Among the five poll-bound states, Telangana stands apart simply because the usual election narratives of BJP versus Congress and Narendra Modi against the rest of the political parties are missing.
So are the usual issues of increasing fuel prices, rise of prices of essential commodities or farm distress that plague the rest of the country even though VAT on fuel is one of the highest in Telangana, as is the number of farmer suicides, but it is the issue of unemployment that might turn out to be an Achille’s heel for the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi.
The usual election narrative is missing since as a party BJP occupies very little space in Telangana politics, and without its partner TDP it has lost its position of prominence in the entire state, save in some pockets in Hyderabad city.
Instead of being Narendra Modi versus the rest, in the case of Telangana it is K Chandrasekhar Rao against all other parties, including the Congress, a shrinking Telugu Desam Party and CPI and a new entity, Telangana Jana Samithi which is so weak that even alliance partner Congress considers it to be a pushover enough to have friendly fights in the seats it had left to TJS.
Development or the lack of it, depending on which side you are on, seems to be sole poll issue in the youngest state of the country and has clearly drawn the battle lines.
Initially catching the Opposition napping, the TRS, burgeoned by their citizen-friendly schemes, most of which come with a monetary incentive, had thought it will get a walkover. The bumbling seat-sharing negotiations by alliance partners fortified its notions further but there have been quite a few cases where sitting MLAs of the TRS had to face some unpleasant questions. In other words, unpopular candidates might cost TRS in some seats such as Dharmapuri, said a former professor of law, who preferred to remain anonymous.
In rural areas, TRS may get the benefits of investing heavily in irrigation schemes. Since the Telangana statehood movement was fought on issues like rightful share of water and its natural resources, the commencement of irrigation projects are definitely bringing some votes. So does the successful implementation of Mission Kakatiya, according to civil society activist Padmanabha Reddy.
However, unemployment remains a problem area. As a course correction, TRS supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao is seen harping on the employment opportunities such as auto park or food processing unit in his visits to the constituencies, even while bashing TDP’s N Chandrababu Naidu for entering Telangana through back door, i.e. the Congress.
In some cases failure of the schemes like 2 BHK houses for the poor might be a sore point for voters. But as TRS minister Jagadish Reddy admitted to voters quite frankly, “We have not fulfilled all promises but do consider what we have been able to achieve in this four years.”
However, voters from Seemandhra settled in Telangana have been won over by KCR with improving urban infrastructure and moreover by accommodating MLAs who had won previously on TDP tickets. “Actually, everything has remained the same, contractors and politicians from Seemandhra have been accommodated,” said Padmanabha Reddy.