state of the Congress in Telangana offers a glimmer of understanding of the reasons behind the Grand Old Party’s downward spiral nationally. The party presided over the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and creation of Telangana but managed to reap virtually no electoral dividend from the move in Telangana while being wiped out in Andhra.
Its own partymen such as Jairam Ramesh, who had a central role in the bifurcation and documented the history of it recently, say the party is all but dead in Andhra. In Telangana, it languishes in a moribund state.
Unlike in other states, the decline of the party has not been gradual. It was so precipitous in fact, that analysts give specific dates to it. Three dates stand out in this process. One was September 2, 2009, the day Y S Rajasekhara Reddy died in a helicopter crash. The death of the man who won two elections for the Congress left the party without a leader with the stature to stall the demand for creation of a separate State of Telangana. His departure revived a dying demand for a separate State.
The second was December 9, 2009, the day on which Union home minister P Chidambaram surprised even Telangana separatists by announcing that steps would be taken to carve out the new State. It supplied oxygen to the embers of the agitation and plunged both Andhra and Telangana into turmoil.
The third was July 30, 2013, when the Congress Working Committee assented, after four years of seeming to have second thoughts, to the creation of Telangana. It went down as a Congress perfidy in coastal Andhra, and was seen as a victory for K Chandrasekhar Rao, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti leader who fronted the agitation.
It has been argued, naively, that the Congress party believed that the credit for the creation of Telangana would accrue to it in the new State, even if Andhra was abandoned to the bitter feelings there.
It is also said, naively, that the Congress believed Chandrasekhar Rao’s promise to merge his party with the Congress post-bifurcation.
A more likely explanation would be that the high command felt itself weakened by the lack of a leader who could hold the State together and had itself become so enervated by the impending advent of Narendra Modi that it gave into a sheer loss of faith in itself, a torpor that haunts the party nationally today.
As expected, the party won zero Parliament and Assembly seats in the truncated AP, and mustered only 21 Assembly seats in Telangana, which have since dwindled due to defections to 13. The defections are an indication that the party leadership, regionally as well as nationally, has failed to convince its own flock of its potential to return to power.
Painted in broad brushstrokes, this picture is of a piece with the larger narrative of the party losing turf to new parties in its bastions. If it was the Samajwadi Party in UP, it is the TRS in Telangana and the YSR Congress party in Andhra. It’s no discovery that in states where such upstart parties have not yet eaten into its vitals, the Congress retains a modicum of viability.
Meanwhile, the Congress is a listing ship in Telangana, its role in the creation of the new State taken as a given, with no leadership to mount a challenge to the new ruling party, the TRS.