If there is one definite lesson that voters are expected to teach political parties in the upcoming election, it is this: Don’t mess around in the selection of candidates.
Amidst division among voters on whom to give credit for the formation of the Telangana State — Congress or TRS — a latent factor that is coming out strongly is the “worthiness” of the candidates and the final outcome could largely depend on it. Disappointment over the performance of sitting legislators and unwillingness to accept “imported” candidates are quite perceptible across the region though it is still possible that some of them could scrape through thanks to the division of votes in a multi-cornered contest. And, “celebrity status” is not going to help.
A classic case in point is that of actress-turned-politician, Vijaya Shanti. Having been elected to the Lok Sabha from Medak on a TRS ticket in 2009, she is now a Congress nominee for the Medak Assembly seat. Going by the voters’ mood, she will be left with ashanti once the votes are counted.
“Congressmen can lure us with whatever they can — money, liquor or both — but there is the question of voting for Vijaya Shanti. What has she done for us? She has never bothered to visit our villages even once,” complains Balaiah of Chinna Shankarampet. They still remember the popular photograph of 2009 when she posed for cameras with a sheep on her shoulder. “After that, we saw neither the sheep nor the MP,” adds Durgaiah.
The refrain is the same whoever you speak to. In contrast, TRS candidate, Padma Devender Reddy, who lost in 2009, is seen as one who regularly visits the constituency, shares the voters’ pain and pleasure and makes sure to convey a message that she is one among them.
Travel a little further to the Yellareddy constituency, you find that people have nothing but the choicest of abuses for sitting TRS legislator, E Ravinder Reddy. They accuse him of being completely indifferent to their needs and worse, taking care of himself and the coterie that surrounds him. “For years, he has been promising that the height of the canal here would be raised by three feet to serve 4,000 acres more. While that has not happened, even cleaning of channels has not been done,” complains Sayulu, a farmer from Shetpalli Sangareddy village. A few kms away, in a hamlet, 55-year-old Pochaiah sarcastically asks: “Who is the TRS candidate? I don’t know him.” Seenu, a tribal youth, pursuing undergraduation in Medak interjects, “we would have supported the TRS if only it nominated someone else.”
The impact of the candidate is such that voters are unwilling to compromise and are prepared to go against what their heart tells them. At Boggugudisa junction near the Nizamsagar project, Srinivas Goud, who runs a small pan shop, wants to see TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao as the first chief minister of Telangana but is not prepared to vote for the party candidate in Yellareddy. “Should he not find out who is a good candidate?” he retorts when you question how KCR could become CM if his nominees are not elected. As an afterthought, he points out that in a new Telangana state, it is important to have MLAs who work for the people.
In Vemulawada in Karimnagar, people have a different complaint against sitting TRS MLA, Ch Ramesh. “He is never available in the constituency. We want to elect an MLA who is accessible,” says 30-year-old Janardhan at Sirikonda village. “If the legislator is in the district headquarter, I can go and meet him. If he stays in Hyderabad, I could still take the trouble to travel. But, what can we do if he is in Germany?” asks Chandraiah, who just returned from Saudi after working there for two years to make just that extra money.
How internal politics spoils the selection comes out here. Congress sitting MP from Karimnagar, Ponnam Prabhakar, was firm that the losing candidate in Vemulawada last time, Adi Srinivas, should not be given a ticket. Srinivas is known in almost every home in the constituency and ever since he lost in 2009, he made sure that his connect only gets stronger. The Congress has, instead, fielded a forgotten leader, forcing Srinivas to join the BJP and he is now the frontrunner.
Poor performance and lack of visibility is haunting even those who consider themselves “big/national leaders” such as Union Minister S Jaipal Reddy, contesting from Mahbubnagar Lok Sabha constituency. There is hardly any work that voters of Mahbubnagar could recollect as his contribution to his native district. If several other big Congress leaders, who have been ministers in the state, are finding it tough this time, it is again for the same reason.
Moral of the story: if you forget people after they elect you, they are sure to forget you as well.