Congress to get new allies in Telengana & AP

Congress was decimated in the 2014 assembly elections in Telengana. The party failed to open its account in both the Lok Sabha and state Assembly.

Kushal Jeena

Congress hopes to gain in the upcoming Lok Sabha and assembly elections in the southern states of Telengana and Andhra Pradesh after the party struck an electoral alliance with the Telugu Desam Party, a regional outfit that came to power twice in the undivided state of AP and continues to rule Andhra region after erstwhile state was bifurcated in 2014.

The Congress was decimated in the 2014 assembly elections in Telengana. The party failed to open its account in both the Lok Sabha and state Assembly. The prospects of the party this time appear better because it has entered into an alliance with the TDP. In Telengana, Congress, TDP and Communist Party of India have decided to jointly fight the assembly polls scheduled to be held later this year whereas ruling Telengana Rashtra Samiti and BJP would contest both Lok Sabha and state elections separately.

Having an alliance with the TDP will be a win-win situation for the Congress and TDP. They are all set to gain in case they enter into a seat-sharing deal. The Congress was completely wiped out in the previous state elections and has not yet recovered from the poll debacle it suffered due to division of the state. The performance of the party still depends on how many seats TDP allocates to Congress,” said a Hyderabad-based senior political analyst.

The alliance among TDP, Congress and the CPI could also pave the way for forging similar alliance in the Andhra region of the now bifurcated state. The electoral understanding reached between the leaders of TDP and Congress in Telengana has also boosted the moral of the workers of the two parties in the other Telugu speaking state.

“The BJP can only be defeated at the national level provided all secular forces join hands and unite, said a senior Congress leader who handles party’s affairs in Andhra Pradesh and Telengana.

The congress party is averse to having any electoral understanding with the YSR Congress party as the majority of the leaders of the Congress in AP are of the view that going with TDP would be beneficial for the party instead of the Jaganmohan Reddy’s party as both have same vote bank. The vote share of the Congress party has gone down significantly in AP after the bifurcation of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. Besides, the chances of Reddy going with the BJP are more than TDP reconciling with its former partner BJP.

The Telugu Desam Party had snapped its ties with the BJP and had also asked all its ministers in the Union Cabinet to pull out after Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned down TDP’s demand of according the special status to AP. The Congress has been sending overtures to the TDP since it parted company with the BJP.

The coming together of both the parties was at display for the first time when Congress extended its full support to the no-confidence motion that the TDP had moved in the Lok Sabha against Modi government in March this year. The TDP reciprocated it by supporting Congress party candidate for the office of the deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha. Both the parties along with CPI entering into an electoral alliance was announced after TDP and Left parties gave full support Congress’s nationwide shutdown call against the rising fuel prices on September 10. The unconditional support of the opposition parties made the strike a success.

The three-time chief minister of both undivided and divided state of Andhra Pradesh N Chandrababu Naidu began his political career from Congress party in late 70s and was made a minister in the then Congress government. In 1996 he rose to the centre-stage of national politics and became convenor of a non-BJP, non-Congress opposition-led United Front and successfully negotiated with Congress party the installation of two Prime Ministers of the joint opposition grouping that was ultimately pulled down by the then Congress chief Sitaram Kesari on ground that it lacked credibility .

The TDP supremo Naidu was forced to strike alliance with Congress in Telengana after its lone MP and 13 of 15 legislators in the Telengana assembly left the party to joined TRS giving a jolt to TDP. In Telengana politics Naidu is considered as an anti-Telengana leader because of his reluctance to support the separate Telengana agitation. Both TDP and Congress were never on the same wavelength as they are today.

The Congress leadership realized the need to ally with TDP after its decimation in the 2014 elections because the TDP’s loyal vote base in many urban areas is still intact and the Congress party will have to get the vote share of TDP to defeat TRS in the urban belts particularly in areas around Hyderabad city where a large number of people from Andhra Pradesh have settled down over the years.

The problem the Congress leadership is facing in the new alliance is reluctance on the party of its workers over it. The workers of the Congress party have been fighting TDP from 1983 onwards as they have been traditional rivals. In the new situation it would not be easy for the Congress leaders to persuade them to work for TDP candidates. This situation will hold key to the success of the alliance in both the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana. The managing the dissent would be a major stumbling block for the leaders of both the parties once the distribution of tickets is over because under the new alliance.

On the other hand the TRS chief and the state chief minister K Chandrasekhar Reddy has started playing old trick of painting Naidu and Congress as those who have been against the creation of separate Telengana state.

The Telengana experiment needs to be watched closely in the political circles to see if it has worked as it could become a role model for other opposition parties who are not on good terms with the Congress being political rivals.

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