Curious tale of Telangana's 'Mahakutami': Trust deficit, 'lack of discipline' threaten to derail anti-TRS Grand Alliance
As Telangana inches closes to polling day on 7 December, all's not well with the Mahakutami or Grand Alliance of the Congress, TDP, CPI and newly-formed Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) party in the state.
Hyderabad: As Telangana inches closes to polling day on 7 December, all's not well with the Mahakutami or Grand Alliance of the Congress, TDP, CPI and newly-formed Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) party in the state.
As if the much-publicised trust deficit between the rivals-turned-allies wasn't enough, reports of how "greed" and "lack of discipline" among the alliance partners may cost them their chance to defeat the state's ruling TRS, are trickling in. This is most visible in the allies' squabble over seat-sharing that has been making news.
In the so-called "friendly contests" playing out between the Congress and TJS in at least four — Khanapur, Dubbaka, Asifabad and Warangal (East) — of the 119 Vidhan Sabha seats, the Grand Old Party has fielded candidates despite TJS candidates filing nominations as well.
Congress playing Big Brother
That there was little coordination among members of the Mahakutami seemed visible from Day One. First, there was the delay over the announcement of candidates, then over allocation of seats to the alliance partners and then the slow efforts to withdraw other candidates from contesting the seats given to the allies. The Congress was frequently blamed for acting as Big Brother but without commitment to the common cause.
Now, the "friendly contests" are giving sleepless nights to candidates like K Vijay, TJS' man from the Asifabad constituency — not to mention ample opportunity to TRS campaigners to criticise the grand alliance as a "grand failure".
"How can you call it a friendly contest?" asks Vijay, "What is the meaning of a friendly contest? It is nothing but backstabbing. Congress leaders have not only cheated me but also our leader Professor Kodandaram (founder of TJS). It is the Congress that promised to allocate us eight seats including Janagaon from where our leader was supposed to contest. Finally, what happened? The Congress has fielded its candidates without bothering about our presence in these seats."
The pro-alliance voters too seem confused about who should get their votes in these seats — the Congress or TJS. "We were very happy when the Congress, TDP, CPI and TJS joined hands. But now, we are in a dilemma in Asifabad. I am not sure whom Kodandaram will accompany during the poll campaign — the Congress candidate or the TJS candidate," says K Bheema Rao, a Congress supporter.
A 'total failure'
Terming the Mahakutami a "total failure" and "sham", Telakapalli Ravi, political analyst and writer, alleges the alliance was shaky from the start.
"The 'friendly contests' will split the votes among the friendly contenders and finally help their main rival (TRS) win the election. It will not help the Mahakutami but may just help gauge the popularity of candidates. The Mahakutami should have avoided fielding more than one candidate from one constituency. Going by the Congress attitude, it seems it wanted to rope in Kodandaram, but does not want to help him in the election," Ravi opines.
CH Rajendar, a TJS candidate contesting from Dubbaka in Siddipet district, also came down heavily on the Congress, accusing it of betrayal. He attributed caste as the main factor behind the Congress fielding its nominee, Maddula Nageshwar Reddy, against him. "My joy knew no bounds when Kodandaram selected me to contest from Dubbaka. I belong to the backward class community. When I filed the nomination papers, Kodandaram accompanied me. The voters were enthusiastic. Around 18,000 people went with me for the filing. But not many are with me now that the Congress candidate has also filed nomination papers," he says.
"There was an offer from the Congress candidate, asking me to withdraw my nomination, but I declined. I do not want to be branded a cheat by accepting money from the Congress candidate. I am not saying I will win from Dubbaka, but it is an opportunity to showcase my popularity there," Rajendar adds.
Behind the 'friendly contests'
According to activist Professor Haragopal, a lack of confidence about the winnability of candidates is one reason behind the so-called friendly-contests. "The other reason is that the party leadership has no control over the candidates. Also, they lack discipline and patience,'' he says.
For him, such contests are aimed at getting publicity or money from opponents for withdrawing from the contest in their favour.
"Some candidates just want to test their popularity. It will tell them whether to remain in the party or to switch to another. It will also help the party leadership evaluate a candidate's capacity for future elections,'' the professor explains.
But Kodam Kumar, president of the Telangana Vidya Vanthula Vedike, Jalagaon district, believes that money and muscle power play a key role in elections.
"I am sure that candidates who can spend crores of rupees can win. I want the Election Commission to ban meetings and campaign programmes during the polls. The candidates must remain at their homes or party offices, and voters should be allowed to select the right person,'' Kumar insists.
Meanwhile, TJS spokesperson G Venkat Reddy made it clear that Kodandaram will canvass for his party's candidates and will accompany the Congress, TDP and CPI candidates where the TJS had not fielded its own. It also turns out that the squabble over seats was the very thing the professor had feared.
In an interview earlier this month, he had said that it was of utmost importance that the alliance’s seat-sharing deal be settled soon so that they can get on with campaigning as a united force — he was wary of losing the momentum that news of the Mahakutami had generated among those opposed to TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao’s rule.
The author is a freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters
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