Telangana assembly election results 2018: What didn’t work for Maha Kootami
Voters dealt a blow to the grand alliance or Maha Kootami, that hoped to take on caretaker chief minister, K Chandrashekhar Rao, in his own bastion. The sweep by the Telangana Rasthra Samithi has also upset the calculations of Congress and Telegu Desam party which hoped to replicate the model at the national level.
There are several reasons for the disastrous performance of the grand alliance fronted by Andhra Pradesh chief minister, N Chandrababu Naidu. Fundamentally, the people of Telangana did not appreciate, what the TRS leadership described, as the ‘unholy’ and ‘illegitimate’ alliance between Congress and TDP. The other two parties in the alliance – CPI and Telangana Jana Samithi – had little at stake.
TRS president KCR, who addressed over 100 election rallies in a span of a month, drove home the point that the Congress-TDP alliance would spell doom for Telangana. He pointed out how Congress tried to stall developmental programmes of Telangana by filing over 400 petitions in various courts.
At the same time, the TDP government in Andhra Pradesh led by N Chandrababu Naidu also petitioned the Centre seeking to stall approvals for the irrigation projects on Godavari and Krishna having interstate ramifications. “Naidu tried to stall the projects in Telangana and he shamelessly fielded his party candidates in the state. Where is the guarantee that if the People’s Front comes to power in Telangana, he would not stall the projects in the state?” TRS MP from Nizamabad and KCR’s daughter Kalvakuntla Kavitha had told HT in an interview in November.
The TRS president articulated this argument strongly at most of his election rallies. He, simultaneously, invoked the self-respect of the ordinary Telenganite, asking that the people not allow national parties or a leader of a neighbouring state to rule them by proxy. “Do you want to be remote controlled by Delhi and Amaravati or by a true native Telanganite?” KCR said during his rallies. That message seems to have resonated. The absence of a popular face in the kootami to challenge KCR was also felt. There were multiple contenders for the leadership role if the alliance had come to power.
Another reason that turned out to be a negative for the grand alliance was the hara-kiri committed in seat sharing till the last moment. Though the issue was sorted out just before withdrawal of nominations, the damage had already been done. The TRS, on the other hand, which had declared as many as 105 candidates on September 6 itself, was far ahead in its campaign.
The short span of time was not sufficient to unite the cadres of the alliance partners, resulting in lack of vote transfer among the partners in every constituency.
In the last assembly polls, the alliance parties got over 40% of the votes (Congress 25.2, TDP 14.7, CPI around 1%), compared to the TRS’s 34.3%. The alliance had hoped to poll moer votes this time on the assumption that there would also be some amount of anti-incumbency affecting KCR and his TRS. The TDP vote bank, was however, not intact, as a majority of TDP leaders, including 12 MLAs, along with their cadre and supporters, defected to TRS in the last four years. That would mean, the TRS strength has gone up considerably.
KCR also sought to create sympathy for his party among the electorate by saying he was waging a lone battle against a battery of opposition parties ganging up together. “Just to defeat one person in the elections, a Prime Minister, a PM aspirant, several chief ministers, union ministers and other top leaders from across the country landed in Telangana. Is this fair?” KCR asked the people.
According to political analyst and author Sriram Karri, the grand alliance leaders were unable to convince the people of why KCR should be defeated. “Congress chief Rahul Gandhi speaking about the family rule in the TRS had no takers because his own party is dominated by one family. The other reasons like lack of fulfilment of promises made before 2014 were also not convincing, as he has already set in motion several developmental schemes which the people have been witnessing,” he said.