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
As the dust and din of electoral politics settles down, both the political parties and pundits alike are busy decoding the factors behind the historic landslide YSR Congress received in this polls. Though most of the exit polls predicted a clear win for YS Jaganmohan Reddy, none could anticipate such a massive outcome for the opposition. Unable to digest the results, N Chandrababu Naidu reportedly told close confidants why such a ignominious defeat? Did we really cause so much pain for the people?
According to media reports, Chandrababu Naidu’s immediate reaction was that Jana Sena caused the party to loose in many constituencies. Naidu expected Pawan Kalyan to cut into the opposition vote to benefit the ruling party. But, the results indicate that Jana Sean damaged the TDP more. The votes polled by Jana Sena are more than the winning margin of YSR Congress in at least 31 Assembly seats and eight Loksabha seats. However, given the huge margin, it is wrong to conclude that TDP lost only due to Jana Senas presence. Naidu reportedly felt that the anti incumbency suffered by MLAs and the local party leaders did negatively impact the party’s chances.
Meanwhile, DR Jaya Prakash Narayana said that the generally prevalent feeling that Naidu ‘s dispensation is heavily biased towards his own caste has certainly inflicted serious damage. Besides, the corruption at the grassroots level also contributed to the TDP’s erosion. The politicisation of administration in the form of Janmabhoomi committees has certainly inflicted heavy damage on the TDP. Though Naidu scrapped them latter, the damage has already caused.
The TDP was primarily banking on the last minute welfare measures initiated by Naidu government. The party was hoping for magic to overcome the anti incumbency. But, this did not happen. There can be many reasons for this. The beneficiaries of these welfare schemes are more or less party oriented and refused to change their political opinions despite the welfare schemes. Chandrababu Naidu who is known for his tough economic reforms had to embrace populism keeping in view the electoral compulsions. People have not believed in Naidu that he would implement them even after elections.
On the contrary, thanks to legacy of YS Rajasekhara Reddy, YS Jaganmohan Reddy enjoyed greater amount of credibility in this regard. Reacting to the massive mandate he received, YS Jaganmohan Reddy described his victory as a mandate for credibility in public life.
Naidu’s unrelenting campaign on Modi, KCR and Jagan seem to have yielded TDP diminishing returns. The TDP uncharacteristic embrace of Congress did not go well with the people of Andhra Pradesh. Naidu went alone after the Telangana mandate. Yet he campaigned for Congress led government at the centre. The people of Andhra Pradesh gravely aggrieved and injured by the arbitrary bifurcation were not ready to pardon Congress and consequently Naidu’s love for the grand old party.
There has been a significant shift in the voter’s mood towards Modi after the Pulwama and Balakot. Naidu failed to realise the change in the mood of the people and continued with his Modi bashing. This also did not favour the people.
Instead of focusing on development and special status , Chandrababu Naidu has unnecessarily reduced the electoral discourse into a sort of personality conflict between Chandrababu Naidu and Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Adopting KCR model of electioneering has also failed him as people of Andhra region were not as sentimental as Telanganaites. KCR ran his election campaign primarily targeting congress -TDP coming together. Naidu also tried the same trick by attacking Jagan-KCR friendship. But, it failed to evoke similar negative emotions.
The anti incumbency suffered by party MLAs had disastrous implications. Thus, a host of factors defined the unprecedented mandate for YS Jaganmohan Reddy.
( 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 )
With poll predictions indicating a possibility of fractured verdict, speculation is rife among political circles on the post poll political formation that can form the new government. All these speculations and manoeuvres rely on the hope and expectation that the BJP led NDA will not get the absolute majority . The question of BJP getting majority on its own is being ruled out by the opposition which has intensified the efforts to stitch together a rainbow coalition of non BJP parties.
This hypothesis of Modi certainly loosing cannot be validated without ifs and buts. The BJP still remain a strong force despite recent electoral reverses. The party on its own has over 40 percent vote in states like Uttar Pradesh evident from the results of by polls where it lost to the combined opposition. The pan Hindu narrative of the saffron brigade is seriously challenged by the caste calculus unveiled by the SP-BSP-RLD coalition. Still, a small miss can prove costlier to the opposition. While the BJP is relying on its formidable vote, the opposition is hoping on the vote transfer among its allies. Thus, it is wrong to write political obituary to BJP in India’s largest state. However, the present indication is that the BJP is expected to suffer the major jolt in this state where it has won 73 out of the 80 seats along with its ally.
The problem for the BJP is that it reaped a saturated mandate in 2014 in the Hindi states. A repetition of this mandate is just not possible, forget about improving it. In the meantime, the formidable social political alliance between the SP, BSP , RLD in Uttar Pradesh, and the resurgent Congress in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh are scaring the saffron party.
The Karnataka has been the only state in South India that give some hope to BJP. In fact, the BJP won 17 out of 28 seats in 2014 .The party emerged almost victorious in the Assembly elections held subsequently. Thanks to the swift political moves of Congress leadership, the Louts failed to bloom in South of Vindhyas. The Congress-Janata Dal(Secular) alliance is certainly a strong political arithmetic that worries the BJP. This was evident from the rout of BJP in Bellary by elections .
The BJP led NDA and the RJD led coalition are evenly placed in Bihar. The RJD scored surprise wins in the recent by elections. The opportunistic somersault of Nitish Kumar incurred the wrath of electorate. The BJP together with JD(U) , LJP is facing a tough contest from a broad based social coalition engineered by Lalu Prasad Yadav.
The BJP is expected to make some gains in the eastern part of the country especially, Odisha , West Bengal and the North East . Similarly, the party is excepting comeback in Delhi, thanks to the three cornered contest. But, the Delhi’s repeat does not add to it tally as the BJP swept here even in 2014. The BJP is also hoping on Kerala as it is believed to have gained from Sabarimala agitation. But all these little to moderate gains will not compensate for the steep losses it is expected to suffer in its strong holds.
But, elections are not always arithmetic. Chemistry dominates the electoral arena. Modi plans to improve his chances by rousing emotive issues in the campaign ranging from Pulwama to Sri Ram Mandir. The opposition failed to strongly put forth a counter narrative around people’s livelihood issues and at times played into the trap laid by the BJP parivar. The opposition also failed to arrive at board coalitions that would avoid a split in anti BJP vote. The pusillanimous character of regional allies certainly worry the Congress. The advantage of being in power comes in handy for the BJP. The NDA cannot be replaced by an alternate government unless the BJP led coalition is pushed below the 200 mark.
( 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 )
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao met his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan , in a move widely believed to be an attempt to rope in the left in his proposed federal front. KCR has already discussed the issue with TMC, JD(S), DMK ,SP, JMM leaders and his son, KT Rama Rao reached out to YS Jaganmohan Reddy. This is for the first time KCR is talking to the left leaders on the federal front question. KCR’s left reach out program assume significance in the time when Rahul Gandhi is pitted against the Left in a seat from Kerala. Pinarayi Vijayan and Kerala CPI(M) unit is vehemently opposed to any truck with congress which their West Bengal comrades are proposing. KCR is particular about a non BJP front that keeps Congress out as the latter is his principal political rival in the state.
The CPI(M) in its political line adopted at its party Congress said that there will not be any electoral alliance with the Congress though its objective is to defeat the BJP. Thus there is a convergence between KCR and comrades in keeping Congress at bay while evolving an alternative to BJP.
However, this thesis has inherent limitations. KCR would prefer to join BJP led NDA rather than congress led UPA if the choice boils down to either of the two national alliances. Such an idea is completely unpalatable for the left which is ready to go to any extent to dislodge the BJP. The CPI(M) has proposed to congress to avoid mutual contest in West Bengal. However, the idea did not materialise due to congress intransigence. The CPI is already part of congress led alliance in Telangana.
The TRS and the left can safely sail together if federal front is truly non-congress non-BJP. But, such a possibility seems to be a distant reality. Any post poll alliance cannot survive unless it is supported by either BJP or the Congress. KCR will not be averse for a BJP supported federal front, while the left may not oppose congress backing any such federal front.
The left supported AAP in Delhi, DMK in Tamil Nadu and many other parties with an objective to defeat BJP at least in the constituencies which it has not fielded candidates. On the other hand, KCR did not campaign for any non-congress, non-BJP party even when his Andhra Pradesh counterpart, N Chandrababu Naidu campaigned for DMK, JD(S),TMC, AAP. In fact, Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal, Farooq Abdullah have campaigned for TDP. The TRS has not sought the support of any non-congress, non-BJP leaders. The non BJP parties still have the suspicion that KCR may join NDA if situation warrants so. The left too has such an opinion evident from the fact that they opposed KCR in both Assembly and Parliament elections.
Given these contradictions, the federal front is still in the realm of imagination. Unlike in the past, the left shows no serious interest to put together any such third front devoid of common understanding and united strengths. The CPI(M) in its resolutions clearly felt that they do not have confidence in the commitment of regional parties to defeat either BJP or congress.
Thus, the federal front is still in making. The post poll arithmetic alone can define and determine the nature, scope, extent, the character and the colour of federal front.
( 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 )
The ruling TRS is on a hectic plan to lure as many as Congress MLAs to its fold so that the grand old party loses its existence in the state legislature. In 2018 Assembly elections, the Congress won 19 seats. Among whom 12 have already shifted their loyalties to the ruling party. In its first innings too, the TRS executed Operation Aakarsh and poached several of the opposition MLAs. The chief Minister KCR had a justification for this politics of encouraging defections. According to KCR, the opposition was hatching out a conspiracy to destabilise his government in a bid to prove that Telangana experiment was a failure. The TRS won 63 out of 119 seats. The smaller margin for TRS gave credence to KCR claims. Congress has a history of undertaking such operations to weaken its political rivals. But, in the elections held after premature dissolution of the state assembly, the TRS won 88 seats and two independents joining the party took the tally to 90. Still, the TRS continues with its policy of encouraging defections from opposition parties. The two TDP MLAs are in TRS fold. The TDP lost its hopes in Telangana as the party is seen as Andhra origin party. With the TDP leaders losing the confidence of revival in Telangana, they have a reason to defect. But, the Congress MLAs who won the mandate primarily opposing the TRS regime are joining the party claiming that they want to strengthen the hands of KCR who is developing the state. The fact remains is that the ruling TRS is luring opposition MLAs in a bid to stifle the dissent.
Chief minister KCR has a special plan designed at Congress. The TRS has already lured 12 Congress MLAs. It hopes to get the support of one more MLA so that the two-thirds of Congress legislature party would merge with TRS to avert the action under the anti-defection law. The TRS played the same trick in the Legislative Council with both the Congress and the TDP legislature parties merging with TRS. Judiciary has to pronounce its verdict on the legality of such a merger exploiting the provisions of the anti-defection law. But, the political intent in these machinations is very clear. The TRS has already succeeded in stripping the Congress its status of the main opposition party. The Congress needs at least 10 per cent of the strength of the legislature in this case 12 to retain the opposition party status. The party has already lost it. Now, the TRS intends to unveil the MIM as the opposition party with the highest number of MLAs. The MIM has seven members in the house. If the Congress loses its 13th legislator, the party would only have six MLAs lagging behind MIM. Thus, a friendly party assumes the role of the main opposition party.
With this, the Congress would not just lose the main opposition party status, it would also demoralise the party and incapacitate it from launching any agitations in the next four to five years. The TDP is decimated from the state. The YSR Congress which won an MP and three MLA seats in 2014 has withdrawn from Telangana politics and is most unlikely to return given its interests in Andhra Pradesh. Even if it comes back it would be playing a role of further weakening the Congress vote base. The YSR Congress and TRS enjoy comradely relationship. KCR may even bring in YSR Congress to further weaken the Congress. The social base of YSR Congress and the Congress remain the same and any presence of Jagan’s party would only harm the interests of Congress.
The BJP’s tally has come down from five in the last assembly to only one. The CPI and the CPI(M) fail to get any representation in the state legislature. The BJP’s national leadership do not yet consider KCR as a foe given the coalition compulsions at the centre making the saffron party fight for proper political space in the state.
Meanwhile, the Congress moved High Court on the plans contemplated by the TRS. But, the Telangana High Court refused to take up urgent hearing on the Congress petition.
Amidst swelling ground reports that the YSR Congress may wrest power from TDP this time, the TDP leadership especially Chief Minister and party supremo Chandrababu Naidu is pretty confident on retaining power. Not just the ground reports coming to the media, several opinion polls held before the elections also pointed out towards a clear win for YS Jaganmohan Reddy though few of them predicted TDP win too. However, the publication of exit polls is delayed due to multiphase polling and would only be known on May 19, the last phase of polling. In fact, the visibly disturbed Chandrababu Naidu and his body language gave credence to the reports of TDP losing the polls
Many thought that Chandrababu Naidu’s claim that he would win as only public posturing. His unrelenting tirade over EVMs is also seen as an alibi to defend his failure to win the polls. The conspicuous silence of Lokesh further strengthens the feeling that TDP is nervous.
Notwithstanding all this, if one speaks to TDP insiders, they tell that their leader is really confident of winning the polls. The TDP sources argue that only vocal sections are talking about Jaganmohan Reddy winning the elections and based on this feedback, the YSR Congress chief looks very confident this time. The TDP leaders even draw the parallel to the Assembly elections in Telangana. The vocal sections making a lot of noises on the KCR government gave an impression of Congress led Praja Kutami coming to power. But, the TRS won the poll landslide.
YSR Congress Confidence
The YSR Congress has its own calculations. They feel that the urge for change is quite visible among the electorate and the enthusiastic response from voters is interpreted as people’s urge to defeat the incumbent government. Give Jagan a chance feeling has attracted the voters, the YSR Congress party strongly claims. The TDP led combine won the 2014 polls with less than two per cent margin. The BJP and Pawan Kalyan deserted the TDP. Several sections of the electorate especially the Kapus got disgruntled with TDP due to non-fulfilment of promises like quotas. The sitting MLAs of the ruling party face strong anti-incumbency. The Janma Bhoomi committees spelt a political disaster for Chandrababu Naidu. The North coastal Andhra and the Rayalaseema people are alienated due to a capital centred model of development, while the people in the capital region are angry over the government for not doing anything on the ground despite lofty claims of world-class capital city. All these reasons are cited by those who believe that change of guard in Andhra Pradesh is imminent this time.
But, why is Chandrababu Naidu still confident of winning the elections. Firstly, as Naidu himself claimed the welfare schemes like Pasupu Kunkuma created an enormous positive vote for the ruling party. The silent revolution will bring back the TDP to power, claimed Naidu immediately after the elections. The TDP interprets the increase in voting as pro incumbency vote. The participation of women in large numbers and their long waits at the polling booths due to malfunctioning of EVMs indicate their resolve to bring back Chandrababu Naidu who gave such generous cash support to them. The TDP completely hopes on the women vote to win the polls this time.
Secondly, the TDP also feels that other welfare schemes like old age pensions have also helped them. The government has substantially increased the pension amounts. The old people showed a visible endorsement of Chandrababu Naidu government, the TDP sources explain.
Thirdly, the middle classes are swayed away by the long and spirited battle the TDP and the Chief Minister, in particular, fought for special status to Andhra Pradesh.
Fourth, the poorer sections especially dalits constitute a major chunk of YS Jagan’s support base. The TDP hopes to cut into this vote base of YSR Congress due to the positive impact of Chandrababu Naidu’s welfare schemes. Unlike the first term as the chief minister, Naidu has gone on a full swing to implement several populist schemes.
Fifth, Muslims and other minorities constitute a loyal vote base of YS Jagan. The TDP believes that there has been a substantial shift in this vote especially Muslim vote due to YSR Congress failure to fight the BJP and Chandrababu Naidu waging a spirited battle on Modi.
Finally, the TDP also feels that the Jana Sena failed to create much electoral impact despite initial fears. Any rise in Jana Sena voting would have meant significant damage for TDP as Pawan Kalyan’s supporters voted for TDP in 2014.
As the rival camps strongly believe that people have voted for them, only the EVM count would reveal the mind of the voters.
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Sharad Pawar said Chandrababu Naidu would make a better Prime Minister than Congress chief Rahul Gandhi. It is a clever ploy to rally the support of other regional parties for his own candidature. It also indicates Pawar’s known aversion towards congress first family despite being part of the UPA.
Sharad Pawar who has friends in both UPA and NDA seems to have plotted operation to leave no stone unturned for fulfilling his long standing ambition. The alliance between Congress and NCP was always fragile. Sharad Pawar maintained cordial relations with BJP and Shiva Sena in Maharashtra in every election, speculation will do rounds on possibility of Pawar shifting stands. But, due to the ideological bonhomie between BJP and Shiva Sena, Pawar had to wait and was compelled to embrace Congress. This seasoned politician has friends across the regional parties too.
At a time when the Congress faces Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee in the respective states the statements of one of the towering leaders of UPA would certainly embarrass the grand old party . It is unbecoming of a leader of Sharad Pawar’s stature to talk about post poll combinations amidst the multi phase voting. This would only give further ammunition to BJP leadership who is already waging a fierce criticism that the so called anti Modi Mahagatbandhan is weak and divided.
However, Pawar rating Chandrababu Naidu as better prime ministerial nominee than Mamata Banerjee or Mayawati has certainly logic in it. Naidu is now more acceptable to Rahul Gandhi than Mamata Banerjee, who refuses to concede to Congress chief. Mamata Banerjee has been responsive to Sonia Gandhi and yet to accept Rahul Gandhi as a leader of anti BJP national combine. But, Chandrababu Naidu, ever since he left the NDA has been working hard to rally other regional parties behind Rahul Gandhi led Congress leadership. The Congress considers it has more stakes in Uttar Pradesh or West Bengal than Andhra Pradesh. The Congress possible support for Mayawati or Mamata would jeopardise its attempts from political revival in UP and West Bengal.
Both the Congress and the SP may not prefer Mayawati as her elevation would consolidate the BSP across several states. The BSP is already demonstrating the potential to be the spoiler in several states. The BSP gave congress several sleepless nights in the recently assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Mamata is unpalatable to the left. But, the dwindling strength of the Left may not cause her much damage. Besides, she would have much more MPs than Chandrababu Naidu. The TMC won 34 seats in 2014 and is expected to retain this tally if not increase it.
But, Naidu enjoys friendly relations with Badal and Nitish Kumar as he was part of both first and second NDA. The south Indian regional parties like DMK and JD(S) may prefer him to north or west Indian leaders. But, Mamata or Mayawati would be more acceptable to KCR or YS Jagan who would do everything and anything to thwart the chances of Chandrababu Naidu.
Naidu is also the darling of big business whose lobbying role cannot be ignored. Mamata is seen as eccentric and her anti Industry stand during the left rule is a testimony to this. On the contrast, even the World bank praised Naidu for taking even political risks to carryout economic reforms.
But, everything depends on post poll arithmetic , the resultant permutations and combinations and tactical moves. In a fractured verdict and fragmented polity, no possibility can be ruled out. Meanwhile, any marginalisation of TDP in the state would deliver body blow to Chandrababu Naidu’s national political ambitions.
Amidst reports of large scale irregularities in Intermediate results, 19 students reportedly committed suicide. KCR government is caught in a political storm over the results scam as there are reports of management of Globarena, a private company that was given the contract for processing the results, is linked to high-level ruling politicians. The abnormally significant number of irregularities reported is causing heartburn among lakhs of students and parents. About a million students appeared for intermediate examination. Chief Minister held a high-level review yesterday and the government announced relief measure like free recounting and re-verification for all the failed students. Still, these measures failed to pacify the students. The ruling politicians busy in political management have allegedly lost control over the administration, the critics observe.
The opposition delegation called on governor seeking his personal intervention. The education minister is still in denial mode claiming that the concerns of students are only apprehensions and opposition is politicizing it.
Notwithstanding the claims of officials or their political bosses, the fact remains is that there is an abnormally high number of irregularities in the intermediate results. The secretary of the Board of Intermediate Education tried to dismiss the whole thing by stating that such lapses are common when a million students sit for the examination. This official response is not only irresponsible but misses the human element. For the Intermediate Board, they may be lifeless numbers. But, for every student and his or her family, it is lifetime agony if they fail due to the inefficiency of the system that too after putting such an ardours preparation. In both the Telugu states, intermediate is almost a life and death activity. Not just the children, the parents too sacrifice their time and money in these two years of education.
The prima facie investigation reveals that the goof up lies in the compilation and tabulation of marks data more than faulty evaluation. Only a thorough investigation would reveal whether it is a scam or professional failure. The officials acknowledge that there exists technical snag and it is attributed to a private firm, Globarena. This private firm was asked to do the processing of results. How is it acceptable to hand over such confidential work to a private firm? Why did the board which presides over the future of a million students each fail to equip itself technically to handle this work? The political links between the said private firm and the TRS first family are now hotly debated. Neither the government nor the ruling party has countered this giving credence to the allegations. Reports also indicate that the teachers and even the employees within the Board have expressed reservations over the technical competence of the private firm in dealing with such sensitive examination work that can make and unmake the future of lakhs of students.
Meanwhile, the admancy displayed by the officials of the board and the non-transparent manner in which they responded to the complaints of students is highly reprehensible. Instead of voluntarily responding to the students and parents, the officials used police force to let loose a reign of repression on the concerned students, parents, and well-meaning citizens who responded to the issue.
The government cannot absolve itself by hurling counter allegations that the opposition is making politics out of the Intermediate fiasco. The ruling politicians should realize that in a democracy, politics will always be there when the issues concerning the people are at stake. It is the primary responsibility of the opposition to mobilize the people disenchanted with the failures of the government.
The politicians have been busy in elections for over a year starting with the premature dissolution of state Assembly this obviously impairs the public administration.
Reports also indicate that internal bickering among higher officials of the Intermediate Board seems to have contributed to the prevailing mess.
Software glitches have come to the fore at the time of payment of fees. But, the officials failed to initiate action that would have averted the present chaos.
Several questions still remain unanswered on the contract given to the Globarena. There are allegations that there is no formal technical, financial or administrative agreement between the Intermediate board and Globarena. The processing of results was taken up by the private firm based on a mere purchase order. This raises several legal and administrative questions.
Some officials have even questioned the technical competence of the private firm even before the issuance of the purchase order. Even the education minister too acknowledged that internal dissensions within the Intermediate Board are also responsible for the mess.
Meanwhile, the state government has allowed for free re-verification and recounting of papers of those who failed in the examination. About 9.74 lakh students appeared for the intermediate examination and about 3.28 lakh failed.
Ever since the elections, The TDP supremo is on the warpath. He has launched a sort of a battle on the Election Commission of India(ECI). Even as his critics call it desperation due to the fear of imminent defeat, Chandrababu Naidu seems to be on no path of return.
His anger over the manner in which the ECI has been conducting itself is certainly justifiable given the storm of suspicion, criticism surrounding the functioning of an otherwise Constitutionally autonomous body.
The ECI was clearly found wanting on ensuring the polls uninterruptedly. Despite several phases of voting, the ECI failed to ensure that the EVMs do not report malfunctioning on the poll day. One can understand the problems in few EVMs given the character of the complex technology involved. But, the large number of EVMs developing technical snags in Andhra Pradesh is a point to ponder. This forced the authorities to allow voting later into the midnight, something un-precedent and unheard of. Despite two decades of experience, why technically fool proof EVMs could not be ensured? Why should the EVMs still develop such teething troubles?
Adding further confusion, there is a significant difference in the number of EVMs that developed malfunctioning reported by the ECI and claimed by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister. The reports emanating from the ground do not inspire confidence in the claims of ECI though the TDP claims may be over exaggerated.
The ECI has been failing in its duty to ensure free and fair elections as it could not even provide sanitised electoral rolls. In the age of information technology, preparation of electoral rolls without mistakes, duplication, etc is not a herculean task. A country that can develop an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and an anti-satellite weapon, failure of the ECI to prepare electoral rolls without any mistakes in incomprehensible. The Chief Electoral officer’s (CEO) admitted that they have asked for more central forces but have not received them and the reasons he said he was not aware. Why did the ECI fail to send an adequate number of central forces as the elections are held in the first phase itself and the state is witnessing simultaneous polls for Loksabha and Assembly?
The CEO of Telangana tried to absolve himself from faulty electoral rolls by stating simply sorry that too after the elections. Such a blatant denial of people’s right to vote is certainly unpardonable. Given the thin margins of victory, large scale missing of voters has the potential to tilt the mandate.
The adamancy being displayed by the ECI on the request of over 20 political parties to order a count of 50 per cent of VVPAT machines has further eroded the credibility and partiality of ECI. It may be recalled here that ECI has not suo motto initiated the Confidence Building measures like attaching VVPAT machines. The Supreme Court made it do so. It is surprising that ECI took a hard stand on the question of counting the VVPAT machines. It stood firm on its stand to count only one polling booth in an assembly constituency by random method. The apex court has ordered the ECI to count five such machines in a constituency. The reasons cited by the ECI for its refusal to count more VVPAT machines are flimsy. The ECI said that the counting process will take another week. What’s wrong when the people of Andhra Pradesh are already waiting for over six weeks for their votes to be counted due to multiphase voting. They can still wait for a week more. The Counting of VVPAT machines will only need limited resources. Such a count would clear the doubts over the efficacy of EVMs and more so it would clarify on the possibility of tampering of EVM. Nothing else can be more important than ensuring the people’s confidence in the democratic electoral process.
Meanwhile, some acts of EC have raised questions over the political impartiality of the institution itself. The ECI delayed the announcement of poll schedule in three Hindi states to enable Modi to complete his rally in Rajasthan. Similarly, the Gujarat poll schedule was also delayed to give sufficient time for the ruling BJP. The ECI failed to act even when Modi and Amit Shah violated the commission’s guidelines not to invoke the army in the campaigning. Despite the ECI orders, Modi continues to seek votes in the name of Pulwama martyrs and Balakot heroes. Thus ECI remains a spectator. The Commission acted only after the apex court pulled it up. But, the action was limited to Yogi Adityanath, NaMO TV and Modi biopic.
All these questions over the ECI are perfectly justified. Naidu has a grievance over the transfer of even the Chief Secretary and the Intelligence chief. This can also be understandable. But, Naidu’s crusade did not end here. He went on to attack the ECI officials. He expressed doubts over the EVMs to the extent of claiming that his vote was wrongly registered. How is it possible that he could notice wrong registration of his vote. No voter has complained so. Naidu has not raised any objection on EVMs in 2014 when he won the polls. Despite being an active partner in both NDA-1 and NDA-2 governments, Naidu did precious little to return to the ballot. In fact, Vajpayee government was surviving on the support of Naidu. Naidu has been questioning the powers of ECI. A simple reading of the Constitution will tell that ECI is certainly powerful during the elections.
Such unrelenting crusade that crossed even established standards will only defeat the very purpose of the struggle to protect the autonomy of the constitutional body and ensure the impartiality and transparency of EVMs.
Elections are over in Andhra Pradesh. But, the political fight continues. Chandrababu Naidu shifted the scene of war to New Delhi. Soon he will make it a national fight in the remaining phases of elections. Naidu is expected to tour other states in support of his regional allies especially those who campaigned for him.
While Chandrababu Naidu launched an all out battle on Election Commission of India, the opposition leader YS Jaganmohan Reddy is conspicuously silent on the functioning of Electronic Voting Machines. The YSR Congress MP, Vijaya Sai Reddy has gone to the extent of writing a letter of appreciation for the work done by the ECI. Thus, the Andhra political battle is fought around the functioning of EC . Thus, the politics, more than the facts dominate the discourse on EC.
The autonomy of ECI was never in question as it is today. There are justifiable reasons for this. The election schedule announcement for the three Hindi states was delayed by couple of hours to ensure that Prime minister Narendra Modi completes his rally in Rajasthan and the BJP chief Minister rolls out her promises thus escaping the scrutiny under the model code of conduct. Earlier, the Gujarat election schedule announcement was unacceptably delayed to give sufficient time for the ruling BJP to continue with it s poll populism. The EC remains unconcerned even when its own guidelines on model code are brazenly violated. The ECI cautioned all the parties not to invoke the army in electioneering. But, Narendra Modi sought votes in the name of Pulwama martyrs and Balakot soldiers. The photographs of armed forces are used. The Uttar Pradesh Chief minister Yogi Adityanath described Indian army as Modi army. The ECI acted on Modi biopic and Namo TV only after a furore over it.
The failure of ECI to sanitise the electoral rolls is palpable. Complainants of large scale deletions and non inclusions are a shame on our democracy. In the age of technology, how is that ECI fails to compile a reasonably accurate voter list.
The Election Commission offered simple regrets on its failure to ensure that no genuine voter is deprived of his or her voting rights that too after the Telangana Assembly elections.
The controversial transfer of state government officers in Andhra Pradesh added fuel to the fire.
But, the worst has come on the polling day with significantly large number of EVMs developing technical snags forcing the authorities to delay the poll for hours together. It is unprecedented that voters had to cast their vote late into the midnight. It still remains a mystery why such a large number of EVM reported malfunctioning only in Andhra Pradesh.
The blatant refusal of the ECI even in the Supreme Court to count more number of VVPATs raise further doubts in the minds of voters and parties alike. It may be recalled that apex court had to force ECI to introduce VVPAT machines and finally had to order the commission to count five machines in each assembly constituency.
The election eve IT raids on opposition leaders across the nation and the ECI remaining a passive spectator made the criticism on it more strident.
Despite all this, YS Jaganmohan Reddy’s silence on the failures of ECI to conduct free and fair elections is incomprehensible. However, Chandrababu Naidu’s demand for doing away with EVMs has to be received with at least some contempt. Chandrababu Naidu expressed similar apprehensions on EVMs after the 2009 verdict. But he has not done so after his victory in 2014. Even while in NDA Naidu did precious little to bring about a political consensus on the return to ballot. Not just Naidu, every other politician questions the EVMs only when they are on loosing wicket or lost the match. They will be conspicuously silent if they receive the mandate. The BJP in 2009 did so. KCR was critical of EVMs in 2009. But now is more than happy with the EVMs. More surprisingly, the Congress questioned EVM use in Telangana but not in the three North Indian states where it won.
Such political duplicity robs the shine from the crusade on EVMs. Yet, genuine questions on the technology still remain. The ECI has to answer. No technology can be completely tamper proof. Therefore, it is more than imperative to restore the voters confidence in the EVMs. This demands introduction of checks and verifiability .
Counting a significant number of VVPATs will go a long way in restoring this confidence in the EVMs. Ensuring that these machines are free from malfunctioning is yet another necessity. Politicians should realise that it is undesirable to throw the baby with the bathwater.
Is Congress really serious of dislodging Narendra Modi? The question may sound baffling as the Congress despite its erosion still remains the principal political force that can challenge saffron juggernaut. But, series of developments in the recent past culminating in party President choosing Kerala for his second parliamentary constituency have given credence to this suspicion on the seriousness of the grand old party in dislodging the BJP at least in 2019.
First, let’s analyse the implications of Rahul Gandhi deciding to contest from Wayanad in Kerala besides Amethi. The congress defence is to assuage feelings of South Indian hurt in the Modi dispensation. Even if one agrees with this logic, then why not Karnataka, a much safer state at a time when the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) form a formidable anti-BJP alliance. In fact, the Karnataka state congress extended an invitation to Rahul Gandhi to stand for Loksabha from this state. In case if Congress has agreed to this request, he would have been in a straight contest with BJP in both the constituencies. Instead, Rahul Gandhi chose Wayanad where the Left is his principal rival, not the BJP. Rahul Gandhi sent a confusing political message by fighting his ally, the Communist Party of India (CPI) in Wayanad. The CPI is part of the Congress-led alliance in the recent Assembly elections in Telangana. The CPI has already indicated its resolve to join the Congress-led anti-BJP post-poll alliance through its senior left partner CPI (M) is divided on having any relationship with Congress.
Besides, at a time when Rahul Gandhi is supposed to lead a secular opposition fight against Narendra Modi, the Congress chooses a constituency dominated by minority voters giving the saffron brigade unprecedented ammunition to attack it.
Rahul Gandhi chose to fight from two constituencies at a time when there is an increasing perception and even ground reports that the Congress President has to face anxious moments in the hands of BJP’s Smriti Irani. This too robs Congress of its claims that the party revived its political fortunes in the Hindi heart land subsequent to the party victory in three state elections Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Not in just Kerala, the Congress did not favourably respond to the Left offer of a truce in West Bengal too. The CPI(M) offered no mutual contest formula at least in the four seats won by the Congress and the two seats won by the CPI(M) in 2014. The Congress stood second in another six seats. Any patch up with the left would have helped congress to win at least eight to ten seats in this crucial state of West Bengal. But, the Congress arrogantly refused to have any understanding with the Left jeopardising not just its chances but the chances of even the Left whose MPs would have contributed to the strongest opposition to the BJP’s attempts to retain power at the centre.
In a similar show of political foolhardiness, the Congress rejected the offer of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. The AAP offered to contest the Delhi seat together with the Congress. This would have meant a clean sweep of all the seven Delhi seats by the opposition. The Congress got decimated from Delhi in the last Assembly and Lok Sabha elections with AAP emerging stronger. The AAP successfully decimated BJP in the last Assembly polls negating the gains the saffron party attained in 2014 Lok Sabha polls in the wake of Modi wave sweeping North India. There are no signs of Congress revival in the national capital. Still, the Congress chose to fight with BJP and the AAP giving Modi a clear advantage.
In India’s largest state of Uttar Pradesh, the Congress is not part of the Mahagatbandhan comprising of SP, BSP and the RLD. The by-elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur revealed that the SP-BSP combine can defeat the BJP even without the Congress. But, the Congress joining the opposition grand alliance would have further reassured the anti-BJP forces. Unless there is a clandestine deal to have a strategic contest, the Congress has certainly caused irreparable damage to the anti-BJP struggle in a state that sends as many as 80 seats to the Loksabha.
Thus picking up a quarrel with the Left, AAP, SP and the BSP, the Congress lost the perception battle much before the voter pressed the EVM button. On the contrary, the Modi-Shah led BJP has dextrously handled the complex alliance making exercise in both Bihar and Maharashtra. The manner in which the BJP reached out to its ever critical ally, Shiv Sena in Maharashtra indicate the sincerity with which the BJP attempted political alignments. In Bihar too, the BJP sacrificed its sitting seat to accommodate its key ally, the Janata Dal(United ), while the Congress still remains comfortable in its world of false calculation that has no relationship with the political reality on the ground.
Thus, the Congress politics of self imposed isolationism has not only disrupted the pre-poll arithmetic crucial for forming strong anti BJP coalitions in different states but even compromised the party’s capability to rope in maximum number of friends in post-poll manoeuvring as every poll prediction hints at the possibility of neither the BJP nor the Congress able to win the majority on its own.
Chandrababu Naidu, master of many electoral battles and a shrewd political strategist faces one of his toughest electoral fights. Together with BJP and Janasena, he won over YS Jaganmohan Reddy by a slender two percent margin in 2014. The TDP pulled out of NDA. The BJP is now determined to defeat TDP. Janasena is no longer with TDP and posits itself as equidistant from the two arch rivals. The TDP for the first time goes to polls without any allies. The special status narrative has certainly given Chandrababu Naidu an emotional issue to fight the elections. However in the recent past, Naidu and his party seems to be focussing more on personal and political rivalry with Jaganmohan Reddy and his party rather than special status. The acrimonious poll battle degenerated into mutual mudslinging with the interest of the state pushed to the backseat. Though Chandrababu Naidu may not be facing sweeping anti incumbency, there are certain things which certainly give him sleepless nights.
The Amaravati-centred development model has led to a sense of alienation in the backward regions of North Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. Except for some movement on projects like Handri Neeva, there has been precious little done to address this discontent.
Rayalaseema has been a stronghold of YSR Congress. The special package for development of Rayalaseema and north coastal Andhra was elusive. To placate the people away from the state capital, Naidu announced a detailed development and industrialisation plan for every district in the state Assembly. Though partnership and investment summits were held periodically, and the chief minister held many foreign tours to lure investment, not much has happened in terms of industrialisation especially in terms of providing jobs for the unemployed. Despite the lofty talk of rebuilding the Information Technology landscape in the residuary Andhra Pradesh, the state has a long way to go.
The controversial Janmabhoomi committees constituted solely with TDP activists have only established their supremacy and favoured party sympathisers in the rural areas. They weakened the elected local bodies and turned out to be a major political embarrassment for Naidu. This forced the chief minister to scrap these committees, revealing the gravity of people’s ire with such parallel partisan bodies that interfered with the distribution of welfare benefits under a host of government schemes. But, still the ghost of Janmabhoomi committees haunt the ruling TDP with opposition reminding the electorate of their bad experience with such committees filled with party activists taking toll of governance.
The demarcation between the party and the government has blurred quite contrary to the Naidu administration of the united Andhra Pradesh. This might have satisfied the party apparatus but has caused resentment in the general electorate.
The TDP also promised unconditional waiver of loans to farmers and Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA) groups. Learning from his party’s defeats in 2009, Naidu did not lag behind in making several populist promises. More significantly, his promises of a loan waiver for farmers and women workers with the DWCRA certainly influenced voters in 2014 elections. Nearly 20 percent of the DWCRA groups did not repay the loans in April 2014 in some banks. This increased to as high as 80 percent in May indicating the impact of Naidu’s promise of a loan waiver in the run-up to the elections.
The government partly waived the loans of farmers and DWCRA members and banks were reluctant to grant them loans in view of the mounting interest on uncleared loans. Anecdotal evidence from several villages reveals that the phased manner in which the scheme was implemented left many beneficiaries disappointed.
The TDP in its election manifesto promised a job for every household. “If you want job, vote for Babu” was, in fact, the poll plank of TDP in 2014. But, the performance on the ground is far from satisfaction.
Land acquisition in Andhra Pradesh became controversial and even led to periodic violent protests in different parts of the state. As land prices shot up, there have been a stiff resistance to land acquisition from farmers. The landless agricultural labourers were the worst hit.
As the simmering discontent over the loss of sprawling capital city of Hyderabad pervaded the political discourse in 2014 in the Seemandhra region that constitutes present Andhra Pradesh, Naidu could successfully convince the people that he, with the active support of NDA, which was expected to come to power, would unveil a capital better than Hyderabad and a city which even Delhites will be jealous of. Despite showing a scintillating vision of a capital in the lines of Singapore, nothing much has been achieved on the ground.
However, Chandrababu Naidu aims to counter this possible anti-incumbency by launching slew of welfare measures like cash support to farmers and DWACRA women, unemployment allowance, increasing the pension allowance, launch of subsidised canteens etc,. The dream of capital still allures people. The rapid progress in the construction of Polavaram project is Naidu’s unique selling proposition.
As widely expected Chandrababu Naidu is evoking Andhra pride as an effective tactic for successful electoral mobilisation. In 2014, the strongest anti congress sentiment around arbitrary bifurcation has catapulted Chandrababu Naidu to power in the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. Now in 2019, Chandrababu Naidu is rousing Andhra pride on two planes simultaneously. Firstly, around the question of special status, Chandrababu Naidu raises the banner of revolt on Narendra Modi led central government. Congress was the villain in 2014, BJP is villain in 2019. Chandrababu Naidu wishes to retain his position as hero. Besides, in a tit for tat , the TDP supremo is targeting KCR to fuel Andhra Sentiment. This was the ploy KCR employed during Telangana assembly elections. KCR projected Chandrababu as villain. Now, Chandrababu returns. In fact this is also a sort of return gift by Chandrababu Naidu to Telangana chief minister.
Chandrababu Naidu’s tirade over BJP is a strategic masterstroke to convert a threat into an opportunity. This is precisely what he did in 2014. Even after supporting the bifurcation of the state, Naidu ran a propaganda blitz calling bifurcation a blunder and reaped a huge political dividend. As YSR Congress hits a self-goal by failing to properly distance itself from BJP, Naidu is trying to grab even the opposition space yet again converting a threat into an opportunity on the question of perceived injustice to state.
Naidu in a dexterous political move is repeating the success formula adopted in 2014.
The Telugu Desam Party was the biggest victim of separate state movement in the United Andhra Pradesh. Though the party had a strong political base in Telangana right from the days of NT Rama Rao, the party’s leadership is from the Seemandhra. The sub-regional political force in the form of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) has exploited this inherent limitation of TDP significantly eroded the party’s support base in Telangana. To overcome this, the TDP was the first to give an official letter urging the Centre to create a separate state of Telangana despite the party owing its existence to the pride of all Telugu people and assertion of common Telugu identity quite contrary to the Telangana identity. But, still, the party could not escape complex political terrain in Telangana. Thus, the TDP was in total disarray due to its ambivalence on the tricky issue of state bifurcation. Meanwhile, the surging YSR Congress could make a significant dent in TDP’s vote base in 2012 by-elections. Thus, due to the separate state movement, and the rise of YS Jaganmohan Reddy, the TDP suffered in both the regions of the United State.
The party’s comeback, led by Naidu, was considered near impossible as the party had struggled to even retain deposits in the by-elections held in 2012. Such an expectation was belied when Naidu and his party made a remarkable turnaround in the elections held in 2014. How did this happen?
As this author observed in his article, Chandrababu Naidu’s Comeback, Economic & Political Weekly, “the bifurcation of the state seems to have benefited TDP more than any other party. The role played by Chandrababu Naidu during the last episode of bifurcation drama earned him goodwill with the electorate in the Seemandhra region, especially among the urban and middle-class voters. The strategic moves of Naidu in the name of equal justice for both regions created a perception among the Seemandhra voters that he was trying hard to prevent the division of the state… Chandrababu Naidu demonstrated consummate political skills by arriving at an early understanding with the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and converted the threat into an opportunity.”
But, Chandrababu Naidu’s continued support to NDA despite denial of special status has created a strong perception that Naidu was compromising the interests of the state for his political purpose. Though the opposition leader, YS Jaganmohan Reddy tried hard to expose this, his tirade over Naidu failed to give him that much sympathy as he failed to be critical of Modi dispensation. Instead, he chose to unconditionally extend support to BJP in presidential and vice-presidential elections.
YSR Congress’ inability to blast BJP, not only failed to create anti-Naidu sentiment but in fact, helped the latter to convince the people that he is working hard to negotiate a better deal from Centre.
Sensing possible antipathy due to his party sailing with BJP which reneged on its promises to Andhra Pradesh, Naidu raised his banner of protest. Enacting a strange spectacle, the TDP MPs while even remaining in the ruling alliance protested against the NDA government in Parliament. Thus, it appeared as Naidu’s bid to grab even the opposition space as YS Jaganmohan Reddy hits a self-goal by displaying intransigence over Modi government’s response to demands of Andhra Pradesh.
However, YS Jaganmohan Reddy consistently campaigned to expose Chandrababu Naidu’s political U turns. Naidu pooh-poohed special status demand when he was in NDA. He praised the special package given by the Modi government in lieu of special status. His government sponsored a resolution in the state legislative assembly praised Narendra Modi for his generous support to the state. Notwithstanding all this in a sudden political U turn, the TDP pulled out of NDA and declared an all out war on BJP. Chandrababu Naidu personally led a belligerent war on Modi. This is precisely where YS Jagan lagged behind despite moving no confidence motion on Modi government.
Chandrababu Naidu continues to rouse Andhra sentiment in the form of an anti central struggle in a bid to benefit in the ensuing elections. Meanwhile, the bonhomie between TRS and YSR Congress comes handy for TDP to further fuel Andhra sentiment citing KCR’s intervention in the politics of neighbouring state.
The TRS supremo and chief minister of Telangana K. Chandrasekhar Rao is moving heaven and earth to win 16 of the 17 Loksabha seats in the state so as to play a key role in national politics by handing over the mantle of power in the state to his son and the heir apparent KT Rama Rao. The remaining one seat, the TRS is facilitating the victory of its ally MIM, whose chief, Asaduddin Owaisi is in the electoral fray to retain his Parliamentary seat. In fact, the TRS fielded a Hindu candidate in the name of a friendly contest to facilitate a division in the anti-MIM vote and help in the consolidation of the Muslim vote in favour of MIM. Thus by winning all the seats in the state, KCR wants to ensure that the transition of power in the state to his son will be smooth without any possible dissent, besides having an advantage in the national politics.
The immediate trends available on the possible outcome in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls is that the BJP led NDA may lose seats which it won in 2014, while the Congress-led UPA may not fully measure up to the expectation. Precisely here the non-Congress, non-BJP regional satraps play an important role in shaping the national agenda. KCR wants to exploit such a situation in Delhi with 16 seats in his kitty.
The unprecedented victory in the 2018 Assembly polls gives further boost to poll prospects of TRS in Lok Sabha polls too. In the assembly elections, the TRS got a lead in 14 out of 17 Lok Sabha segments. The Congress led prajakutami could establish only a marginal lead in Khammam and Mahabubabad seats. In the remaining 14 Lok Sabha segments, the TRS margin ranged from one to three lakh votes. Now, the prajakutami is in shambles thus benefitting the TRS.
The further weakening of the opposition due to Operation Aakarsh is expected to give further fillip to KCR’s hope of winning 16 out of the 17 seats. The substantial erosion of the Congress party due to demoralising defeat followed by crippling defections further emboldened the ruling TRS. The almost disappearance of TDP from the political map of Telangana, the gradual weakling of the Left, the rout of BJP that failed to win its sitting seats make the TRS unassailable.
KCR wishes to capitalise on this prevailing political and electoral contours of Telangana.
To legitimise his anti-Congress, anti-BJP political stand and dispel the impression of him being a secret ally of the saffron brigade, KCR forged the idea of Federal front of comprising the smaller and the regional parties. Yet the response is still largely non-committal as the regional parties are also unsure of the post poll arithmetic. These regional parties which are invited into the Federal Front are still not inclined to leave either BJP or the Congress. However, KCR is of a firm opinion that the attitude of these smaller and the regional parties would undergo a substantial change post-election.
In case if he fails to hoist Federal Front on the Indian political horizon, having 16 seats in his kitty helps him to call the shots irrespective of either NDA or UPA in a position to form a government with the support of regional parties.
Besides selling a national political narrative in the form of non-BJP, non-congress federal front and the talk of a national party, TRS is turning this election too into a sort of referendum around KCR. This strategy paid a rich dividend in the recently concluded Assembly elections as the opposition failed to project a leader of KCR’s stature. The TRS and its chief are spinning their electoral campaign around the benefits of Telangana if TRS wins 16 seats. The TRS is adept at electioneering around Telangana sentiment.
Meanwhile, KCR’s strategy of delinking Assembly and Lok Sabha polls by resorting to premature dissolution of the house has paid rich dividends. By doing so he ensured that the national political agenda will not cloud the state specific issues. Now, with the power at the state, it became easy for the TRS to conduct electioneering in the Lok Sabha elections.
Pawan kalyan led Janasena is the cynosure of electoral battle in Andhra Pradesh not because it can turn tables in its favour, but, more due to its possible impact on the poll fortunes of either TDP or YSR Congress that are evenly placed in a do or die electoral battle.
The TDP won the 2014 mandate with a slender margin of around two percent indicating the influence of unconditional support of Pawan Kalyan on the mandate.
Pawan Kalyan voluntarily supported the TDP-BJP combine in 2014, without contesting anywhere. Thus, the TDP can’t afford to dismiss him easily.
Pawan Kalyan’s entry into the electoral fray certainly makes a difference in Andhra Pradesh politics, given his personal charisma. He has clearly distanced himself from the aborted Praja Rajyam experiment led by his brother, popular film star Chiranjeevi, who merged his party with the Congress after getting a substantial vote share in 2009. By not associating himself with the merger fiasco, Pawan Kalyan was able to preserve his personal and political identity untainted.
While Pawan Kalyan can’t be described as a leader of any particular social formation, he belongs to the Kapu community, which has a sizeable presence in 40-50 Assembly constituencies of the state. The Kapu factor was a critical component of the TDP’s success in 2014. A section of the Kapu population, especially the new and young voters, would certainly walk out of the TDP fold given Pawan Kalyan’s stand.
Whichever way things pan out, the Jana Sena’s political foray is bound to create tremors in Andhra Pradesh politics especially at a time when the gap between ruling and opposition parties is extremely narrow.
The Janasena given its poll prospects today may not even measure up to the vote and seat tally of Praja Rajyam Party(PRP). The Praja Rajyam fiasco continue to haunt Jana Sena. The two of the three major communities of Andhra Pradesh, Kammas and Reddys enjoy the proximity with corridors of power. The Kapus with its numerically strong in a significant number of constituencies were never in the centre of power apparatus. Though Chiranjeevi cannot be identified with any particular community , Kapus in 2009 largely rallied behind Chiranjeevi. But, this community and the fans of mega star were deeply led down by the actor turned politician. With a changed political idiom post bifurcation and Praja Rajyma fiasco staring at them, the kapus’ political loyalty shifted for the first time in 2014 to TDP. Now with Janasena not emerging as a decisive political force in the Andhra Pradesh electoral arena , this electorally significant community may not completely rally behind Janasena.
However, any shift in the Kapu vote can make a world of difference in many constituencies where their numbers are quite huge. The YSR congress hopes that this would make a dent in the TDP vote tally as Pawan Kalyan supported Chandrababu Naidu in 2014. Meanwhile, the TDP hopes that Janasena will cut into the anti establishment votes and benefit them more. The competitive claims of TDP and YSR Congress turn Jansena and its leader Pawan Kalyan into a kingmaker even before the vote is cast.
( 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
The Chief Minister of Telangana and TRS supremo K Chandrashekhar Rao certainly had a reason to explain for encouraging defections form opposition parties during his first innings . One might have agreed with it or not. But, it was certainly a reason to put forth.
The TRS won by a slender margin in 2014. Indian polity is replete with examples of how governments running on wafer thin margin were destabilised by the rival political forces This happens more when the party that wants to topple the government is in power at the centre. The Congress that emerged as the main opposition was ousted from power at the centre and lost the ammunition to engineer any political coup against KCR government. Yet, KCR could successfully sell the theory of conspiracy to defend his policy of operation aakarsh post 2014. The other argument was to defend the Telangana experiment. KCR said that the forces opposed to the formation of separate state were hell-bent on establishing that the experiment of Telangana would not succeed and the state urgently needs a political realignment to disprove this thesis. Thus, the thesis on defections was sentimental. KCR has even invoked the name of MIM chief Owaisi to claim that the MP had cautioned him from Delhi that such a conspiracy to destabilise his government was being hatched.
Notwithstanding the controversial policy of encouraging defections, KCR won with more convincing margin. Even the defected legislators were re-elected in 2018 Assembly elections, thus giving a stamp of approval for political defections. The electoral mandate clearly reveals that the people of Telangana have not taken the defections and the criticism around it not so seriously . There is a reason for this. No political party has the moral authority to questions KCR on defections. The congress is the creator of such a political culture. The grand old party is known for destabilising the rival party governments through defections. The Congress while in power encouraged defections from TRS , TDP etc. The TDP which questions KCR in Telangana strangely does the same in Andhra Pradesh where it is in power, in a more unabashed manner. Thus, the people seem to be not taking seriously this dirty political game.
Thus , KCR is motivated by the nature of political mandate to repeat the operation Aakarsh in his second innings too. He has more than required majority now. The TRS won 88 seats and its tally rose to 90 with two independents joining the ruling party. It has the support of seven MIM legislators taking the total support in 119 member Assembly to 97. Yet, the defections from Congress, TDP continue unabated. Ina bid to subvert the anti defections all, the TRS is targeting maximum number of Congress legislators so that it can provoke the provisions of the same law to claim that the Congress Legislature party merged with TRS, a mockery of the tenth schedule of the Constitution of India.
The objective of encouraging defections even after having more than convincing support in the legislature is to decimate the opposition . The TRS has a long term strategy of crippling the opposition so that it will not have any political dissent. The media is already servile to party in power not just in Telangana, elsewhere too in Indian democracy . The civil society is co-opted into the power apparatus. Thus with weakening of political opposition, the ruling party can completely choke the dissent. The immediate objective would be to sweep the Loksabha elections so that KCR can have leverage in national politics. The TRS could establish a winnable margin in as many as 14 out of 17 Loksabha segments during the recent Assembly polls except Khammam and Mahabubabad. The maximum defections are taking place in these two Loksabha segments revealing the short term objective of the defections .
The TRS also suspects that its MPs may also join Congress if denied re-nomination. Already K Visweshwar Reddy defected to Congress. The TRS through these defections is pre-empting any possible strike on it by the opposition.
( 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
Prof K Nageshwar : Locating in National Political Context: Who will Benefit, Chandrababu or YS Jagan?
Battle lines are clearly drawn in Andhra Pradesh. State is all set to see a photo finish with contending sides evenly placed in a belligerent electoral battle, any small trigger can tilt the mandate this or that side. With Jana Sena failing to emerge as a formidable third player, the political polarisation in Andhra Pradesh is essentially between two parties, two leaders and to an extent even two castes. The electoral fights has turned into a sort of referendum for the people to chose between incumbent chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and ever ambitious opposition leader YS Jaganmohan Reddy.
While Chandrababu Naidu is on a hectic mission to rally all the anti-BJP forces across the nation by even embracing his arch rival Congress, Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP chooses to remain equidistant from the two national parties despite facing allegations of arriving at a tacit deal with the BJP.
Naidu believes that placing TDP in an appropriate national political contest helped it in 2014 and will do so in 2019 too. On the contrary, Jagan expects to benefit from a strategy of regional confinement.
Writing in the Economic and Political Weekly (July 12, 2014), this author explains how the national factor helped Naidu in the last general elections: “The sense of helplessness strongly instilled in the Seemandhra electorate in turn also generated a feeling that the residual state of Andhra Pradesh desperately needed help from the central government. Jagan Mohan Reddy failed to acknowledge this new sentiment among the people. In fact, Jagan Mohan Reddy was also one among the leaders who were responsible for creating such a sense of helplessness.
Chandrababu Naidu demonstrated consummate political skills by arriving at an early understanding with the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and converted the threat into an opportunity. The strong Modi sentiment evident across the country convinced the average voter in the Seemandhra region that Chandrababu Naidu could form part of a winning combination at the Centre and could deliver for the truncated state without a capital…
While Chandrababu Naidu could successfully locate himself in a national political context that was considered so crucial for Seemandhra in the wake of bifurcation, Jagan Mohan Reddy demonstrated an utter lack of strategy. He even sent signals of extending support to the much discredited United Progressive Alliance which proved to be costly to his electoral prospects. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s stand of supporting any possible formation at the Centre for the benefit of the state failed to convince the electorate. This is because of the discernible political trend in favour of the NDA.”
Now in 2019, there is a simmering discontent against the Modi regime for the manner in which Andhra Pradesh has been treated, especially the denial of Special Category Status (SCS) to the state. Thus, Chandrababu was cautious enough to realise that continuing his alliance with the BJP would prove to be costly for the TDP given the antipathy towards the NDA-led central government.
The opposition YSR Congress, has also been fighting for SCS. But, the YSR Congress failed to counter a perception that it is closer to BJP and would not hesitate to join NDA if post poll arithmetic demands so. The TDP has cleverly nurtured such a perception among the electorate, thanks to Jaganmohan Reddy’s relative silence on many issues on which the BJP needs to be confronted. His unconditional support to BJP nominees in the presidential and vice presidential elections helped only to strengthen such perception. At a time when people of Andhra Pradesh are so strongly disenchanted with Narendra Modi regime, this strategic deficit of YSR Congress would prove to be a liability for the party.
Pawan Kalyan has already deserted Naidu. The TDP won with a slender, mere 2% margin in 2014. The loss of BJP and Pawan Kalyan would certainly hurt the TDP in terms of electoral arithmetic. The party expects to make up for this loss by allying with the Congress. But given the anti-Congress narrative over the bifurcation promoted by the TDP itself, Naidu found it difficult to sell his idea of joining hands with the villain of bifurcation. Thus, he is now cleverly couching his new-found love for the Congress in the perspective of national politics. The BJP has already denied special status and the Congress promises to deliver it. Thus, Naidu finally bid goodbye to the BJP to embrace the Congress, yet again appropriately locating himself in a national context. However, to avoid any possible anger from the voters, the TDP chose not to ally with Congress at the state level given the pathetic experience of the grand alliance in Telangana polls.
Instead, Jagan said that his party would support any government at the Centre if it delivers special status to the state. Such a stand is insipid given the fact that the BJP has already denied SCS and the Congress not only authored it but now promises to offer such a status to Andhra Pradesh. Thus, the politics of equidistant at the national level may not yield any additional dividend for the YSRCP.
( 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
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are locked in an intense data war with Hyderabad police conducting raids on an IT company, IT Grids offering services to TDP. Telangana state police and ruling TRS claims that this IT company which maintains TDP app Seva Mitra has access to sensitive information pertaining to people of Andhra Pradesh illegally obtained from Andhra Pradesh government sources, a charge chief minister Chandrababu Naidu vociferously refutes. Instead, TDP accuses that the TRS government in Telangana is hand in glove with YSR congress. The TDP accuses that Telangana government conducted these raids to steal TDP data and hand it over to YS Jaganmohan Reddy. The YSR congress, on the other hand dismisses TDP’s allegation calling it an attempt to cover up the data theft by Andhra Pradesh government.
Thus the battle over data is simultaneously fought both on government and political levels. The things turn murkier with the police of two state governments accusing each other. The TDP calls this episode a nexus between Modi, KCR and Jagan to prevent Chandrababu Naidu from coming to power.
The ongoing controversy cannot be seen in isolation. Angered over Chandrababu Naidu playing an active role during Telangana election campaign, the TRS supremo said that he would give a ‘return gift’ to TDP chief. Since then the TRS has been evincing keen interest in Andhra Pradesh politics. In the guise of federal front the TRS working president reached out to YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. The bonhomie between TRS and YSR Congress is no longer an allegation though Modi’s Kar seva in this need to be established. Given this muddy political manoeuvres clouding the whole episode, the neutrality of Telangana police investigations will not be accepted by the accused.
It is difficult to establish who is right in this data war unless one has access to material under investigation.
In case if the TDP claims are true, Telangana government will be caught on the wrong foot for accessing TDP data from an IT company whether or not it shares it with YSR Congress.
But, Telangana police asserts that it has enough evidence to prove that the said IT Company handling TDP account has access to data pertaining to people of Andhra Pradesh which should have been an official preserve. Any such leakage of peoples data would give undue advantage to the ruling party in the age of big data playing a key role in electioneering.
The TDP will not in any way believe in the charges made by Telangana police though it cannot question latter’s right to investigate as the alleged crime happened in its jurisdiction. The demand of the TDP to allow Andhra police into the investigation is fallacious as its political masters are accused in the case.
Given the grave character of charges and counter charges, an independent court monitored probe can only establish the veracity of the claims and counter claims. Meanwhile, the data war episode will once again reinforce the necessity of a robust data protection regime.
India described its attack on terrorist training camp in Balakot deep inside Pakistani territory as non military pre-emptive strike. Earlier, strikes carried out in 2016 targeting Pakistani sponsored terrorist camps across the Line of Control(Loc) were called surgical strikes. What is the difference between the two? Why this change in nomenclature?
In 2016 , India carried out strikes on terrorist camps in Pak Occupied Kashmir(POK ). This territory under the control of Pakistan is used by the hostile neighbour to train, infiltrate terrorists into Indian territory across the border. India believes that the Pak occupied Kashmir territories also belong to it and it remains the unfinished agenda on the Kashmir issue. Therefore, theoretically, by carrying out attacks on POK territories, India has not violated any country’s sovereignty and has not crossed international border.
But now the India’s Mirage 2000 war planes have gone deep into Pakistani territory in the KPK(Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) province which is about 65 km from the Line Of Control (LOC). This technically means violating Pakistani sovereignty that can attract punitive action under the United Nation’s charter which calls upon all its members to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other nations.
Yet, India ventured to enter the Pakistan air space to carry out lethal attacks on the JEM camp. To avoid diplomatic embarrassment, India rightly called it non military intelligence led pre-emptive strikes.
India says it has not waged a war on Pakistan. It has not attacked Pakistani military or civilian establishments. The attacks were precisely targeted on terrorist infrastructure. The article 51 of United Nations charter permits any nation to carry out such strikes as part of right to self defence. But the moot point is can any nation do so pre-emptively. But, over a period of time countries like United States, Israel have been indulging in such pre-emptive strikes in the name of right to self defence.
India has been the victim of cross border terrorism perpetuated by our hostile neighbour. Pakistan has been exporting terror as its foreign policy position. Pakistan knows well that it cannot fulfil its strategic goals by resorting to any direct armed confrontation with India. The experience of wars in the past hold testimony to this. Therefore, Pakistan is indulging in this low intensity war fare which proves to be cheaper and more effective for Islamabad. Pakistan has been resorting to this unmitigated terror attacks under the cover of possible nuclear confrontation. India is deterred from crossing the LOC as it fears that any further escalation in the tensions can lead to a nuclear flash point in South Asia.
But, the country learns of late that Pakistan needs to realise that there are costs associated with its strategy of low intensity war fare. Thus, a paradigm shift has been consciously made by entering deep inside Pakistan.
There are reasons for doing so. The world has changed a lot. The big powers have the worst experience with terrorism. Pakistan’s neighbours like Iran, Afghanistan and even Russia in the past were the victims of Islamabad sponsored terrorism. Pakistan’s economy is in precarious condition and can no longer afford armed conflict. The political system of Pakistan is completely fractured. The opposition did not even recognise the election of Imran Khan and called it a farce. Besides, the present ruling political establishment in India do not shy away from escalating the bilateral confrontation as it does not have anything to lose but only to gain. More than ever before, Indianan political spectrum is united in its fight with Pakistan. Despite sharpest divide on the eve of elections, Indian democracy has shown remarkable maturity and the Indian armed forces continue to demonstrate unwavering will to strike .
All this resulted in the non military pre-emptive strikes. India clearly maintains that it has not attacked Pakistan. But its war is only on terrorism, that too after exhausting all other possible options. A self respecting nation cannot afford to bleed continuously due to the proxy war by the hostile neighbour.
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Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu sits on a day long protest. With the leaders of opposition expressing solidarity, the demands of Andhra Pradesh state have once again echoed in the national political corridors.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his first visit to the state after TDP pulled out of NDA, claimed that his government has done maximum for Andhra Pradesh. However, Modi fails to answer specific questions from the people and political parties of Andhra Pradesh. Instead in a bid to cover up his failure to answer, Modi makes a blistering personal and political attack on Chandrababu Naidu.
The bifurcation of the state was predicated upon the assurance by the then prime minister on the floor of the House to grant special category status to the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. In fact, the BJP has been demanding special status for ten years. However, the UPA government conceded to this demand and agreed to grant such a status to Andhra Pradesh for a period of only five years.
Despite the fact that senior BJP leaders like M Venkaiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley were the authors of special status, the Narendra Modi government has refused to grant special status to Andhra on the pretext that the concept of special status seizes to exist with the new devolution formula proposed by the 14th Finance Commission.
External Aided Projects:
However, the NDA government promised special package in lieu of specials status. As per this, it was promised that the Centre would fund to the tune of 90 percent in regard to centrally funded schemes. Thus the additional central grant is arrived at Rs 16,447 crore. The Centre proposed to compensate this through higher central component in Externally Aided Projects (EAPs). But, the execution of such projects would take time. Therefore, the state preferred direct fiscal transfers. As half of the 14th Finance Commission period was already over, the state government desired 50 percent of payment. But, the state government also argued that the Centre has hardly paid Rs 400 crore.
The Government of India is supposed to compensate for the revenue deficit as the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh lost capital city Hyderabad to Telangana, making the present day Andhra Pradesh public finance precarious. This city accounted for the lion’s share of the combined state income. The revenue deficit was initially estimated at Rs 16,700 crore. The amount was later revised by the Centre to Rs 7,500 crore and the central government only paid Rs 3,977 crore. While the Andhra government claims that the revenue deficit to be paid by the Centre is Rs 12,500 crore, the Centre claims that the due in this regard is merely Rs 138 crore. Modi fails to clear this gap between centre and state. He is silent on this at Guntur.
The state government, meanwhile, has proposed that the Centre may appoint a committee headed by none other than the chairman of the 14th finance commission, YV Reddy to settle the dispute. However, Centre is not forthcoming in this regard.
The State Reorganisation Act promised railway zone for Visakhapatnam. But, even this decision is inordinately delayed as Odisha seems to be not in favour of it as it would lose the earning centre like Vishakhapatnam. Though the Centre is not making it explicit, it is clear from even a cursory look that the BJP, due to its political stakes in neighbouring Odisha, is dragging its feet on implementing the provisions of an act passed by Parliament. The argument that the Vizag railway zone will be unviable is fallacious as Vijayawada and Guntakal will be added to Vizag zone once it is separated. When Ram Vilas Paswan could ensure railway zone for Hajipur and it is viable, why can’t Visakhapatnam.
The reorganisation act has also promised to set up a steel plant in the backward Rayalaseema district of Kadapa. The district has iron ore mines. The state government has even offered to give these mines as captive mines for the proposed steel plant on free of cost basis as the quality of the ore is low grade. This offer of the state government would make the proposed steel plant viable as raw material itself accounts for 50 percent of cost of production. While the private steel plants of Tatas, Jindals etc. have been allotted captive mines by the government of India, the public sector Visakhapatnam Steel Plant is denied such captive mines forcing the plant to incur losses. Inflicting further insult on the state, now the Centre is not coming forward to set up Kadapa steel plant despite state reorganisation act recommending it.
As per the bifurcation act, the Polavaram project is being taken up as the national project and the Centre would bear the expenses. But, due to inordinate delay in clearing the bills, the state government is incurring an interest burden of Rs 300 crore. To avoid this, the state urges the Centre to create a revolving fund but to of no avail.
Backward Area Development Funds:
As per the reorganisation act, the centre has agreed to provide funds for the development of necessary infrastructure in seven backward districts of Rayalaseema and North Coastal Andhra. Funds were allocated at the rate of Rs 150 crore per district. What kind of infrastructure can be created with this meagre funding, only centre should know. Meanwhile, centre at the instance of PMO withdrew Rs.350 crores after they were credited in the state account.
The reorganisation act also mandates Centre to fund the construction of a green field capital at Amravati for the state of Andhra Pradesh. However, no specific resources were mentioned in the act. Taking advantage of this, the NDA government has granted only Rs 1,500 crore so far. The fact that the underground drainage works taken up in Vijayawada and Guntur were also included in this head on the pretext that these two cities also fall in the capital region has further infuriated the state.
The centre has to set up Dugarajapatnam Port in the Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh. But, the construction encountered certain objections as sensitive ecosystem of Pulicat Lake and the satellite launching station ISRO of Sriharikota, are very near to Dugarajapatnam. But, the centre neither addresses these hurdles nor propose an alternate place.
Andhra Pradesh should also get a petroleum refinery and cracking unit as per the bifurcation package. But, the HPCL-GAIL consortium is reportedly seeking a viability gap funding of Rs 1,200 crore per year for a period of 15 years from the state government. The state feels this is unfair as it is the assurance of state bifurcation and any such viability gap funding should come from the centre itself.
To implement the state reorganisation act centre has already setup several educational institutions in the state. But, the flow of funds is tardy and the these institutions are yet to take off in any significant manner. While Rs. 12,000 crores are to be given , the centre has so far released not even Rs.1000 crores.
KCR is conspicuously silent on West Bengal developments though Mamata Banerjee is considered a partner in Federal Front proposed by him. This raises doubts over the real intent of Federal Front proposal. This is not the first time. KCR remained aloof when Arvind Kejriwal staged a protest at Raj Bhavan against the centre’s high-handedness using the office of Lt.Governor. In fact, the Delhi Chief Minister has been equi-distant from both BJP and Congress, the theory KCR propounds for his Federal Front. In fact, leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Kumaraswamy, Pinarayi Vijayan whom the KCR loves to induct into Federal Front expressed solidarity with Kejriwal while KCR chose to maintain strategic silence. KCR kept himself away from opposition show of strength at Kolkata and Bengaluru and is unconcerned with the tirade of the anti-BJP forces on EVMs. All this adds credence to the speculation of his critics that KCR’s Federal Front is an extension of Modi-Shah’s political project to isolate Congress.
The Telangana Chief Minister flew to Kolkata to invite her into the proposed Federal Front. In fact, he called on Janata Dal (S) leaders and DMK chief. Barring Odisha chief Minister and BJD leader, Naveen Patnaik, no other leader whom KCR met is committed on equidistance from BJP and congress, thanks to their respective state level political situation. The DMK chief Stalin proposed the name of Rahul Gandhi for prime ministerial position. The Janata Dal (S) allied with Congress to make Kumara Swamy chief minister. Mamata Banerjee invited all India Congress leaders from the opposition Kolkata rally despite her reservations in openly endorsing Rahul Gandhi’s candidature for Prime Ministership given her political ambitions.
Meanwhile, KCR is not so enthusiastic to rope in Arvind Kejriwal and Pinarayi Vijayan who are stridently anti-Congress and anti-BJP.
Thus, certain things are very clear if one closely scrutinises KCR’s Federal Front episode:
- He has been meeting the leaders of regional and smaller parties that are either the Congress allies now or would like to be part of any alliance with Congress in future. They are more anti-BJP than anti Congress. Such parties include DMK, Janata Dal (S), TMC, SP etc. and drift of these parties towards Federal Front would weaken congress efforts to stitch together a rainbow coalition of anti-BJP parties.
- KCR has not met leaders of any party that have been showing restlessness with BJP led alliance. They include Shiva Sena, Apna Dal, LJP, PDP etc. However, LJP reconciled with BJP while PDP fell apart from the saffron party subsequently. This indicates KCR does not wish to harm BJP’s attempts to rally as many parties as possible under the NDA.
- KCR’s efforts to form Federal Front got enthusiastic support form parties like YSR Congress, BJD which are more anti-Congress than anti-BJP. So the Federal Front is the right platform for these parties as they wish to remain so till elections and would not hesitate to join the NDA post-2019.
- KCR kept himself away from any platform of opposition parties even if it consists of the possible partners of Federal Front if Congress is associated with it. This indicates that the Federal Front is anti-Congress Front rather than a united crusade against BJP which most of the opposition parties are now attempting.
- KCR remains silent on issues on which there is a direct confrontation with Modi regime. This includes, the use of CBI on opposition leaders, the 15th Finance Commission terms of reference that benefit the North Indian states detrimental to the interests of South Indian states, misuse of the offices of Governor and Lt. Governor, the questions over EVMs etc. Thus the Federal front is not keen on joining the anti-Modi chorus. KCR refused to voice concern over the developments in CBI, RBI, National Statistics Commission (NSC), Judiciary, etc.