Reshaping strategies to gain mileage in elections

Slowly but steadily, political players in Andhra Pradesh are reconciling to the reality of a Telangana State and beginning to take a re-look at their strategies for gaining maximum mileage in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.

The simultaneous elections, ahead of the actual division of Andhra Pradesh, complicate the task of the political parties in tailoring their strategy.

In effect, the elections in Andhra Pradesh would be at four different levels — to the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in two geographical areas, which would later become part of Telangana and the residual State of Andhra. The parties will be looking at the possible scenarios at the national and State levels in their formulations.

Of the four main political entities — Congress, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), YSR Congress and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS ) — only the Congress and the TDP have presence in both regions. The TRS is confined to Telangana, while the YSR Congress, which opposed the division of Andhra Pradesh, has a strong presence in Seemandhra.

The Congress is hoping to gain the maximum in Telangana by projecting itself as the party which facilitated the birth of the new State. The party leadership wants the TRS to merge with the Congress.

However, TRS leader K. Chandrasekhar Rao is expected to bargain hard. On Saturday, he met Congress president Sonia Gandhi to express his gratitude to her for making Telangana a reality. The merger or electoral alliance talks are expected to take a concrete shape in the next few weeks.

The TDP, which tried its best to block the Bill till the last minute, is expected to deploy all its resources and invest its energies in the Seemandhra region. There have been some hints in recent weeks from TDP leader N. Chandrababu Naidu that his party may not be averse to an electoral understanding with the BJP.

Mr. Naidu’s speech to party workers in Hyderabad on Saturday made it amply clear that pragmatism rather than emotions should guide the party in crafting its electoral strategy.

Indications here suggest that the BJP, which has minimal presence in Andhra Pradesh, would not have any issues in reaching out to the TDP. A pre-election alliance with a party like the TDP helps the BJP in looking for more allies, as several parties at the moment are wary of a tie-up because of the Narendra Modi factor.

The BJP, on its part, is trying hard to appeal to voters in Telangana on the ground that but for its support, the new State would never have seen the light of day. The party would target the Congress for the “inordinate delay” in the division, which only created bad blood among people of both the regions.

At a joint news conference here, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, said the last three sessions of Parliament were lost on account of the mishandling of the Telangana issue by the UPA. It was Congress MPs who led the disturbances in these sessions.

The campaign theme of the YSR Congress is evident in Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s outburst on Friday. He termed the special package promised to Seemandhra a pittance, and charged the Congress with dividing the State undemocratically.

“The Congress has undemocratically divided the State throwing all parliamentary practices to the winds to gain some seats in Telangana region and the package was no match to the huge deficit the region would face in the coming years. The Congress would face a rout in the region in the coming years,” he told presspersons.

His party is planning to meet President Pranab Mukherjee and explore legal options.