TRS supremo K Chandrashekar Rao repeatedly emphasised that his party would win 100 seats out of 119 on offer in Telangana. At one point of time at the height of the campaign, he increased this expected tally to 108. His critics dismissed it as a mere electoral gimmick to enthuse his supporters and demoralise the Opposition. Some even said that KCR was living in the world of his own dreams.
Many TRS leaders even opined that although their leader had made that bold claim, they were expecting no less than 75 seats. The poll of the exit polls had put the tally at 66. The veteran politician-turned-pollster known as Andhra Octopus, Lagadapati Rajagopal made a bizarre prediction when he said that the Congress-led Mahakutami would win as many as 65 seats, laying waste to the TRS.
Laying to rest all these predictions and speculations, KCR led his party to an impressive win.
This author has been writing all along that KCR enjoyed positive support among the electorate. There can be myriad explanations and interpretations for the nature of the mandate, but the underlying fact is that the people of Telangana have certainly given KCR a positive mandate. Notwithstanding the criticism on his undemocratic and inaccessible style of functioning, KCR remained popular both as the leader of Telangana and as the chief minister who authored several welfare schemes.
His schemes like Rs 8,000 per acre in capital support to farmers — which he has now promised to increase to Rs 10,000, insurance worth Rs five lakh per farmer, pensions for the elderly, widows, and differently-abled, cash assistance of over Rs one lakh for the girl child at the time of marriage were hugely popular across lines of caste, religion and region.
Although the anger among the unemployed, the non-implementation of land for Dalits schemes and tardy progress in his flagship two-bedroom housing scheme for BPL families were weaponised by the Opposition, the overall positive mood prevailed especially in the rural areas. There has been a significant rise in the overall voting percentage. Rajagopal interpreted it as a reflection of an anti-government undercurrent.
But, the reality was that women voters and the elderly voters participated in a big way in the voting process, giving KCR a positive mandate. Women seem to be unperturbed by the criticism that there was not a single woman minister in the KCR cabinet. Despite the criticism that the cost of irrigation projects was deliberately hiked a great deal, the people have not responded. Instead, they were happy for having got irrigation facilities, setting aside the allegations of the politician-contractor nexus at the highest level .
The TRS would not have received such a landslide victory without KCR enjoying pro-incumbency. The anti-incumbency was only sporadic and confined to certain sections, while there was no universal discontent over the KCR regime.
Despite the positive image the chief minister is enjoying even as his MLAs incur the wrath of the people, the Opposition campaign was mainly targeting KCR. Thus, it chose to walk into the trap laid by the ruling TRS to convert the election into a sort of referendum on KCR.
Surprisingly, the Congress and the TDP were accusing TRS of heralding family rule. The two Opposition parties are already mired in dynastic politics and any such criticism of the KCR dispensation could cut no ice with people. The Opposition narrative on KCR's corruption failed to convince the electorate given their experience with the governments led by the Congress in the past.
Meanwhile, KCR cleverly attempted to overcome his shortcomings. Government employees were, for instance, angry withr KCR for not announcing any interim relief. He has compensated it with promises of extending the retirement age to 61 years.
In a shrewd move, KCR converted a threat into an opportunity when the Congress and TDP joined hands to reap the dividend of favourable electoral arithmetic. KCR has successfully presented the Congress-TDP alliance as a sellout by Andhra chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, thus triggering Telangana sentiment yet again. Naidu's intense campaign and the involvement of many ministers from Andhra Pradesh and fielding the granddaughter of NT Rama Rao sent the wrong signals to core Telangana voters, who perceived it as an attempt to dominate the politics of state.
It may be recalled here that people of Telangana fought for a separate state on the question of political domination of Andhra. The TRS, KCR and his son KTR tried to paint the contest as something between the Telangana son of the soil and the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.
Meanwhile KCR's strategy of delinking Assembly and Parliament elections by resorting to the premature dissolution of the House also paid rich dividends. KCR took a calculated risk by renominating most of his sitting MLAs and announcing the candidates well in advance, while the Congress-led People's Front was immersed in protracted seat-adjustment negotiations. The parties lost valuable time in pacifying rebels. All this has certainly impacted the chances of the Opposition adversely .
A host of factors ranging from a positive vote for KCR to a strategic deficit in the Opposition defined the Telangana 2018 mandate.
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Updated Date: Dec 11, 2018 19:57:44 IST