Rahul Gandhi is in Andhra Pradesh in a frantic bid to revive the congress decimated by its politics of bifurcation. The Modi government’s denial of special status to the beleaguered state has renewed the hopes in congress camp to attempt for a revival in 2019. As expected Rahul Gandhi yet again promised special status if Congress is voted to power. Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party have been consistent in their support to special status demand. In fact, the Congress has the moral and political authority to reiterate this promise. The Congress Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh has announced special status to the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. Thus, the bifurcation of the state itself is predicated upon the promise of special status. Though the BJP’s support was instrumental in dividing the state, the people of Andhra Pradesh have punished the congress for effectuating the division of the state against their wishes. In fact, barring the CPI(M) , every political party has voiced the demand for division. Yet, the Congress had to bear the brunt of the bifurcation.
Similarly, though every other party is demanding and promising special status except the BJP, the congress has an additional credibility in assuring such a status to the Andhra Pradesh. The central government alone can deliver such a status to any state. There is indication of a front of regional parties coming to power in the centre in 2019. Even if so, many regional parties like ADMK, BJD , TRS etc. have reservations in according special category status to Andhra Pradesh. Meanwhile, the BJP has already denied such a status and is not even promising it in 2019. Thus, the Congress is the only national party capable of coming to power and according special status to Andhra Pradesh. The Andhra Pradesh state Congress is , therefore focussing on this promise. The run up to 2019 elections is the perfect opportunity to en-cash on it. Rahul Gandhi is , thus, the perfect choice to promise it in a bid to revive the party in the state.
Besides the special status, the congress hopes for favourable political arithmetic by forging an understanding with TDP after the latters exit from NDA . The TDP is also showing signs of coming closer to its once arch rival as there cannot be permanent friends or foes in politics. The two parties are of course ideologically not averse to coming together. However, the TDP is still indecisive fearing possible negative fallout of allying with a party that divided the state against the wishes of the people of the region that now comprises the state of Andhra Pradesh. The early elections have come in handy for both the parties to perhaps experiment. Given the divided opinion within the party, the TDP leadership seems to inclined towards experimenting with its new and rather strange political alliance in Telangana before extending to Andhra Pradesh. If the Congress wins Rajasthan , Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh elections , it will be much easy for the TDP to convince the electorate on its possible alliance with Congress claiming that the grand old party may come to power in Delhi to enable the state to get special status. Any positive result in Telangana would further embolden TDP to join hands with Congress. However, the political chemistry between Congress and TDP remains a questionable aspect at least in Andhra Pradesh .
Amidst Naidu government’s half hearted implementation of loan waiver, congress also hopes to fuel its revival by promising such a relief to the farmers in a state having record levels of peasant indebtedness . The National Sample Survey data suggests that Andhra Pradesh leads the nation in the farmers indebtedness. Therefore, loan waiver is an emotive issue. The BJP is averse to implementing loan waiver at the national level while the Congress led UPA has done so in which the united Andhra Pradesh was the principal beneficiary. Thus, the Congress President promised loan waiver and targeted Modi stating that the Prime Minister is more interested in waiving the loans of the big corporates instead of helping farmers.
But, the ground situation is such that though people favour Rahul Gandhi as prime minister in 2019, there is no such mood to vote for congress revival. The Congress hopes that it will be the beneficiary of such a pro Rahul mood as the election data reveals that 77 percent of voters usually vote for the same party both at the centre and the state. But , the same logic can be the answer for the Congress hopes. The voters of Andhra Pradesh are in no mood to vote for Congress as they are still angry with the party over bifurcation. Thus, the voters are divided between TDP and the YSR Congress. However , they may prefer Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister as compared to Narendra Modi.
At best the party may improve its strength as compared to its lowest ever performance of 2014.
( Prof.K. Nageshwar is India’s noted political analyst. He is a former member of the Telangana Legislative Council and professor in the Department of Communication & Journalism, Osmania University, Hyderabad, India )