Political realignment in post-poll Telangana
Even as the autopsy of the Warangal by-election continues, political circles in both Telugu-speaking States are agog with speculations on the possibility of new political realignments taking shape in Telangana. The opposition finds it difficult to digest the ignominious defeat, though victory never figured in internal party circle sessions, the open rhetoric notwithstanding.
The opposition is, in a way, a victim of its own deeds. In a rather uncharacteristic political style, the ruling party sought the Warangal election as a referendum on its rule. The opposition joined the political chorus by accepting it as a referendum.
Such response from the opposition reflects lack of understanding of the political situation on the ground. The opposition has exaggerated the discontent against the government and failed to understand that this discontent still awaits political expression
Even as the autopsy of the Warangal by-election continues, political circles in both Telugu-speaking States are agog with speculations on the possibility of new political realignments taking shape in Telangana. The opposition finds it difficult to digest the ignominious defeat, though victory never figured in internal party circle sessions, the open rhetoric notwithstanding. The TRS triumph has not just swept away all the calculations but also rendered redundant any possible face-saving bravado.
It is true that the TRS went to polls in the backdrop of an unprecedented winning margin in 2014. But, surpassing even this margin, despite fall in voting percentage, indicates the ruling party’s rock-solid consolidation.
As one can expect in the Indian political firmament, the opposition continues to drum up the same old long-orchestrated defences – abuse of official machinery, poll management and scores of ministers descending on Warangal on election eve – as alibis for the defeat. Indian politicians like the sportsmen are very poor losers, to say the least. But, the voters’ verdict dismisses all these insipid remarks emanating from a disdainful lot.
A strong feeling is already evident that only a broader index of opposition unity can resist the political rise of TRS.
Congress MP G Sukhender Reddy has called for a united fight by Congress, TDP and the Left parties against what he described as an autocratic rule by TRS. But, the fact of the matter is that this Bihar-inspired Mahaghatbandan is sought more because of the mindboggling margin of the ruling party rather than political autocracy of K Chandrashekar Rao and his men.
Whispers are doing the Congress rounds that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is already in touch with the Congress leadership through his close confidants. Of course, it’s too early to either confirm or dismiss the grapevine. Though the new political arithmetic may not ripen immediately, political leaders and observers alike do not dismiss this possibility altogether. This of course takes root in the political Vedanta - there are no permanent friends or foes in politics. Politics is the art of the impossible.
But, a major section of TDP refuses to believe the speculation of a Congress-TDP tie-up, especially for two reasons. First, the TDP‘s emergence in Telugu polity itself has its genetic roots in anti-Congress politics. But, others remind about the days of United Front that was supported by Congress from outside. Chandrababu Naidu was the convener of the United Front notwithstanding TDP’s congenital political character.
In fact it was at a time when TDP and Congress were arch-rivals in the State politics. Now, the political scene has changed altogether. The Congress is no longer the principal opponent to TDP even in Andhra Pradesh where it is in power. In Telangana, both TDP and the Congress are equally dispossessed with TRS triumphant.
Then, the question is how far people in Andhra Pradesh would appreciate a soft-stand towards Congress as they see this party as the villain of the bifurcation. Any proximity with Congress would only breathe new life into Congress in Andhra Pradesh, fears a senior TDP leader. The fast-changing national polity strengthens the ground for those who aspire for a TDP-Congress tie-up.
The BJP’s Bihar debacle has boosted the morale of all anti-BJP parties with the Congress being the most fortunate in terms of percentage growth. The BJP is expected to face a more devastating drubbing in Punjab and has no hopes in West Bengal and Kerala for which elections are in the offing. A similar political arithmetic has the potential to repeat Bihar in Uttar Pradesh. All this fortify the secular alliance in which TDP can easily fit in if it divorces BJP.
The denial of special status can be the best reason to present to the people in case the TDP decides to estrange BJP. But, all this may not crystallise before the GHMC polls as both the TDP and the BJP need each other given the demographic characteristics of the Hyderabad electorate.
Meanwhile, voices of dissent have already begun within the TDP-BJP combine. None less than Errabelli Dayakar Rao expressed public displeasure over his party’s continued alliance with BJP stating that the party cadre had become nervous over giving the seat to the partner. This has even led to alienation of TDP’s local leadership and helped TRS in political poaching. The BJP, however, retorts that the TDP vote never got transferred to BJP. This marriage of convenience is pregnant with possibilities.
The opposition is, in a way, a victim of its own deeds. In a rather uncharacteristic political style, the ruling party sought the Warangal election as a referendum on its rule. The opposition joined the political chorus by accepting it as a referendum. Such response from the opposition reflects lack of understanding of the political situation on the ground. The opposition has exaggerated the discontent against the government and failed to understand that this discontent still awaits political expression.
By accepting it as a referendum, the opposition has only exposed its paucity of political strategies. In the year since the formation of Telangana, the correlation of political forces is yet to change. Realisation of this would have made the opposition to perceive this election as a non-event. The Congress lost seven per cent vote as compared to the 2014 elections. Such a swing away from opposition in a by-election is unprecedented and comes across as a wake-up call to each opposition member.
But, a mere political arithmetic cannot energise opposition, which should realise that chemistry rather than mathematics define political outcomes.
The opposition lacks leadership that can match the stature of KCR, whose political acumen, understanding of Telangana idiom and even capability to engage in polemics is what sets him apart from the motley political crowd. Any eventual political realignment can increase the quantitative index of political unity. But, the opposition can convince the people only by offering an alternative programme rather than indulging in anti-government rhetoric day in and day out.
A sustained effort to mobilise the people alienated by the government policies rather than indulgence in personal attacks can perhaps elevate the opposition.
The Left should also revisit its tactics in the wake of disastrous performance in Warangal. With a negligible electoral strength, it called for dislodging the party in power. Such policies of extravagance were perceived as politics of arrogance. The Left fails to bridge the disconnect between its striking power in agitations and the electoral performance. The newly invented social engineering could not make the Left win the confidence of even the marginalised sections. Political management cannot alter the correlation of political forces in their favour.
But both the winners and losers should equally realise that politics has a tendency to undergo swift and steady changes. The electoral history of India is replete with examples of changing political and electoral fortunes. However, the days of compulsory pro-incumbency or anti-incumbency vote have gone.
Political and organisational work, performance, electoral combinations, social, political engineering, features of political and electoral landscape and many more factors define the electoral outcome at a given point of time.
A proper understanding of this complex political milieu can only define the political fortunes of parties. This is the rational that should be imbibed in all opposition parties in Telangana.