United, they thrived: On the Andhra Pradesh result

A formidable alliance helped the TDP-led alliance win in Andhra Pradesh 

Published - June 07, 2024 12:20 am IST

Anti-incumbency in Indian State Assembly elections is not rare: governments with strong majorities can lose at the end of a term due to changed expectations from the electorate. Thus, the YSRCP’s loss in Andhra Pradesh to the grand alliance of the Telugu Desam Party-Jana Sena Party-Bharatiya Janata Party should come as no surprise. Yet, the scale of the defeat — the YSRCP could only win 11 seats, a fall of 140 from the 2019 elections, in the 175 constituencies in the 2024 Assembly polls, is astounding. In vote share terms, it suffered a 10 percentage point drop, but still landed a respectable 39.37% tally. But the TDP-led alliance did much better with a collective vote share of 55.3% — an increase of 9.75 points from 2019 and roughly the same as the drop in the YSCRP’s share. This allowed it to garner a lion’s share of the seats — 164 out of 175. It is quite clear that the TDP-JSP alliance allowed both parties to thrive. It helped them stitch up cumulative support from the Kamma and Kapu communities that form their bases and also compete against the YSRCP. By roping in the BJP, the alliance managed to also make the election a bipolar race — the Congress has yet to recover from its decimation after the State bifurcation — and make the best use of the first-past-the-post system that can allow parties/coalitions to get a disproportionately higher number of seats on the basis of a decent lead in terms of vote share.

But the electoral system and the mere presence of a competitive alliance alone would not explain the YSRCP’s loss. The Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government pumped in money into welfare schemes despite ballooning debt and fiscal health issues and focused on a targeted delivery of subsidies and benefits. But Andhra Pradesh’s record on the growth and development front has left much to be desired. Since its bifurcation, Telangana has emerged with the highest per capita income among major States, while Andhra Pradesh is ranked 10th. Even though the government hiked capex spending in the first quarter of FY24, it was the worst performer in FY23. Other unresolved issues such as the capital of the new State also resulted in a perception among voters about the inadequacy of the YSRCP government to focus on jobs and development as opposed to its “generous” spending on welfare. Mr. Naidu’s incarceration because of a purported scam only increased empathy for the TDP. It is now imperative for the new government to eschew the traditional politics of vendetta and work towards the State’s development. Mr. Naidu has a great opportunity; after all, his party is now indispensable in the new NDA government in New Delhi.

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