Though the two states voted differently, the Congress lost ground in both
The results of the the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections in Andhra Pradesh dismayed Congress leaders while at the same time frustrating the Yuvajana Sramika Ryotu Congress Party (YSRCP), a splinter group.
The extraordinary circumstances that prevailed in the State in the aftermath of the bifurcation combined with the overall anti-Congress mood of the electorate all over India to erode support for the Congress. The State, which sent the largest contingent of Congress MPs both in 2004 and 2009, decisively voted against it this time round, even as two regional parties, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in Telangana, emerged victorious.
In February, a few months before the general election, Parliament passed the bill to carve out Telangana as the 29th State of India while retaining the name Andhra Pradesh for the residuary State. In creating Telangana, the Congress thought it would reap huge electoral dividends as it expected the TRS to merge with it as a quid pro quo. However, TRS leader K. Chandrashekar Rao reneged on his promise and chose to go alone as he aspired to become the first CM of the new State, further adding to the Congress’s woes. In the residuary State of Andhra Pradesh, the Congress swam against the strong current of people’s resentment against dividing the State without addressing their concerns or fostering a consensus.
In Telangana, the TRS, which led the campaign for a separate State for more than a decade, emerged victorious by winning 11 of the 17 Lok Sabha seats and 63 of the 119 Assembly seats, and emerged as the party with the largest vote share. While the Congress secured only two seats in the Lok Sabha and 20 in the Assembly, the TDP-BJP alliance won two Lok Sabha seats. The TRS secured votes in a significant way from all sections of society although its vote among Muslims was significantly lower. The perception that the creation of Telangana was largely due to the relentless campaign waged by Mr. Rao contributed to its victory. Mr. Rao thus was the preferred choice of more than half the voters for chief ministership.
It is, however, shocking that the Congress could not win even a single seat in the Lok Sabha or Assembly elections in what remained of Andhra, a State that was considered its citadel for a long time. The fight here was mainly between the TDP and the YSRCP, with the Jaganmohan Reddy-led party being the front runner for several months before polls. The party hoped to cash in on the popularity of the welfare schemes introduced by Y.S.R. Reddy and also the sympathy factor due to his untimely death. It has also virtually assumed the mantle of the Congress, which has steadily declined over the past four years.
However, the TDP was able to recover and offer a stiff fight to the YSRCP, largely due to its alliance with the BJP, whoseprime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, gained rapid popularity. The alliance was also strengthened by the support extended to it by popular cine star Pawan Kalyan, younger brother of Chiranjeevi. The perception that TDP president Chandrababu Naidu was an experienced leader capable of building the new State and bring development to the region seems to have helped the TDP in its victory.
Social basis of voting
More importantly, the shift in the votes of certain sections of the electorate favoured the TDP in this election. Traditionally, the Reddis, a dominant peasant caste, voted for the Congress; and the Kammas, another dominant caste, voted for the TDP. What swung the results in favour of a particular party was the vote of the Kapus (a numerically large caste in Andhra) and the backward castes. While the YSRCP secured a substantial proportion of vote among Reddis, Scheduled Castes, Muslims and Christians, the TDP secured an equally substantial proportion of vote among Kammas, Kapus, and the backward castes.
As expected the two regions of the State voted differently. The voting patterns reflect that the electorate accepted the reality of the bifurcation even before Telangana was formally created. The TDP, however, has emerged as a party that has some base in both halves of the undivided State of Andhra Pradesh. This might enhance the prestige and strength of that party at the national level.
(E. Venkatesu and K.C. Suri teach in the department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad)