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Conspiracy theories galore!

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Conspiracy theories galore!, K Ramachandra Murthy, Electronic Voting Machines. Andhra Pradesh has been divided by Parliament but the Appointed Day was...

With Chief Election Commissioner Sampath sounding poll bugle, the political temperatures are set to increase on par with the heat in the climate as the nine-phase poll is slated to peak in mid-summer. There are a few firsts this time. None Of The Above (NOTA) would be provided for in ballots for the first time in the history of Indian parliamentary democracy to enable the voters to reject, if they wish, all the candidates in the fray. Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) would be employed at all polling booths all over the country without exception making it a hundred per cent electronic poll.

Andhra Pradesh has been divided by Parliament but the Appointed Day was set to be June 2nd, a clear three months after the Presidential assent to suit simultaneous election for Lok Sabha and Assembly. This gap between Notified Day and the Appointed Day is also unprecedented. While the ruling Congress will be entering the arena with double incumbency disadvantage without strong leadership with Rahul Gandhi providing a remote and reluctant captaincy, the main Opposition party is completely dominated by a single politician, a modern sardar, Narendra Modi. BJP was led by the duo of Lal Krishna Advani and Atal Behari Vajpaee for many decades. In 2009, it was Advani who led the party at the hustings, but he was ably assisted by Sushma Swaraj, Murali Manohar Joshi, Arun Jaitely and other senior leaders. This time it is only Modi. Other leaders seem to have no role in the election. The nagging question is whether the high profile campaign by Modi would fetch him the coveted crown. He has been running a very aggressive and energetic fare. The only doubt is he might become stale by the time of polling. Has he peaked too early? All questions would be answered on May 16 when the ballots would be counted.

Modi seems to be riding on a popularity wave even in small towns in Coastal Andhra. He has votes where there are no BJP workers. There is no need to have cadres for turning popularity into votes. NTR did not have strong cadres all over the State when he swept the polls within nine months of launching the TDP 30 years ago. It remains to be seen if Modi’s ratings are real or manipulated by the friendly media owned by big corporate houses which are known to be keen on seeing Modi in Prime Minister’s chair. There is no dearth of drama in Indian politics. When things looked certain to be favouring a straight contest between Modi’s BJP and Rahul’s Congress, Karat of the CPM sat with ten other leaders one fine afternoon to announce the resurrection of the Third Front. We have Jayalalithaa who takes the top honours seriously. She almost closed a deal with the Left parties as far as Tamil Nadu is concerned. Mulayam Singh Yadav and Laloo Prasad may have been the most prominent children of revolution scripted by Ram Manohar Lohia. Though they have been savouring it, they are still left with enough fight in them to stop Modi in his tracks. Modi, on his part, has gone more than half the way to prove a point; that he is not untouchable any more. By embracing Ram Vilas Paswan, Modi was signaling to other political parties which may think of an alliance with the BJP, particularly a party like the TDP or Asom Gana Parishad of Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. The Gujarat strongman is understood to be keen on pre-poll alliances.

It is a case of double dose democracy in Andhra Pradesh. It is in fact three folds. Polling would be held for Lok Sabha and Assembly seats notwithstanding the belated municipal cacophony schedule to be over by the month-end. We are witnessing two different types of polarisations in two regions. While it would be the Congress, TRS to figure in first and second slots in popularity ratings in Telangana, the BJP and the TDP have yet to decide on an alliance either in Telangana or Seemandhra. The BJP in Telangana prefers to go it alone although its counterpart in Seemandhra finds virtue in aligning with the TDP. As things appear at present the YSRCP and the TDP are neck and neck in most of the 13 districts in Seemandhra with the Congress likely to make a little difference in the north coast. It is too early to write off the ruling party. With Pavan Kalyan suddenly threatening to plunge into the field, the harassed community which allegedly owns him gets more confused. The YSRCP is smarting under the glare of the Directorate of Enforcement which has been attaching huge properties belonging to its leader YS Jaganmohan Reddy. The party might suffer set back due to funds crunch.

Telangana scenario is a little different. The two parties that are seen in dominant positions in Seemandhra are in the margins in Telangana where people are celebrating statehood. The people of Telangana may be forced to choose between the achiever and the giver, by pitting K Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR), chief of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) against Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Why is TRS going back on its promise to merge with the Congress party once its only demand of statehood for Telangana was conceded? Is the decision of the TRS leadership not to merge final and irrevocable? What about an alliance? Is there any conspiracy behind the latest moves by KCR? As conspiracy theories dominated the political discourse in the last four years, if not more, a secret pact is seen by some political leaders in the latest developments in Andhra Pradesh. Though KCR categorically ruled out merger of TRS into the Congress, some politicians insist that it is a deliberate attempt to encourage migration from the TDP in Telangana. KCR has listed reasons for his decision. Admitting Vijaya Shanti, an MP expelled from TRS, and Arvind Reddy, a TRS MLA, into the Congress is supposed to be the main provocation. Transferring seven mandals in Khammam district to Seemandhra in the name of submergence under Polavaram project is another. The reasons cited are not very convincing but the political calculations involved in the decision can be justified. There is nothing wrong in TRS trying to protect its independence by staying away from the Congress’ bear hug where it is sure to lose its identity. Its resolve to play a decisive role in the reconstruction of Telangana also cannot be brushed aside. The Congress party would have loved to have TRS in its belly. An alliance at least is a must for the party to retain majority of the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in Telangana. If KCR refuses to have alliance, then it would be an open, all out war between two former allies. To avert a showdown, Digvijay Singh, AICC general secretary in charge of AP, has called on KCR on Wednesday afternoon.

In spite of his best efforts, Chandrababu Naidu, TDP president, has been finding it difficult to convince his colleagues in Telangana that it is possible, after all, to win the elections. Some MLAs from TDP had crossed over to the TRS. But many have stayed back with the party. It goes to Naidu’s credit that a substantial chunk of the party is solidly with him. Naidu is the first to complain of a conspiracy. He sincerely believes that the Telangana bogey was raised only to make him inconsequential in the city of software where he has showcased his skills, creativity and enterprise. It was orchestrated by YS Rajasekhara Reddy, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Health Minister, and Digvijay Singh in the early years of this century. A conspiracy theory is defined as an explanatory proposition that accuses two or more persons, a group or an organisation of having caused or covered up, through secret planning and deliberate action, an illegal and harmful event or situation. Naidu’s other theory of conspiracy is the case of YS Jaganmohan Reddy getting bail after 16 months of incarceration. He accused Sonia and Jagan of conspiring in order to make Rahul Gandhi Prime Minister. Former Congress Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy also shares this view. He publicly accused Sonia Gandhi of conspiring with Jagan Reddy. YSR’s son has his own theory according to which TDP and the Congress are hand-in-glove in carving out Telangana State. Jagan may have got bail, but the Enforcement Directorate has not been allowing him any respite. This disproves the conspiracy theory. The Aam Aadmi thinks that all the politicians on both sides of the divide have conspired against him. He is waiting to punish them. NOTA may have more takers in AP than anywhere else.

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