As you spend a couple of hours under the shade of a white shamiana in the BR Ambekdar stadium here on a not-so-hot Wednesday afternoon mingling with crowds awaiting the arrival of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, you get to understand the various facets of the emerging Telangana state — the economics of politics, ignorance, intelligence and a sense of dejection that is already creeping in.
It was from this very stadium, which has a big statue of Babasaheb at the entrance, that Sonia had declared on the eve of 2009 elections that her party was not opposed to a Telangana State. Five years on, having granted the State a few months ahead of another round of elections, she was back at the same venue.
Sonia needed to revisit to give the much-needed fillip to the Congress campaign, which could not be spearheaded by any local leader, confined as they are to their respective constituencies or busy in sabotages. Once the TRS took the solo route, the spoils are up for grabs — the pink party claiming it is the champion, the Congress saying T state would not have been a reality but for Sonia and the BJP seeking a share of its own for backing the bill.
Voters are confused and leaders are fishing in a state of flux. You get a hint of it when you stop under a tree before entering the stadium where a group of villagers from the nearby Dharmapuri constituency laze around after reaching there by an autorickshaw.
Fifty-year-old Chandraiah, a daily wage earner, says he did come for a Congress meeting but may vote for the car — TRS —to give them a chance. Standing next to him, 25-year-old Prashant fumes at what he calls the “illiterate” old generation, though he himself prefers a TRS-BJP combination, the latter for the Lok Sabha. “These people don’t know how valuable their vote is and how important it is to pick the right candidate. They can be easily bought. It could be another generation before things change.”
Inside the stadium, another youth comes up with a different view. Venkatesh, who runs a photo studio in Mancherial, has come all the way to see the leader who gave the T state. “She kept her promise and we have to pay back by supporting her,” he opines.
The stadium starts filling up slowly and is packed by the time Sonia arrives. More keep walking in even after her speech. DWACRA, otherwise known as self-help groups, come in handy during election time, particularly for the big shows. Each woman has to be paid in the range of `100-150 and their group leader takes care of the rest. Transportation costs are extra and the “wages are fixed” for any meeting, whether of Congress or the TRS.
A good number of them are reasonably intelligent but there are still some who are completely ignorant. “Power cuts have become worse after Telangana state came into being,” complains Lakshmi from a village abutting Karimnagar.
Tell her a Telangana government is yet to come into being, she feigns ignorance. The men are none too happy with the “liberated woman.” Kanakaiah of Timmapur in Manakondur constiuency tells you who is likely to vote for whom — first-time voters for TRS/BJP, the middle-aged for the Congress/TRS and the aged for hastam. Women, you never know. “Are they no longer going by the diktat of the husband?” I ask. Jani, a small-time businessman from the same village, interjects, “Marad ka baat sunenge.” But, Kanakaiah has a different theory. “Some listen, some don’t. Some go by the suggestion of the children.”
Life has become tough for politicians, used as they are in the past to managing “local leaders” capable of influencing people in their respective villages. They still call the shots but success rate is going down with each election. Swamy of Kasipally village in Adilabad district, points out how a sarpanch candidate spent `10 lakh in the election that took place a year ago. “But, the problem is you are not sure of votes even after paying money. You never know how the voter’s mind behaves once he enters the booth.” Fighting an election is no longer an option for anyone other than the rich.
And, how the does money get generated for anyone to spend so much? Swamy promptly narrates the story of how `60 lakh was siphoned off in another district by a group of leaders in a housing scam. Existing houses were shown as newly-built under the weaker section housing programme and the “beneficiaries” found their names in the list much after everything was over. This is just a case in point.
As you walk away from the stadium, the one thing that strikes the most is the lack of euphoria. The “Jai Telangana” fervour which was all pervasive at the height of the statehood agitation is already waning. People are surely happy that a T state has finally happened but unsure of the future.