At a time when the Congress leadership and the central government are moving to take a call on creation of Telangana, initial trends of the first of the three-phase panchayat polls in the state on Tuesday showed little reflection of any sentiment in favour of a separate state.
Though the panchayat polls — the third phase of which takes place on July 31 — are not being fought on party symbols, the major parties are backing candidates of their choice. The results are also being declared on the day the polls are being held.
Local issues, credibility of candidates and political permutations and combinations dominated Tuesday’s polls in Telangana, with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi leading in two of the eight districts in the region in the first phase.
The Congress, which was still sending mixed signals on Telangana, was leading in four districts of the region. The Telugu Desam Party, whose chief N Chandrababu Naidu is yet to spell out his stand on Telangana but still has a strong organisational set-up in the region, is leading in two districts.
The YSR Congress did not make much headway in Telangana but the party’s emergence in the Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions affected Congress prospects, benefiting the TDP.
“The trends show that statehood sentiment is altogether a different issue. The TRS failed to convert these polls into the Telangana issue,” political analyst K Nageshwar said.
At the time of going to press, the Congress and TDP were running neck-to-neck.
Telangana has 117 seats in the undivided assembly and 17 Lok Sabha seats, Coastal Andhra Pradesh has 123 assembly and 17 Lok Sabha seats while Rayalaseema has 52 assembly and 8 Lok Sabha seats.
A decision on the creation of the Telangana state is now pending before the Congress Working Committee, which could make an announcement on the issue before the monsoon session of Parliament which is expected to commence after August 15.
With assembly and Lok Sabha elections due next May, the panchayat polls will be an acid test for the four major parties in the state. More than others, the stakes are high for the ruling Congress.
“For us these polls are decisive and we are keen to perform well,” said Congress spokesperson Tulasi Reddy.
YSR Congress leader Mysura Reddy said, “The panchayat results would just help the Congress and TDP play mind games in the run-up to the general elections next year and are no indicator of things to come.”