The list of 115 candidates announced by the Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) party supremo for the upcoming Assembly elections reveals the political calculations of Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao.
To begin with, the Chief Minister declared that he would fight from two constituencies: Gajwel and Kamareddy. KCR successfully fought the last two Assembly elections in 2014 and 2018 and won with huge margins from Gajwel. Yet, he is choosing to fight from two constituencies this time. Many leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Congress scion Rahul Gandhi, fought from more than one constituency in the past. While Narendra Modi fought and won from both Vadodara in Gujarat and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh in 2014, Rahul Gandhi contested from his family’s traditional constituency, Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, where he lost, and Wayanad in Kerala, from which he won in 2019.
Usually, a party’s top leader gets into the fray from more than one constituency to either improve the party’s prospects in a new geography or demography or as insurance when they face the danger of losing their traditional constituency. In KCR’s case, it is not that Kamareddy and Gajwel represent two separate regions – like the east and west or the north and south of Telangana. Kamareddy is almost next to Gajwel, with only Dubbak separating the two. Both constituencies are similar in their demographics – rural and equidistant from Hyderabad. That leaves the fear of loss from Gajwel as the only reason for KCR choosing to contest from two almost adjacent constituencies. Evidently, the repeated threats by BJP leader Eatala Rajender, who won the Huzurabad by-election, despite KCR using all his might to defeat him have rattled KCR. His pride and, more importantly, his claim to the leadership of the Telangana statehood agitation, on which his party’s political fortunes depend, was at stake.
The other significant feature of the candidate list is that despite an apparent disaffection among the voters against tens of BRS MLAs, the BRS supremo repeated all current MLAs with a few exceptions. While KCR chose a new candidate for Vemulawada because the current MLA’s citizenship was in question, in Korutla and Secunderabad Cantonment, he gave tickets to the offspring of the erstwhile MLAs. The only real changes were in six seats.
Firstly, it became apparent that KCR’s daughter, Kavitha, and his son, Taraka Rama Rao, did not have a say. On the one hand, the meagre number of tickets, amounting to less than six per cent, allocated to women discredited Kavitha’s attempt to project herself as a champion of women’s rights, while on the other, the absence of young leaders who had already started their election campaigning based on Rama Rao’s assurances laid bare the lack of confidence his father had in his political acumen. Taraka Rama Rao had to leave for foreign shores to hide his embarrassment.
Secondly, of the six MLAs denied tickets, five were MLAs from constituencies reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The reasons cited for replacing the MLAs – allegations of impropriety against them and their lack of energetic participation in party programs, were to be taken seriously, then a lot more MLAs should have been replaced. It is anybody’s guess why KCR dared to replace only candidates from reserved constituencies, as even worse allegations, like those of corruption, sexual harassment, encroachment of public lands were made against those MLAs belonging to politically dominant castes.
Thirdly, it became clear that KCR intentionally pushed the Communists – CPI and CPM – towards the Congress. While he needed their support to defeat Rajagopal Reddy, the BJP candidate in Munugode by-election, where the Congress was too weak to split the opposition vote, in the upcoming Assembly election, his strategy is to strengthen the Congress so that the opposition vote does not consolidate with the BJP. He is confident that, like in 2014 and 2018, the Congress and the Communists will have no objection to their winning MLAs joining the BRS after the elections.
Fourthly, as soon as the list of candidates was announced, the Media was agog with the news that the list did not include a single candidate from the numerically strong Mudiraj community to which Eatela Rajender belongs to. Some reports mentioned that only one person from the community was given a ticket. In either case KCR seems to have lost any hope of getting votes from the Mudiraj community. Not just Mudiraj community, but the disproportionately lower number of tickets allocated to Other Backward Class (OBC) candidates points to KCR’s thinking on electability. After 10 years of his rule in Telangana, he is confident that no social change was allowed in Telangana, and he has ensured the politically dominant castes are made even stronger since Telangana’s formation.
And finally, to ensure the victory of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul (AIMIM) party, which he calls a friendly party, KCR will field candidates from all constituencies where MIM usually wins. The calculation is obvious for any casual observer of Old City’s politics.
(The author is BJP TS spokesperson)