Congress, TDP at the crossroads

Hyderabad, July 31: Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee president D Srinivas has committed political suicide and former chief minister and Opposition leader Nara Chandrababu Naidu, once hailed as a master strategist, stands accused of fratricide.

Friday’s results of the byelections in 12 Assembly constituencies in Telangana, which were swept by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi with the BJP retaining its lone seat, are expected to cause a churning within the two principal parties — the Congress and the Telugu Desam.

What has baffled many is not so much the re-election of all those who resigned for the cause of a T state as the manner in which voters steamrolled the Congress and the TDP. While the MLAs, who resigned, notched up massive margins ranging from 50,000 to nearly one lakh, TDP candidates lost their deposits in a majority of the seats.

By dragging the Congress into the byelections for his own political interests, Srinivas, who projected himself as a chief ministerial candidate, will certainly rue his blunder.

However, the implications for the Congress will not end with his exit — which seems very likely. Congress leaders from Telangana will be compelled to reconsider their ambivalent stance on the T state issue and become more belligerent for their political survival. The results have instilled the fear of god in them.

If Congress candidates did not fare as badly as TDP nominees, it is because a section of the voters feel that the grand old party is favourably disposed towards a T state but is being reined in by leaders from coastal Andhra.

But the people of Telangana were not willing to give any such benefit of doubt to Chandrababu Naidu. He declared support to the Telangana statehood before the 2009 polls and the party did quite well in the region, winning 32 out of the 55 seats it contested. When the D-Day came, he developed cold feet and adopted his now (in)famous “two-eyed policy,” meaning that both regions were like his two eyes. He committed something akin to political fratricide by fielding candidates in the bypolls and allowing the voters to murder them. One of the two eyes of the TDP has now been blinded and it is bound to set alarm bells ringing among TDP legislators about their future.

What is equally uncertain is how the other eye will react. If only he took an unequivocal position in favour of an integrated state, perhaps people of the coastal region would have solidly stood by the TDP. But even that is doubtful now.

The other tragedy of this election is that the warriors of the two parties did not even enter the battlefield. Srinivas was confined to his seat, Chief Minister K Rosaiah chose not to campaign while Naidu did not even bother to issue a statement seeking votes.

As one analyst put it, the people of Telangana decided to vote for T on Dec. 23, 2009, the day Union Home Minister Chidambaram did a volteface and went back on his announcement that steps would be taken for the creation of a separate state. And they duly delivered their vote when polls were held on July 27. The results also reflect another important aspect.

The people’s mood has now moved beyond the TRS and its faulty steps which cost the party dearly in the past. The campaign this time has seen much wider participation from artists, poets, teachers, students and employees. The TRS only reaped the benefits of it.