Can YSR Congress retain its 2014 Lok Sabha poll vote share?
If one were to compare contested vote share of the TDP (48.2%) and YSRCP (45.4%) in 2014, the former seems to have a small advantage. To be sure, the TDP figure might not capture the true picture as it would have got BJP votes as well.Updated: Mar 30, 2019 14:19 IST
Both in the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Andhra Pradesh played a critical role in the Congress forming governments at the Centre. Under the leadership of former chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, the Congress and its allies won 35 and 33 seats out of the total 42 seats in the state. In 2014, the party faced a double whammy. Rajasekhara Reddy died in a helicopter crash in September 2009, and his son YS Jaganmohan Reddy walked out of the Congress to create a separate political party – the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) – in 2011. It also ceded ground to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi in Telangana, which denied the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) prospective gains from the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to create India’s 29th and youngest state.
The Congress’s losses were much bigger in the residual state of Andhra Pradesh after the carving out of Telangana. From a vote share of 50.4% and 40.7% in 2004 and 2009, the Congress crashed to a figure of 2.8% in the 2014 elections. That the YSRCP polled 45.4% of the total votes shows that almost the entire Congress support base shifted to the breakaway party.
However, it was the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), partners in the multi-party National Democratic Alliance (NDA), that reaped the political benefits out of the split in the Congress. The NDA won 17 out of the 25 seats in the state.
Had the TDP stayed with the NDA, the Congress would perhaps not even be a factor in these elections. In March 2018, the TDP walked out of the NDA over the denial of its demand for special status to Andhra Pradesh. This has made the political contest in the coastal state multi-polar in nature with the two regional parties -- TDP and YSRCP being the main players and the Congress and the BJP also contesting all seats on their own. The left parties have made another coalition with the Jana Sena Party.
If one were to compare contested vote share of the TDP (48.2%) and YSRCP (45.4%) in 2014, the former seems to have a small advantage. To be sure, the TDP figure might not capture the true picture as it would have got BJP votes as well. The biggest question in 2019 will be whether the YSRCP can repeat its 2014 performance in terms of vote share. If that happens, and the five-year anti-incumbency and lack of coalition partners lowers the TDP’s vote share, the YSRCP could sweep Andhra Pradesh.
What is difficult to predict is the role which the two national parties could play in Andhra Pradesh. A revival in the fortunes of the Congress would probably reduce YSRCP’s support and could end up helping the TDP. The TDP, on the other hand, would have to prevent its supporters from switching to the BJP, its alliance partner in 2014. Another possibility which cannot be ruled out is a multi-polar (YSRCP, Congress and the BJP) division of opposition votes – Andhra Pradesh would have simultaneous assembly elections as well – ending up helping the TDP in overcoming anti-incumbency.
In a first-past-the-post system, none of these possibilities can be ruled out as of now.