Grand, but not on ground
Andhra Pradesh’s Opposition coalition may have overcome its seat-sharing problems, but the party cadre — particularly of traditional rivals Telugu Desam and Telengana Rashtra Samiti — just won’t work together. Varghese K George reports.india Updated: Apr 10, 2009 01:41 IST
“I HAVE to do two things. Stand in for my Dad who has little time to campaign here, and ensure that our workers and activists of the Telugu Desam, CPI and CPM work in tandem at the ground level,” says Kavitha, daughter of Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao or KCR.
A postgraduate in computer applications from University of Southern Mississippi, Kavitha candidly admits that the Mahakootam or the Grand Alliance of the four parties may sound grand, but issues on the ground are complex.
“All of us have been opposing each other until recently. It’s taking time to get our cadres work together,” she says. After mobilising TRS in this difficult constituency, her attention now is in reaching out to TDP cadre.
With 17 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats and 119 of the 294 assembly seats, the Telengana region is crucial in determining the outcome in Andhra Pradesh. In 2004, the Congress-TRS-CPI-CPM alliance had swept the region with the TDP winning a mere 10 assembly seats. Now, the Congress is isolated. However, workers of the four parties in the Alliance are unable to reconcile with the last-minute coalition stitched up by their leaders.
The TDP, CPI and CPM have been bitter opponents of a separate Telengana state, the mainstay of the TRS’s existence. Moreover, the CPI shared a good rapport with the Congress and Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, while CPM’s national plans centred around undercutting the Congress and promoting regional parties.
“The alliance was forced on us,” a CPI leader in the state told HT.
“The Alliance came out of a national compulsion rather than ground realities,” says Prof G. Hara Gopal, political scientist.
The Left parties have extended their half-hearted support to the separate state while TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu campaigns promising it. That has not enthused the TDP cadres who have been trained to stand against a separate state.
TDP workers consider TRS chief Rao as a spent force and a drag on their momentum. “A lot of us lost the opportunity to contest elections because of the alliance,” a senior leader of TDP in Nizamabad said.
The Alliance almost fell apart with the parties refusing to scale down their contesting claims over seats. Even now, in five assembly and two Lok Sabha seats, constituents of the Alliance are in “friendly fights” with each other.
The question of a separate statehood itself is not getting the emotional resonance it had in 2004. Rao himself had to move from Karimnagar — his sitting constituency that he narrowly retained in a bypoll in 2008 to Mahaboobnagar — where too the Congress is giving him a run.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi told a rally in Karimnagar early this week that the party is “not opposed to carving out a separate Telengana”, but the party’s campaign is centred around the investments that its government brought to the underdeveloped region.
Naidu said the heartburn among the cadres is gradually giving way to enthusiasm as the campaign picks up.
“There were issues. But now everyone has to fall in line, and it is happening,” said Naidu. “With every day of the campaign, we are improving.”
That may well be true, but the TDP alliance in 2009 is unlikely to do what the Congress-led alliance did in 2004.