S. Nagesh Kumar

HYDERABAD: Whatever the Congress and the TDP say or do during their campaign, the agenda for this summer’s byelections has clearly been set by the TRS. They may dispute the contention that polls are a referendum on Telangana but cannot disagree that they will be a test for the Telangana sentiment.

The Telangana party has to fall back upon this perceived sentiment in the elections since the incumbency factor is working against their candidates, all ex-MLAs, in many constituencies.

Minus this sentiment, it will be wash-out for the TRS in the election, going by perception of other political parties.

Stereotyped speeches

This is especially so since the TRS’ agenda has never gone beyond its demand for a separate State. The speeches of its leader K. Chandrasekhar Rao have become stereotyped for lampooning political rivals with sarcasm and colloquial proverbs without spelling out a road-map or a positive prescription for the economic or social development of Telangana region.

Indeed, the party has promised a plank for self-governance using local resources and undo, to the extent possible, the ‘damage’ caused by irrigation projects like Pothireddypadu head regulator, Pulichintala and Polavaram projects. It has pledged to appoint a Scheduled Caste person as Chief Minister and a Muslim as a Deputy Chief Minister to woo these sections.

No such luxury is available either to the Congress or the TDP. Their star campaigners, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy and N. Chandrababu Naidu, have to win the elections on the agenda of development of Telangana in the last four years and the lack of it respectively. Under pressure from leaders of their own parties, both leaders have lost no opportunity to repeatedly swear that they are not opposed to Telangana though they stop short of speaking about a ‘separate Telangana’.

‘No patent right’

Does this make the TRS the sole custodian of ‘Telangana sentiment’. “No. the TRS does not have any patent rights over Telangana sentiment”, APCC president D. Srinivas said recently without cogently explaining how the Congress party itself enjoyed a monopoly over it.

Telangana sentiment obviously is a euphemism coined by the TRS to typify the anger of people over the cultural hegemony of the Andhras, the regression in the cultivated area and surrender of the mandate given in the early 1970s when the Telangana Praja Samithi leaders squandered away the golden opportunity by re-joining the Congress even after winning 11 out of 12 Lok Sabha seats in the region.

On the backfoot

It is here that the Congress and the TDP are on the backfoot as their actions are open to scrutiny and debate having ruled the State for considerable lengths of time while the TRS is not encumbered by this problem.

The outcome of the May 29 byelections will show how far their explanations can counter the impact of the sentiment on the voters.