At present, the question that seems to be haunting the TRS cadres is to what extent the optics of the high octane debate on the annulment of Article 370 in Parliament would dent their party’s edifice in Telangana, ahead of municipal elections.
Though the TRS leaders dismiss the development as one that would not have any bearing on elections to urban local bodies (ULBs), inwardly they seem to be feeling a sense of disquiet. This is because they have not yet forgotten how IAF’s surgical strikes on Balakot to avenge Pulwama pogrom on the eve of Parliament elections had caused an unexpected haemorrhage of votes from the TRS.
Riding on the crest of the pro-Modi wave that had built up after Indian Air Force bombed the terror hideouts in Pakistan, BJP nominees, leveraging on the heroic act of IAF pilots and taking advantage of local factors, had won four Lok Sabha seats with a convincing majority whose results were announced on May 23.
The TRS leaders dismiss the BJP’s gains as a flash in the pan and argue that the BJP benefited because TRS took the Lok Sabha elections for granted in the wake of its resounding victory in Assembly elections in December last year. The TRS leaders’ overconfidence let Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Adilabad and Secunderabad slip through their fingers to the BJP.
The TRS leaders recovered from the shock somewhat when the TRS cornered all the Zilla Parishads and most of Mandal Parishads after the results of the elections held to the MPTCs and ZPTCs between May 6 and 14 were announced on May 27. But the TRS seems to be having another worry -- neutralising the impact that the annulment of Article 370 may have had on the voters in favour of the BJP.
TRS supremo and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao wanted to hold elections to the 132 civic bodies in the State in the first week of August itself and had even said that from August 15 a new administration of the civic bodies would begin. But the notification for the elections is yet to come from the State Election Commission, which is giving room for speculation that KCR would sit out until Modi’s mojo would wear out. The High Court on July 22 had given him 140 days to hold the elections and he may take full advantage of it.
Like a phoenix
The BJP which had tasted the most ignominious defeat in Assembly elections with 103 of its candidates losing even security deposits, rose like a phoenix by the time Lok Sabha elections arrived. Its vote share which was just 7.1 per cent in Assembly elections, zoomed to 19.4 per cent in Lok Sabha elections, all because of PM Narendra Modi’s magic.
As Modi’s daredevilry in annulling Article 370 is being considered more or less like declaring a war on terrorism, it may have had an impact on Telangana voters too and if BJP can field leaders with a little popular appeal, they may reach the shore of victory, as the saffron tide is perceived to be quite powerful at present.
Says BJP national council member Y Lakshminarayana: “There is a Modi wave now. We stand a clear chance of winning most of the wards and divisions in civic bodies in Nizamabad which has become an eyesore for the TRS.”
But now the TRS is playing a clever game — it supported the annulment of Article 370 so that it would not alienate Hindus and its ally AIMIM opposed it, consolidating Muslims in its favour. After Lok Sabha elections, the TRS has learnt its lesson the hard way. It now knows that it will not be safe as long as it thinks it is safe. That is why it is circumspect while approaching the polls to the civic bodies.