As blaring mikes turn mute, deafening silence reigns supreme in Telangana

It’s all a calm before the storm now, raising curtains for a nerve-wracking suspense to the denouement of Telangana political soap opera.

As blaring mikes turn mute, deafening silence reigns supreme in Telangana

HYDERABAD: It’s all a calm before the storm now, raising curtains for a nerve-wracking suspense to the denouement of Telangana political soap opera. The protracted Telangana electioneering, which lasted close to 75 days, has come to a close with all sirens falling silent at 5 pm on Tuesday.

“Gulabeela jendalamma ….guruthula gurthunchuko Ramakka…” was the first election song that reverberated across Telangana as the BRS unveiled it before anyone. The Congress party’s “marpu kaavaali – Congress raavaali” also became popular in the State. However, the songs of other parties disappeared in the proverbial thin air amid the cacophony of these two numbers.

The electioneering peaked to its crescendo in Telangana with the Congress emerging as the main challenger to the champion BRS. The BJP, which remained on the sidelines, has, however, marshalled all its strengths and laid focus on at least 20-25 constituencies sparing no efforts in attempting to make a difference.

The high-octane campaign trail was launched more than two years ago in the State what with former BJP State unit president Bandi Sanjay launching a padayatra on August 28, 2021 and completing it in five different spells, setting the political arena open for the warriors to win the battle royale.

That he, eventually, had to step down from the presidency of the State unit of the party is a different story.

Soon after, Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president A Revanth Reddy undertook a ‘Haath se haath jodo’ padayatra for 35 days beginning February 6 this year. Congress Legislature Party leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka too undertook his “People’s March” padayatra on March 16, 2023 covering 17 districts through 109 days.

To top it all, Telangana Chief Minister and Bharat Rashtra Samithi supremo K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) addressed 96 pubic meetings covering an equal number of Assembly constituencies, signing off at Gajwel, and remained ahead of his competitors outwitting all of them.

In fact, KCR was way ahead of the Congress and the BJP on many fronts. He was the first to announce the candidates to contest for the Assembly on August 21.

Barring 10, he has renominated all the sitting MLAs. Despite being aware that some of them have been grappling with anti-incumbency in their respective constituencies, he reposed confidence in their candidacies. He successfully ensured that those who have not been endowed with Assembly tickets were placated by offering them alternative positions.

Some stray cases like Khanapur MLA Rekha Naik, Boath MLA Rathod Bapurao, and a few handful of others who were not given the party tickets were left to their fate. Those disgruntled elements joined either the Congress or the BJP to try their luck again by securing their tickets in the new parties.

Though KCR announced renomination of Mynmpalli Hanumanth Rao from Malkajgiri Assembly seat, the MLA quit the BRS and joined the Congress, as KCR did not budge to Hanumanth Rao’s demand to field his son Rohit Rao also from Medak Assembly seat.

For the first time in its decade-long history, Telangana witnessed two major violent incidents – stabbing of Dubbaka BRS candidate and Medak MP Kotha Prabhakar Reddy and attack on Atchempet MLA Guvvala Balaraju who is seeking a re-election – in the elections.

Interestingly, a personable BRS working president K T Rama Rao and an affable Finance Minister T Harish Rao blew the poll bugle much ahead of all other parties. While KTR addressed 41 public meetings and 26 road shows, Harish Rao addressed 13 public meetings and 33 roadshows. They had covered at least 10 districts each even before the polling dates were announced by the Election Commission of India (ECI).

Incidentally, Rahul Gandhi addressed seven public meetings, four rallies and 12 roadshows, his sister Priyanka Gandhi did an equal number of public meetings and six roadshows. Revanth Reddy, on his part, did 61 public meetings, eight rallies and 28 roadshows.

From the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spearheaded the campaign by addressing 10 public meetings, five roadshows; followed by Amit Shah’s 18 public meetings and five roadshows. BJP National president J P Nadda did 16 public meetings and three roadshows.

The ECI announced the poll dates on October 9 among five States of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana, which was scheduled as the last one in the series.

The Congress party organised a huge rally at Tukkuguda near Shamshabad in the city on September 17 where former Congress presidents Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi announced the ‘six guarantees’ on behalf of the party.

However, KCR scored a brownie point or two in the run-up, for he was the first to unveil the complete manifesto of the BRS for the behoof of the thriving Telangana more than a month ahead of all others on October 15.

He could expose the Congress as a copycat as most of the six guarantees it had promised, barring a few, were just improvised versions of what was already being implemented in Telangana. The Congress took a long time to come up with a manifesto – announced on November 17 -- which consisted of numerous schemes compiled from the one announced by the BRS, and a few other schemes from several other States, including a few from the YSR Congress.

The BJP’s manifesto was put out by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on November 18. The BJP manifesto reflected mainly the central schemes and dovetailed the same with what it proposes for Telangana.

Why KCR is brimming with confidence?

KCR has a reason to believe that the Bharat Rashtra Samithi would triumph and post a record by winning a hattrick among the States below the Vindhyas. His earliest announcement of tickets, mollification of dissidents, unveiling of manifesto, the vision that was spread out for the State for the next two decades, snubbing the decadent opposition gave filled the BRS with necessary fizz.

The decade-long regime of KCR was free of any insurrections anywhere in the State, and what adds to the confidence of the ‘numero uno’ Chief Minister is deliverance of the poll promises. He has been boasting of doling out sops that were never promised too.

The BRS announced at the very first go that KCR would be the hattrick Chief Minister of Telangana and fired its first salvo at the opposition to name their chief ministerial candidate. While a dozen candidates from the Congress are vying with one another, the BJP came up with a slogan of making a BC person the Chief Minister after easing out a BC leader from the coveted State unit presidency.

KCR is super confident about garnering the votes of BCs as the numerous schemes and development programmes aimed at these sections of the society bore fruit in his decade-long regime.

The BRS is highlighting the infirmities of the Congress and the BJP on many issues. For instance, the BRS occupied a pole position in its love for minorities, especially Muslims, in the light of its insistence on the Presidential assent to the 12 per cent Muslim Reservations Bill passed by the Telngana legislature, drawn up on the basis of socio-economic survey. The BJP announced that it would scrap religion-based reservations, while the Congress failed to pronounce its stand. The All-India Majlis-e-Muslimeen (AIMIM), which is contesting in nine Assembly seats, including seven of its bastions pronounced its open support to t he “secular BRS”.

Ensuring a communal strife-free decade under his administration came as a shot in the arm for the Chief Minister. KCR worked over time in micromanaging the constituency level politics to ascertain the election management with diligence. The well-oiled machinery up to the grass-roots level is the biggest asset to the BRS, while in contrast this is conspicuous by its absence in the Congress and the BJP.

While KCR chose to contest from his native Gajwel and also Kamareddy Assembly constituencies, TPCC president A Revanth Reddy and BJP MLA Eatala Rajender threw their hats into the ring from Kamareddy and Gajwel respectively, while contesting in their respective seats of Kodangal and Huzurabad.

The Congress and the BJP unveiled a new tradition of taking on the giant – the Chief Minister – by pitting their probable chief ministerial candidates against the invincible supremo of the ruling party.

The biggest factor that is in play is that the Congress has never won in 83 seats in the last two elections. While the BRS won 51 seats in 2014 and 2018, while the Congress party’s score was just four in seats of that genre where a sure shot victory is guaranteed.

The BRS won 47 per cent of votes in 2018 elections, while the Congress had managed 28 per cent. The BRS knocked off the vote share of the TDP and other smaller parties, as they are no longer in the fray in the State. The BJP, which polled a niggardly seven percent in 2018 Assembly elections, shunned its politically lucifugous attitude in Telangana and polled 19 per cent votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, while the Congress party’s vote share dwindled to 24 per cent. In the subsequent elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, the Congress could net a meagre seven percent and had to forfeit its deposits in the three byelections held for Dubbaka, Huzurabad and Munugode Assembly seats under the auspices of A Revanth Reddy.

For the Congress to catapult from an archetypal nowhere position to the pole position, it needs an effort to literally uproot the BRS lock, stock and barrel. However, this seems to be well nigh impossible, especially in the light of the BJP denting the anti-incumbency vote with more vigour than expected.

Pulling down the much stronger BRS becomes a Herculean task for the Congress which is smitten by too much of an internal bickering. At least a dozen leaders of the grand old party are squabbling for the top job giving an impression that the party is counting the proverbial chicks even before they are hatched.

As the last leg of electioneering concluded, the electors, who parsed the pros and cons of each of the contestants who are engaged in a cut-throat competition, are bracing themselves up to demonstrate their will on the D-Day of November 30, Thursday, the grand finale for the testing of political legerdemain of KCR, adventurous peregrination of Revanth Reddy and effort of queering the pitch by the BJP.

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