If there is one person in the Congress who has no confidence in the no-confidence motion being moved by the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) in the Andhra Pradesh assembly tomorrow, it is Kiran Kumar Reddy. The Andhra Pradesh chief minister has been exuding optimism that his government will scrape through without losing much sleep over it. Insiders in the Congress reveal 'book adjustments' of the political variety will ensure status quo.
So what then is the real purpose of moving a no-confidence motion? Officially, TRS leaders say the government's majority is suspect and it can fall if the opposition mounts an united onslaught. They point to the fact that there are a number of Jagan coverts in the Congress camp who could do a Trojan horse.
The Congress may expel at least nine known members of the Jagan mandali and thereby bring down the half way mark in the House and that will help its cause in the event of a vote. But the biggest help could come Kiran's way from bete noire and Chittoor district mate Chandrababu Naidu, without whose support the no-confidence motion will have no momentum. The Telugu Desam is undecided whether to lend its support to the no-confidence motion. Given that there is no love lost between the TDP and the TRS, its leaders are wary of the pink party's gameplan.
There is a powerful lobby within the TDP that is against having any truck with K Chandrasekhar Rao. It feels:
• that the TRS will obviously focus on Telangana in the Assembly and paint all those who do not sail with it as anti-Telangana. Such a strategy, the TDP believes, is aimed at embarrassing it and the YSR Congress - two parties with Seemandhra leanings. Though the TDP gave a letter vaguely supporting Telangana in December, it is seen as a half-hearted promise.
• it hurts TDP's ego to play a supporting role within the assembly to a party that has just 17 MLAs, as compared to its 85.
• there is not much merit in voting for a no-confidence motion that will be defeated, even if narrowly. For that Naidu will have to pause his padayatra in the politically important Godavari districts, something he is not keen to do. Especially when he is not the one moving the no-confidence motion.
• even if it was to be assumed that the government will fall, the TDP is hardly in a frame of mind to face elections. The last three years have been disastrous for it as the Telangana agitation and Jagan's rise saw it lose considerable ground. It has not won a single byelection since 2009 and it would need to make the most of the next twelve months to end its spell out of power.
• The TDP also doubts if the no-confidence motion is sponsored by the Congress with an eye to target it.
Seven TDP MLAs also are unofficially in the TRS and YSR Congress camp and if the TDP asks for their disqualification, the move will help the Congress bring the half way further down.
In comparison to the TDP's detailed SWOT analysis-like dissection of the TRS mind, the latter is quite clear on what it wants to achieve. While in order to get more parties on board, it has broadened the scope of the discussion under the no-confidence motion to include issues like power crisis, everyone knows their agenda to the T. The TRS realises that struggle on the street has not fetched them rich dividends and have therefore moved into political mode. With just a year for elections, the discussion in the Assembly will provide it with a platform and a captive TV audience across Telangana, which the TRS wishes to exploit.
The discussion, it hopes, will also put pressure on the Telangana Congress MLAs. KCR is banking on a few of them who have already been promised TRS tickets in the next elections, to break ranks and defy the whip.
There is another dimension to the TRS move. Assuming that the Congress has nothing to do with it, as the TDP suspects, it means the TRS has decided to move closer to the BJP camp. Already there is talk that KCR and Narendra Modi could share stage at a public meeting in Telangana in the near future. Apprehensions over the minority vote in the region notwithstanding, a TRS-BJP combine will be a formidable electoral alliance.
The TRS is also the only party that would not mind an early election. Just like Naidu, even YSR Congress would not want to fight elections early, with its leader inside jail. The MIM has been on the back foot in the last three months, with the Owaisi brothers spending time behind bars and need time to recoup their political strength. In contrast, elections after a year would mean the TRS has to ensure that the Telangana sentiment does not get diluted in any way so that it is able to harvest it to the maximum in the elections.
Its immediate task meanwhile is to get 30 MLAs (one-tenth of the total strength of the House) to ensure the motion is tabled in the House. The TRS has 17 MLAs and it will look to BJP, CPI, MIM and the Independents to support it.
The Budget session of the Assembly that begins on Wednesday promises fireworks but then in the political world of behind-the-scenes dealmaking, it could also end up becoming a damp squib.