Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao took a big gamble last week by recommending premature dissolution of the state Assembly. To the public, he has no valid justification for the decision, which seemed to have been made keeping his party’s political interest in mind. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain – the state is going to face early elections. What is uncertain, however, is the changes it might bring to the faces of political leaders in the state cutting across party lines.
Remember, the same Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) that had supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s idea of holding simultaneous polls has now decided to seek people’s mandate for the state Assembly a good nine months before its term ends. Why? KCR doesn’t want simultaneous polls for more than one reason. It’s natural for the leader of a regional party to safeguard his seat in the state before thinking of political gains in Delhi or elsewhere. For, real power rests in the chief minister’s chair. Once that is secured, the party can resort to political experiments elsewhere.
The entire edifice of the party is dependent on the stability of its basement — holding power in the state. There are enough precedents to support this, right from Rao’s days as a leader of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). When TDP founder N T Rama Rao went separately for Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in 1984-85, the party gained. When the same NTR went for simultaneous polls with Lok Sabha, he lost both. Chandrababu Naidu, the current TDP chief and Andhra Pradesh chief minister, met with the same fate when simultaneous polls were held in 2004.
With the likelihood of a ‘grand alliance’ under the leadership of the Congress, KCR is expecting an anti-Modi wave to set in, in the months to come. At that point in time, thanks to political compulsions in Telangana, KCR cannot be seen as part of either the NDA or the united Opposition. This is the main reason for him to go for separate polls.
Second, a fresh innings in power in the state will make him more comfortable in devising his strategy for national level politics, something he seems to be keen to pursue considering that he floated the Federal Front with the motto: Governance with a difference. He seems eager to lead this front and bring in some like-minded regional parties along with him. However, he knows he would not be able to leverage it to his advantage in the case of a simultaneous poll. For, there was the risk of people suspecting he was leaving the chief minister’s gaddi for a bigger role in Delhi.
Third, KCR knows the main strengths and weaknesses of his arch rival in the state — the Congress. He knows how it is currently hobbled by ‘poor resources’. He is also doubtful of the capacities of the Congress in forging a workable grand alliance in the state by involving the TDP, the CPI and the Telangana Jana Samithi.
KCR is also confident that the TRS would win almost 30 Assembly seats that are likely to be offered by the Congress to its partners as part of its grand alliance share. He believes those parties do not have sufficient strength to pull in a victory together. Also, there is a definite possibility of the local Congress leaders rebelling against the party for gifting away their seats to the allies.
Again, there are a good number of precedents that proves that such a marriage of convenience is like a cat on the wall. The grand alliance of the Congress, the TRS, the CPI and the CPM against the ruling TDP in 2004 was a major hit. However, another grand alliance of the TDP, the CPI, the CPM and the TRS against the ruling Congress in 2009 was a major flop. In most of the seats offered to the TRS that year, the local TDP leadership did not support them, which eventually reflected on the votes it managed to get.
Fourth, KCR believes there is no anti-incumbency factor yet, thanks to good rains, hopes of a bumper yield and the overall feel-good factor prevailing in the state. Like the saying, make hay while the sun shines, KCR is confident of a good harvest in the early Assembly polls.