It was once the stronghold of the Congress. But today, Andhra Pradesh is turning out to be its Achilles’ heel. Seen at some levels, the party has itself to blame for this. In 2004, when the Telangana movement was reviving under the aegis of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the Congress was able to co-opt the party and its leader, K Chandrashekar Rao, under the broad umbrella of the UPA, with Mr Rao as a minister for some years. Though Mr Rao pulled out, the Congress was able to improve its performance in the 2009 elections. But after the accidental death of the then chief minister, YS Rajasekhara Reddy, the Congress seemed to lose the plot. Its ill-timed announcement of Telangana in late 2009 and then dithering on the promise hit the party badly in both the Telangana and Seemandhra regions. Though the party finally made way for the creation of the new state, it could not undo the damage, with Mr Rao reneging on his promise that he would merge his party with the Congress once the Telangana demand was met. If the Congress fails to return to power at the Centre, the seeds of its debacle can be said to have been sown in Andhra Pradesh.
The rise of Jaganmohan Reddy and the repeated successes of his party, the YSR Congress, in bypolls in the state seemed like a harbinger of things to come. The sympathy for him — both for his father’s death and the supposedly rough treatment he received from the Congress — made the corruption charges against him go by the board. Things were going so much in his favour that his party was at one time expected to walk away with at least 15 of the 25 seats in the Seemandhra region, but currently the Telugu Desam Party, in alliance with the BJP, seems to have gained some ground. And it is here that Muslim organisations such as the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen have come a cropper.
One of the NDA government’s greatest achievements was the smooth creation of Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh. In the reverse, the handling of the Telangana issue has been the UPA government’s major lapse and has only made Andhra Pradesh a multi-polar entity. Telangana has no clear winner, though Mr Rao and his party are slightly ahead in the race.