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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

Will UPA’s Telangana decision lead to a fractured verdict in Andhra?

Prasad Nichenametla, Hindustan Times  Hyderabad, January 31, 2014
First Published: 01:00 IST(31/1/2014) | Last Updated: 17:33 IST(18/2/2014)

In 2004, the Congress contested 417 Lok Sabha seats across India and won 145 — a success rate of 35%. And 29 of its MPs came from Andhra Pradesh alone, where it contested 34 of the 42 seats.

The strike rate: 85%. Its alliance partner, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), won five. This lent the foundation to a United Progressive Alliance government, or UPA-1.

The Congress prevailed in assembly polls too, coming to power in the largest south Indian state after defeating a seemingly invincible Telugu Desam Party (TDP) after a decade. Five years later, people elected the Congress in the state for a second successive time — something not witnessed since TDP’s formation in 1982.

Read: Andhra assembly rejects Telangana bill

And in the 2009 LS elections, when TRS went with TDP and Congress contested all 42 seats, its tally went up four notches to 33. (It lost two of the seats in bypolls later.)

As such, AP formed the base of UPA-2.

Read: Will protect united Andhra at any cost, says Andhra CM

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But this time, the Congress can hardly hope for a hat-trick, and should leave Andhra Pradesh out of any UPA-3 calculations. Nearly 60% of AP — Seemandhra, combining Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra — is agitating against the UPA, mainly due to the prospect of losing capital Hyderabad, since July 30 when the Congress decided to carve out AP’s other region, Telangana, into a separate state.

Seemandhra, which has 25 seats, looks prepared to get the Congress mauled this time. Such is the fury — evident in over 100 days of protests, including power shutdown for days — that not one Congress MP or MLA is confident of victory.

Trouble began for Congress in Sept-ember 2009, when one of its most charismatic leaders outside the Gandhi family, YS Rajasekhara Reddy, who led the party to successive wins, died in a chopper crash.

His son, YS Jaganmohan Reddy, who was denied the CM’s chair by party boss Sonia Gandhi, went on to form the YSR Congress in 2011 and successfully claimed YSR’s legacy, especially in Seemandhra. His party bagged 15 of the 18 assembly seats in the 2012 bypolls.

Read: The plus and minus of creating Telangana

Meanwhile, in Telangana, TRS chief K Chandrasekhara Rao, who had all but faded out of the scene, got back with a fast that forced UPA to announce Telangana for the first time, in December 2009. The Congress’s retraction a few days later only reinforced the Telangana movement.

Things turned so complicated for the Congress in the run-up to 2014  that it had to make up its mind to retain at least a part of its harvest. So, the eventual decision to create Telangana, a promise it had made in 2004. The TRS had left UPA-1 after the Congress took no step towards fulfilling that promise initially.

But the scale of Seemandhra’s reaction was unforeseen. What’s further ironic is that with CM Kiran Reddy, who is from Rayalaseema, trying every trick to stall the bifurcation, the Congress’s prospects look grim in Telangana region too.

Read: Congress' Telangana trap: a gamble going awry

Yet, it is hard to guess who would benefit from Congress’ loss. Recent surveys show Jagan sliding in popularity. The TDP and the Congress’s campaign that Jagan’s party and Congress are quietly together in the bifurcation and would align after elections has dented Jagan’s prospects in Seemandhra.

His turnaround — taking a ‘united Andhra’ stand after his release from jail — has eroded whatever following he had in Telangana.

As for the TDP, Nara Chandrababu Naidu’s party has picked itself up, but is still far from a major victory. Naidu hopes a pre-poll pact with the BJP would help him become CM again, or at least ensure a role in national politics.

Adding to the mix, Congress’s Seema-ndhra MLAs are pressing CM Reddy to launch a new Samaikhyandhra Party to attract that region’s voter. The poll result, thus, remains too hard to predict.

Full coverage: Telangana, the troubled state

State polls due too: Fractured mandate ahead?

The Andhra Pradesh assembly polls are to be held with the Lok Sabha polls. It has a history of clear verdicts, and  Congress has been ruling for the last two terms.  http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/1/31-01-14-pg13b.jpg

Telangana became a poll issue since 2004, but the TRS effect was limited. The PRP of actor K Chiranjeevi split the anti-incumbency vote that helped the Congress in 2009. It later merged with Congress. The 2014 elections also have the YSRCP.

The UPA’s Telangana decision could lead to a fractured verdict. While the Congress and TDP are split on regional lines, the YSRCP has taken a ‘no division’ stand. There are talks of CM Kiran Reddy forming a ‘united Andhra’ party.

But the very timing, and equation, of the polls could change if the bifurcation takes place soon.

Read: Formation of Telangana cannot be stopped, says TRS


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