'Saffron Flavoured Pink T' in Demand among Telangana Youth
In the centre of Jadcherla town in Mahbubnagar district, 32-year-old Bhaskar, a fruit vendor, has still not made up his mind on whom to vote. But, he and his family are most likely to go by the advice of his younger brother, an under-graduate at a local college. And, what is it that the first-time voter is telling the family? Vote for the BJP.
This is neither an isolated case nor does it reflect a Modi wave. But, what is unmistakable is that support for the saffron party is more than evident in the Lok Sabha constituencies being contested by it in Telangana, though it is still not clear how many of its candidates would get past the post. There are subtle variations, though. One, inclination towards the BJP is seen only in constituencies where it has put up its candidates and not in places where it is supporting its alliance partner — the Telugu Desam, which has become a sort of “pariah” in the heartland of Telangana; two, barring Hyderabad and its suburbs, the BJP could suffer a dent in its prospects in the region for seeking to ride on the bicycle — with the TDP being dubbed as a party that tried to stop the birth of the T state.
As you travel across the urban pockets of Telangana meeting small groups — “one vote for Modi” — is the new concept that is being aggressively canvassed by the educated and semi-literate youth. “We will vote for the TRS for the Assembly and BJP for the Lok Sabha,” is a refrain you hear in Karimnagar, Mahbubnagar or Nizamabad.
Depending on the constituency and candidate, the BJP either figures in a triangular fight with the Congress and the TRS as in Karimnagar and Nizamabad, or in a straight contest as in Secunderabad (with the Congress) or Mahbubnagar (with the TRS).
On the outskirts of Mahbubnagar town, Tirupataiah, a tribal who has just completed his undergraduation, vociferously argues in favour of the BJP. “What has TRS chief K Chandrasekhara Rao done for us being an MP (KCR shifted to Medak in this election)? We will go with the BJP this time.” Standing next to him is 45-year-old Veeraiah, a farmer, who is unwilling to ignore the TRS. “You can’t say TRS is weak but the mood seems to be in favour of the BJP. Many believe BJP will come to power at the Centre and, therefore, electing that party’s candidate as an MP will do some good to the constituency,” he reasons.
Some 50 km away, at Mannemkonda, otherwise known as Chinna Tirupati, and famous for the Lord Venkateswara temple, 35-year-old Gopalakrishna, who runs a roadside hotel, is clear about what he wants to do: he will vote for the TRS and the BJP, the former for Assembly and latter for LS.
The message being spread by youth is rubbing off on the middle-aged but not so much on voters who are past 40. Farmer Mal Reddy, sitting in the same hotel, says he will go with the TRS for both Assembly and the Lok Sabha when Ramachandraiah, a hardcore Telugu Desam man enters. “We will show our power,” he beams, swirling his moustache.
Understandable because Mahbubnagar was once a TDP stronghold but the party has declined here like elsewhere in Telangana. For the staunch supporters who still remain loyal, ensuring a BJP victory is a way of hitting back at the TRS which is seen as the one responsible for edging out the Telugu Desam from Telangana. Ramachandraiah is unfazed by Mal Reddy’s taunt: “Your bicycle has rusted. Take it and sell it as scrap.”
In Nizamabad, one finds flexis at almost all the bus stops, either eulogising Modi or highlighting the need to vote for him. The BJP is secondary. “How long will you tolerate unbridled corruption? It is time to have a Modi government,” screams one of them. At Dharmaram in the rural parts of Nizamabad, staunch Congress supporter, Radhakrishna, a small-time businessman, says he will vote for the party candidate for the Assembly but for LS, he favours the BJP.
Other than the urban and middle-class dominated constituency like Secunderabad, the BJP’s ascendancy is primarily found in constituencies which have a sizeable Muslim population, be it Nizamabad, Mahbubnagar or Karimnagar. If Wajid in Jadcherla tells you that they will, as usual, go with the Congress, Sudhir in Nizamabad town, a fresh graduate, wants to go with the BJP. Why? “Otherwise, they (read Muslims) will start dominating.”
Just after Narendra Modi finished his meeting at a college ground in Mahbubnagar town, Sharat, a student of the same institution, says the BJP was clearly ahead before it forged an alliance with the TDP but even then, it could have the edge. Irrespective of the number of seats lotus-bicycle win, one aspect is clear: Congress and TRS, both gunning for power in the new Telangana State, cannot afford to ignore the combine.