Telangana Faces a Test of Gratitude After Showing Fortitude

It is an acid test for voters in Telangana which goes to polls 10 days from now. They are well and truly confronted with a hamletian dilemma of having to choose between a party that fought for statehood (TRS) for 13 long years and a party that finally kept its promise, however belated (Congress).

Published: 19th April 2014 08:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th April 2014 10:32 AM   |  A+A-

It is an acid test for voters in Telangana which goes to polls 10 days from now. They are well and truly confronted with a hamletian dilemma of having to choose between a party that fought for statehood (TRS) for 13 long years and a party that finally kept its promise, however belated (Congress).

As you criss-cross the districts of Medak, Nizamabad and Karimnagar in the heart of Telangana catching up with voters in roadside towns and interior villages, you can’t miss the churning in their minds. Having secured a State of their own, that’s no longer an issue but the one on which they have to make up their mind is who is a better bet to put the State on the growth map.

There are voices which speak for both the Congress and the TRS — one section arguing that painstaking efforts made by Sonia Gandhi to get the bill passed cannot be ignored and the other equally vehement that if the Congress was pushed into such a situation, it was only because TRS had kept the issue alive for as long as 13 years. Diversion from the Hyderabad-Nagpur expressway takes you to Chegunta, a part of the Medak Lok Sabha constituency from where TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao is fighting the election. “What is important is who cooked the food? There will be any number of people to serve it,” reasons 60-year-old Balaiah, an SC farmer, relaxing on a roadside bench along with other villagers. The reference is obvious: TRS is the cook. Congress, BJP and others comprise the rest.

It is baffling how people, who never met each other, speak the same language — you hear exactly the same observation from Tirupati Reddy at Annaram village in Manakondur Assembly segment, some 150 km away. However, in the same village, a group of youngsters get into a verbal duel much like the fireworks on channels.

“For more than a decade, TRS fought for statehood. Should we not give them a chance to prove their worth? What is that we have gained in 20 years when TDP and Congress were in power for a decade each?” asks Ramesh, a medical representative. His friend, Raju, an unemployed undergrad, disagrees. Unhappy that the TRS has chosen to field an “outsider” in the constituency, Raju accuses the party of hankering for power.

It is likely the mood could consolidate in favour of one party as polls draw close but the picture you get now is one of car (TRS symbol) trying to rush past the post first with the hand applying brakes frequently.

The scenario keeps changing from one constituency to another with all the normal parameters - caste, money, cadre base and worth of the candidate - working even in this election.

At Uturu village, Laxma Reddy, a member of the Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC), complains about TRS fielding a turncoat Telugu Desam candidate for the local mandal election, ignoring a party man who went to jail during the statehood agitation. He intends to support the Congress.

In the heart of Telangana where the statehood movement was strong, it is mainly the Congress and the TRS that are in the race. In some segments, the BJP remains relevant (having supported the T bill), but the Telugu Desam and YSR Congress are almost non-existent in these parts. “The tyres of the bicycle (TDP symbol) have burst and the fan (YSR Congress symbol) is not running owing to low voltage,” voters tell you with a wry smile. The scenario, however, could be different in the urban segments of Hyderabad and its periphery where the TDP-BJP are very much in the battle.

You also get interesting insights from cultural troupes engaged by almost all candidates belonging to the Congress and TRS. Cultural groups, which perform song and dance sequences, gained prominence during the prolonged statehood agitation and candidates find them useful to keep the crowd engaged lest they get bored with speeches. But, if the songs then were penned on the need for a T state, they are now tuned to eulogise whoever the candidate is, while keeping the lyric still interesting enough.

Sapna, part of one such group, has learnt the art of figuring out the mood of the crowd. “If they respond to your song and dance, you could make out that the candidate is winning. Otherwise, it is more than likely he/she will lose,” she explains. Hired by former speaker and Congress leader KR Suresh Reddy, who is contesting in the Armur Assembly constituency, she predicted a sure victory for him.

She, however, relishes the work they did during the T movement when all such programmes were jointly organised by Congress, TRS and the BJP under a common umbrella and the lyrics were people-oriented. Like almost all voters across Telangana, the artistes too are divided between Congress and the TRS. Sixty-year-old Ramaiah of Korutla town sums up the situation — “Voters are confused and silent. It is like a chicken under a basket. You will not know until the eggs are hatched.”



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