Games politicians play on poll-eve
Why are politicians in Andhra Pradesh becoming restive as elections loom? What is moving them from one place to another? What are the political...
The great gamble had begun some months ago. In fact, the strategy of weakening a rival party by weaning away a strong leader had begun as soon the YSRCP was launched. Since it had very few MPs and MLAs, the party needed to improve its numbers by encouraging defections from the ruling party. The idea was to force early election and cash in on the sympathy wave believed to be there in favour of the YSR family. That the people had sympathy for the family was proved in by-elections. The ruling party started stalling by-elections by prevailing upon the Speaker to delay the examination of the resignation letters submitted by the MLAs.
Even as the TRS represents the Telangana sentiment, by and large, the role of the TJAC and the relationship between the two has been a point of animated discussion across the ten districts. By inviting leaders from the TDP and the Congress into TRS, its chief K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) was creating a problem for himself and the party. The local leaders who have been fighting for a separate Telangana State feel sidelined and humiliated as the leaders who migrated from other parties are preferred over them.
Take the instance of Kadiam Srihari who formally joined the TRS on Wednesday in the presence of its chief. Siricilla Rajaiah, who defeated Srihari in 2009 in Station Ghanapur constituency as a Congress candidate, joined the TRS later. In the ensuing by-election, Rajaiah as TRS candidate defeated Srihari for the second time. What would Rajaiah and his followers think of Srihari joining their party? The case of Dadi Veerabhadra Rao joining the YSRCP has caused problems for an entrenched YSRCP leader Konathala Ramakrishna in Anakapalle. They have been rivals for more than a quarter century and it is naturally difficult for them and their followers to work together.
But the top leaders continue to invest faith in the gamble. After KCR reportedly made it clear that only those who can spend money for campaign in elections can hope to get a TRS ticket, most of the field level hopefuls were crestfallen. A Kadiam Srihari, a leader known for hard work and simplicity, was in the State Cabinet as long as Chandrababu Naidu was the chief minister. He says he has been ignored and insulted by the supremo. He had to take a decision to quit his party and join the TRS, which had been the object of his ridicule and contempt till recently. Now, he claims to have joined the movement to achieve Telangana.
He was deputed along with Yanamala Ramakrishnudu by Naidu to present the party's case at the All-party meeting convened by Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in Delhi. He did not have any qualms at the time when he said that the TDP favoured demerger.
Take the case of Dadi Veerabhadra Rao from Visakhapatnam district, another leader known for integrity. He was leader of the TDP legislature party in the Council till his term ended. When he was not nominated for the second term, he was annoyed and decided to quit the party he had nourished for three decades since NT Rama Rao admitted him into the TDP. He claims that the denial of the term was the last straw.
These two leaders have not only left the party that gave them ministerial berths and other opportunities to serve the people, but preferred to join parties which they had unequivocally railed against till the other day. Those who watched Srihari spit fire on the TRS and the choicest epithets he reserved for KCR must have been clean bowled when he joined the party he loved to hate. Ditto is the case with Dadi. He was in his elements when he mounted attack on YSRCP and its leader YSR Jaganmohan Reddy on the floor of the Council.
Kadiam and Dadi must have gone through a lot of mental stress before taking the difficult decision to leave the TDP. They are aware that the second-rung leaders are not enthused about their joining a party against which they have been fighting for years. They could remain in the party without seeking a ticket. They could have called it a day. They did not. They want to go on. What are their compulsions? Winning next election? For Kadiam that may be a consideration. For Dadi, the political future of his son seems to be more important than his own.
Had both Kadiam and Dadi remained in the TDP, the party would have given tickets to Kadiam and Dadi or his son. The fact of the matter is that they are not confident of winning on a TDP ticket. Any other reason given by them for leaving the party is only an excuse. For any politician, next election matters, whereas for the statesman the next generation is important. The most striking factor in the whole narrative was that both the leaders have gone on record saying that they are not respected by their party chief. Can we expect Naidu to introspect and make amends in his style?
Not one to lag behind when it comes to political gamble, Naidu unveiled his game plan in right earnest soon after concluding the historic walkathon. He would like to pay both Jaganmohan Reddy and KCR in the same coin. He started with the TRS leaders since they are the most uncertain lot. They are not sure whether they would get an opportunity to contest since their leader was keen on inviting the sitting MPs and MLAs of other parties with a promise that they would be fielded in the same constituencies on TRS ticket.
Rumours abound that even Dayakar Rao, Seethakka and Satyavati Rathod are in line to join the TRS by election time. Many of the leaders who condemned Srihari's action will find themselves in his company sooner or later, if the gossip is to be believed. The result of lack of confidence among TRS leaders about getting tickets is the reverse flow which is about to start very shortly.
Naidu had reportedly met a number of leaders who were involved in the Telangana movement. One of them is Pidamarthi Ravi, a student leader from Khammam district. There are a maximum number of cases against this young man. He seems to have got an assurance that he would be given TDP ticket for Madhira seat. Gajjala Kantam of Praja Sanghala JAC is another leader who has been tempted to join the TDP. He is seeking Manakonduru seat in Karimnagar district while Rajaram Yadav, another important leader of the OUJAC, is eyeing Balakonda seat in Nizamabad district.
There are a few more surprises in store. The case of Dommati Sambaiah gives out the nature of games that unscrupulous politicians play. He was a TDP leader before 2009 election. As the TDP had tie-up with the TRS as part of Mahakutami, his seat, Warangal, was given to Dr Ramagalla Parameshwar of the TRS. But the TDP gave Sambaiah a B-Form to fight for the same seat in violation of the agreement. In the process, the anti-Congress votes got split and the Congress candidate Siricilla Rajaiah won.
Sambaiah joined the TRS in 2010. Rajaiah was thinking of contesting from Manakondudu constituency in Karimnagar on TRS ticket. In the other instance, Chada Suresh Reddy, a rich realtor, was elected to the Lok Sabha twice on TDP ticket. But he could not get ticket because of the electoral understanding with the TRS. He, along with Sambaiah, had joined the TRS. Both of them have been members of the TRS Executive Committee. They are now ready to move back to the TDP according to reliable sources. Dr Vijayarama Rao, former minister and a senior TRS leader, also is reportedly in touch with TDP leaders.
People are watching these somersaults silently. The politicians who are too clever by half do not realize that the bulging middle class is feeling insulted and hurt by machinations, tactics and unprincipled politics. All the three top leaders are deft players. They can take decisions on their own because they think they own the parties. It is a little different with the Congress.
Though every chief minister thinks he is the final arbitrator, a call from Ahmed Patel would make him realize his limitations. The people understand Congress party's style. They are surprised at the alacrity with which leaders are jumping the fence. There is no sense of shame or guilt on the part of the defectors and those who are engineering them. They think this tit for tat is their internal fight to settle scores and it has nothing to do with the people.
But there is a fundamental principle in public life that even leaders who have spent their lifetime in politics tend to forget. How a politician is understood by the people is more vital than what he really is. Perception is more important than reality. The top leaders are closely observed by the people, thanks to more than a dozen news channels. They read faces of the leaders thoroughly. Their words are carefully weighed.
People observe the politician, the businessman and the journalist with whom top leaders are closely moving. The caste, religion and region of the persons who are close to the top leaders, who is given which position and for what price are also factored in their calculations. People form their own opinions which no amount of arguments, protestations or persuasion would change. What Kadiam and Dadi had to say about Naidu, and Raghunandan, a media-savvy politician, about KCR after bidding goodbye to the TRS on Wednesday, have been there in public domain for years. The longer the marriage greater would be the bitterness at the time of divorce.
Anger accumulated over years against the supreme leader is given vent to immediately after quitting the party. The migration of a leader does not lead to shifting of voters. It gives a false sense of superiority over the rivals. Naidu, a senior leader, knows it only too well. But he does not want to be seen as a loser. It is going to be short-term gain for him, even if he succeeds in attracting the TRS leaders into his fold, if he fails to lend greater clarity to his party's stance on the question of Telangana.
If it is an individual politician, he would think of himself and his family. If it is the chief of a party, he would plan to win the maximum number of seats and capture power