The master puppeteer in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh is undoubtedly Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Having set his eyes on Delhi throne for a second term, he is now keen on destroying Congress, its principal rival in the electoral Armageddon. After the failure of a similar experiment in Karnataka, he seems to have bounced back with more vigour. He knows any signs of resurgence of the Congress will be fatal to his interest on the day of reckoning.
In Telangana, all the moves KCR had so far made suggest that he has invisible support from the BJP. In fact, Delhi has given him much more than what he had asked for. When KCR reportedly sought clubbing Telangana elections with four other state poll bound state Assemblies in the north in December, it seems the Election Commission wants to hold the elections for Telangana in November itself. KCR would love it because it would give Opposition no time at all to pool up resources.
The Centre had never said no to whatever he had asked including the all too crucial zonal system in Telangana which KCR believes will be a game-changer in the elections. He got appointments with Narendra Modi just for the asking while his AP counterpart N Chandrababu Naidu waited for a one full year and even then, he could not get one except an opportunity to shake hands with him at NITI Aayog meeting.
Not only that. Modi also met KCR ‘s son when he called on him in the recent past, sending out signals loud and clear that, for BJP, KCR is not an enemy though TRS' public posturing is that he treats the BJP as its rival. KCR dismisses his several confabulations with the Prime Minister as G to G business but the frequency of their occurrence was too high to lend support to his argument. In short KCR has been enjoying most favoured chief minister status in Delhi.
It looks as though it is very essential for Modi that KCR should win the election because if he does, it would mean dealing a crushing blow on the Congress, a party which was showing signs of acquiring life once again, drawing strength from anti-incumbency building up against a sizeable number of TRS legislators who have been re-nominated for the elections.
KCR knows that several of his populist schemes like double bedroom apartments and drinking water supply to every household are yet in various stages of execution and people have not yet realised their benefit fully so far and yet he is going ahead with early elections as he does not want anti-incumbency factor turn which is at a subdued level into an untameable Goliath at a later stage.
After the Centre laid the ground for early elections, KCR had moved in swiftly dissolving the assembly and stunning the Opposition with his 105 candidates’ list, though he was aware of the pitfalls in announcing the list even before the notification for the election has been issued.
His detractors say he had retained most of his MLAs since he knows that if he replaces them, they would ensure his defeat and if he does not, which he did not anyway, the people would defeat him as there is already an anti-incumbency wave building up against the sitting MLAs. KCR seems to have chosen lesser of the two evils - instead of facing his angry MLAs after dropping them, he chose to face the electorate with all of them as his team.
There are reports that KCR had sought help from Modi in the form of early elections in return for lending his MPs to him to support should he fall short of numbers to form next government after the general elections. KCR is understood to have discussed the need for delinking Telangana Assembly elections with those of the Lok Sabha.
If the elections to both are clubbed, he would have to face the risk of anti-incumbency factor against the NDA at national level helping the Congress in the state, dimming his prospects of victory since national issues would be at play then.
KCR is also understood to have promised Modi to ensure easy election of the BJP candidates in the Assembly elections. For five of seats held by the BJP in Hyderabad, he has not yet named TRS candidates for four. Even for the fifth, Uppal, held by BJP in the dissolved Assembly, it is said that he had announced B Subhash Reddy as TRS nominee at the request of the BJP. Subhas Reddy lost the elections in 2014 to BJP’s NVSS Prabhakar, who had the support of TDP then.
He might even give few more seats to the BJP and not to rouse suspicion among the Muslims, he would field weak leaders as TRS candidates against the BJP nominees. KCR after announcing openly that MIM is his friendly party, the “friendly contest” which remained an open secret till now has become official. This way he is getting the best of both the BJP and the MIM which are poles apart. Another spin off benefit is that one would act as a check on the other and as a result neither party would grow which is what KCR wants anyway.
In Andhra Pradesh, Modi wants the TDP to be decimated as the yellow party might play spoil sport at the time of staking claim for forming government at the centre. Since the TDP has no qualms in aligning with the Congress, which was its traditional rival, there is an inherent danger of Naidu playing a crucial role in mobilising anti-BJP parties at the national level after the general elections.
This apart, if YSRC wins more number of Lok Sabha seats than Naidu does, it would suit Modi since he believes that the chances of Jagan Mohan Reddy turning against him later is remote as he is essentially bothered about the State elections not national politics like Chandrababu Naidu and KCR.
There is one x factor that might spook Modi's as well as Rahul Gandhi’s calculations. Both Naidu and KCR are from the same school of politics – they have an uncanny sense of smelling an opportunity when it is still in its nascent stage and grab it with effortless ease.
Naidu is anti -BJP anyway and if a Karnataka like situation prevails at Delhi and the Congress has to satisfy itself with back seat driving, it remains to be seen how Naidu and KCR would act. Remember Naidu and KCR referring to Karnataka repeatedly to illustrate the point that national parties have run their course and the time has come for national parties to rally behind the regional parties.