Who will gain from TDP’s absence in Telangana elections?

The Telugu Desam Party that gave a new identity to Telugus across the country, washing off the ‘Madrasi’ image, was in shatters after the formation of Telangana.

November 01, 2023 07:39 pm | Updated November 02, 2023 01:05 pm IST - Hyderabad

What next? TDP that gave a new identity to Telugus across the country, washing off the ‘Madrasi’ image, was in shatters after TS formation.

What next? TDP that gave a new identity to Telugus across the country, washing off the ‘Madrasi’ image, was in shatters after TS formation. | Photo Credit: T Vijaya Kumar

After it entered Telugu politics in 1983 with a bang, uprooting the then-invincible Congress, the Telugu Desam Party’s (TDP) bi-cycle symbol will not be seen on the ballot box in the Telangana region for the first time in 40 years.

The party, which not only brought refreshing politics to Telangana but also gave the Backward Classes (BCs) a new political identity, has now decided to stay away from elections in Telangana. The TDP that gave a new identity to Telugus across the country, washing off the ‘Madrasi’ image, was in shatters after the formation of Telangana.

Vote base shrinks

The vote base has shrunk considerably since the Telangana agitation as TDP was dubbed an ‘Andhra Party’ being led by N. Chandrababu Naidu, who hails from Chittoor district, during the separate statehood agitation. The birth of the new State and Mr. Naidu’s election as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister in 2014 were the final nails in its mass popularity though it continues to be strong in certain pockets.

15 seats in 2014 polls

Despite being dubbed as an anti-Telangana party, the TDP surprised everyone by winning 15 seats in the 2014 elections when Telangana sentiment was at its peak. Its alliance partner, the BJP, won seven seats. After nine years and two terms, the BRS has managed to swallow most of its popular leaders and cadre. The committed voters of the party will now have to look at other parties that are closely inclined to its leadership or support those that they feel will protect their interests.

The TDP support base comes mostly from the large Kamma community in and around Hyderabad, apart from the BCs, who had a close association with the party for decades. It has considerable influence in terms of voters and perception creators in six to seven constituencies in Hyderabad apart from four constituencies in Khammam, three in Nizamabad and two in Nalgonda district.

So where are these voters likely to go?

The TDP supporters voted for the BRS in the city in 2018 for a variety of reasons, including the confidence given by the BRS about their safety and also Hyderabad’s image of an IT destination remaining intact. However, in districts like Khammam, the supporters voted for the TDP candidates in Sattupalli and Aswaraopet, despite the strong anti-Naidu narrative created by KCR. Both the MLAs later defected to the BRS.

Now, these supporters seem to have some kind of grudge against the BRS for its lukewarm response in condemning Mr. Naidu’s arrest in Andhra Pradesh in an alleged misappropriation of funds in the Skill Development scheme. The denial of permission for protests in the IT sector area, whose growth is largely credited to Mr. Naidu for his initiation in the early 2000s, also added to their agony.

The BRS leaders realised the damage quickly and a spree of ministers and MLAs condemned Mr. Naidu’s arrest. Municipal Minister K.T. Rama Rao too, backtracked on his initial opposition to the protests and clarified he only objected to protests in the IT sector area and not Dharna Chowk. Ministers Puvvada Ajay Kumar and Speaker Pocharam Srinivas Reddy were others who condemned the arrest to satisfy the huge voter base of TDP in their constituencies.

Advantage Congress?

Despite all these efforts, observers say that the Congress is likely to attract the TDP supporters’ votes for two reasons. If Telangana Congress president A. Revanth Reddy coming from TDP background is one reason, the other is Congress being seen as the main challenger for BRS. KCR too, comes from the TDP, but now he is seen tilted towards the YSR Congress Party, with which the TDP has a running battle in Andhra.

Will the Jana Sena, TDP’s alliance partner in Andhra Pradesh, get the benefit in Telangana, where it is contesting in association with the BJP? The Jana Sena doesn’t seem to be too interested in Telangana nor will it make an impact on the overall outcome of the poll result. This factor may force TDP supporters to stay away from it in Telangana. The lack of big names in the Jana Sena in Telangana may also fizzle out any interest in the TDP.

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