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Telangana polls: TRS dismisses threat of TDP-Congress combine, but looks to KCR to offset political implications

Arch-rivals Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Congress are all set to forge an alliance in Telangana with a view to capitalise on the electoral arithmetic. In 2014, TDP won 15 seats and stood second in another 20 seats. Which was fairly impressive given that the Congress that delivered Telangana won only 21 seats. The TDP got more votes than the TRS (Telangana Rashtra Samithi)—which won a majority—in as many as 15 seats.

 Telangana polls: TRS dismisses threat of TDP-Congress combine, but looks to KCR to offset political implications

File photo of K Chandrasekhar Rao. ANI

The Congress and TDP hope that their alliance will be a win-win. However, the TDP's strength has dwindled since 2014 with large-scale defections from the party to the ruling TRS. But TDP has a traditional base and is expecting a boost if it ties up with the Congress.

The first dilemma for Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on the possible tie-up with Congress is its implications for Andhra Pradesh politics. The tactics adopted by TDP in Telangana cannot be independent of the party's political interests in Andhra Pradesh. In fact, for TDP, Telangana politics has to subservient to its political interests in Andhra Pradesh as Naidu cannot be the contender for chief minister's seat in Hyderabad. Now, with the elections for both the states delinked, thanks to KCR advancing the elections in Telangana, it is an opportunity for the TDP to test the waters before taking a final call on an alliance in Andhra Pradesh .

The proposal for an alliance with Congress has given rise to differences within Andhra TDP, while Telangana TDP is unanimous in endorsing such a proposal. However, the TDP has been making ground in defending its alliance with Congress: at least in Telangana. Andhra Pradesh deputy chief minister KE Krishnamurthy, who earlier expressed serious reservations over any understanding with Congress, later clarified that politics of TDP in Telangana could be different given the fact that his party is in the Opposition.

Meanwhile, TDP leaders have been advancing the argument that their primary target is defeating the BJP and that their fight in Telangana is against the TRS, which is an undeclared ally of the BJP. Andhra Pradesh TDP secretary Gottipati Ramakrishna Prasad said that defeating the TRS is like defeating the BJP. Thus, TDP leadership believes that any alliance with Congress in Telangana will be a win-win for the party in both states. Telangana can thus be a testing ground to assess the reaction in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh so they can chalk out an effective electoral strategy.

The TDP has been in disarray in Telangana. Most of its legislators defected to TRS. The party lost its leaders and cadre. Subsequent to the note-for-vote scam—in which the party supremo faces allegations of bribing an MLA to vote for the party in MLC elections—N Chandrababu Naidu has been keeping away from party activities in Telangana. He is no longer vociferously criticising the TRS. All of which has demoralised the rank and file.

Based on the party's weak performance in elections to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, its voter base has also largely eroded. However, the TDP Telangana leadership believes that the party can recoup its strength and that the alliance with the Congress will give a much-needed confidence boost to party leaders and the cadre.

Meanwhile, the Congress finds the TDP as its most promising ally as it desperately looks for additional votes to dislodge the K Chandrashekar Rao regime. The Congress also plans to rope in Left parties and the newly-formed Telangana Jana Samithi of professor M Kodandaram. Congress leaders have been advocating that such a mahagathbandhan would be a formidable alliance to take on KCR.

However, the devil lies in the details. The Congress has already been facing stiff competition for party tickets. Any electoral understanding means the party will have to give up seats to its allies. It will be difficult for the Congress to accommodate competing interests, especially when it is in the Opposition. Though the TRS publicly pooh-poohed the Congress-TDP combine as a desperate bid by the Opposition to stitch up an opportunistic alliance, the party is certainly not unconcerned with possible political implications of any such electoral arithmetic taking shape in the Opposition camp.

However, KCR, addressing the media after dissolving the Assembly, said the TDP does not even have a fraction of one percent of the vote. Calling the TDP an Andhra party, the TRS supremo said that its alliance with Congress would prove disastrous for the latter. As the electoral understanding between Congress and TDP materialises, the TRS will further intensify its attack on TDP using Telangana sentiment.

While the Congress and TDP hope to capitalise on the electoral arithmetic, the TRS wants to counter any Opposition unity using the political chemistry argument. The TRS feels that KCR enjoys political chemistry with the people, which should enable it to win at the polls despite having to face a united Opposition.

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Updated Date: Sep 10, 2018 16:35:17 IST