Often, the line separating pragmatism from opportunism is very thin. After promising to merge with the Congress if Telangana was brought into being, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) is now averse to even allying with the national party. In the changed political situation post-bifurcation, the Congress needs the TRS more than the TRS needs the Congress. With opinion polls indicating that the TRS would do well even without an alliance with the Congress, the Telangana party resisted the pressure from the Congress, first for a merger and later for an alliance. Although TRS president K. Chandrasekhar Rao indicated that his party was willing to extend support if the Congress was able to get into a position to form a government after the election, this can be of little comfort to the national leadership of the Congress. Given its record, the TRS could just as easily switch support to the Bharatiya Janata Party, which too supported the creation of Telangana. For the TRS, an alliance with the Congress would mean surrendering too many seats prior to the election. While an alliance would surely enhance its winning chances, the party might actually end up with fewer seats given the large number of seats that it would have to allocate to the Congress as part of an electoral understanding. Parties that opposed the creation of Telangana are unlikely to fare well in the region, and the two major parties are indeed the TRS and the Congress. For the stronger of the two, the TRS, an alliance thus did not make much sense.

While the Congress needed an alliance with the TRS, the party was obliged to drive a hard bargain. Andhra Pradesh was one of the States where the Congress did well in 2009, and the party could not have afforded to give up claims to seats it had won in the last election. After having been the stronger of the two parties until recently, the Congress was unable to adjust to a situation where the TRS was dictating the seat-sharing talks. An alliance would have been impossible without a climbdown, and the Congress leadership would have thought it better to test the electoral waters on the strength of its support for Telangana statehood than as a junior partner of the TRS. But, unfortunately for the Congress, its principal rival at the national level, the BJP, is enjoying greater success in finding allies. The BJP looks set for a tie-up with the Telugu Desam Party, which might do well in the Seemandhra region. Whether in the pre-election or post-election phase, the BJP seems better placed to draw in more allies. Andhra Pradesh was crucial to the Congress being able to form a government at the Centre in 2004 and 2009, but even before the notification of the 2014 elections, the party is already in a political mess in the State.


Telangana, a crucial determinant of victoryApril 23, 2014

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