Poll Fever Grips Five States as Political Atmosphere Warms up in India

Five states, which currently are going through polling process for legislative assemblies in India, are agog with the buzz of intense political activity, while political atmosphere in India as a whole country, which will have parliamentary elections in about seven months hence, is warming up. While it is too early to predict which party would get majority in the general elections and although Narendra Modi is still favored Prime Minister at the Center, the ruling incumbent parties in the five states are facing stiff competition from the Opposition parties.

Among the five States where elections are being held, three States – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – are ruled by BJP, while Telangana is ruled by Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), Mizoram by the Congress. The poll process in various phases in these five States will be completed and results will be out by about December 11. The State of Telangana will go for single day polling on December 7.

The political scene in Telugu-speaking States — Telangana and Andhra Pradesh – is getting murkier as a cold war of sorts is seen between the incumbent Chief Ministers — K. Chandrasekhar Rao and N. Chandrababu Naidu — respectively. It is understandable that political activity is intense in the young poll-bound Telangana State. But the political activity in the nascent, reshaped and truncated Andhra Pradesh State, which is going to have Assembly polls along with the Parliamentary elections sometime during the middle of 2019, is also intense as Chandrababu Naidu, whose ruling Telugu Desam Party that has deserted the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, seemingly feels insecure for various reasons. TDP is facing competition from the Opposition YSR Congress Party, whose leader Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy is intensely campaigning in Andhra Pradesh. The popularity of the YSR Congress Party, slowly but steadily growing in Rayalaseema area and in the north Andhra Pradesh districts like Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam. Even in the coastal districts like Krishna, Guntur, Nellore, and East and West Godavari districts, there are some caste-based groups that feel neglected. Sympathies for Jaganmohan Reddy, who suffered a knife injury in an alleged attempt on his life at the Visakhapatnam airport, are also growing.

In the dissolved Telangana Assembly, Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP has a few seats. But Chandrababu Naidu is facing the ire of Chandrasekhar Rao for former’s supporters including some officials allegedly influencing with monetary incentives to the voters in Telangana area to gain more seats for TDP in that State. To give a tough fight to the Telangana Rashtra Samiti of Chandrasekhar Rao that is going alone in the State, the Telugu Desam Supremo Chandrababu Naidu joined hands with once archrival outfit Congress Party, the Telangana Jana Samiti and the leftist CPI and formed what is called Mahakutami or Grand Alliance with a sole aim of seat-sharing and capturing the rule of the State.

Falling out from the grace of Narendra Modi a couple of months ago, Chandrababu Naidu has intensified campaign against the Prime Minister and his ruling party with a move to form an outfit on the lines of 1996-like United Front. To muster support to his proposed venture, Chandrababu Naidu has recently visited New Delhi and met Opposition leaders like Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Trinamool Party chief Mamata Banerjee, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and others. Chandrababu Naidu has also met Karnataka leaders like JD(S) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda and his son H.D. Kumaraswamy in Bangaluru, and in Chennai DMK chief M. K. Stalin as part of the efforts to form a large alliance to take on the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

In a latest move it is understood that the Andhra Pradesh government has withdrawn the general consent given to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate any case in the State. The CBI will have to seek permission from the Andhra Pradesh government before entering the State for official purposes. Sources in the government cited lack of confidence in the CBI due to the ongoing controversy and the case going on in the Supreme Court for withdrawing the consent. However, the State government’s move is being seen as escalating the confrontation with the Center as Chandrababu Naidu tries to rally together the non-BJP parties to form an alliance.

The only agenda for Chandrababu Naidu’s proposed national alliance of parties is to pull down from power at the Center Narendra Modi’s BJP government. Chandrababu Naidu is vigorously campaigning against Narendra Modi alleging he has not kept up the promises he made at the time of bifurcation of the unified Andhra Pradesh. Chandrababu Naidu says that the failed promises include special category status for his newly-formed State, and not enough funds are being allotted to it for its development. This argument of anti-establishment is fast catching up and hardening the sentiments of people against the Modi government in Andhra Pradesh.

At national level, as of now, Narendra Modi still enjoys the backing of many, and the Opposition parties, including TDP and the Congress Party point out, among other things, at the much-criticized actions of the Narendra Modi government’s demonetization of higher denomination currencies, the Goods and Services Act, and lately, the deal of pricing of Rafale fighters and their weaponry for modernizing Indian Air Force.

At the Telangana State level, K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s TRS seems to be enjoying the popular support of urban and rural voters because of the implementation of improvement projects that the government has taken up. In their vigorous campaign claims, Chandrasekhar Rao’s, son K.T. Rama Rao, daughter Kavita and nephew Harish Rao often quote the successful implementation of 24 hours uninterrupted supply of power, supply of drinking water to rural areas and infrastructure developments like roads and public transportation. The capital city of Hyderabad has been attracting IT and other establishments. Much development is also seen in towns like Warangal, Khammam and Nizamabad. The TRS government promises to complete the Kaleswaram project which would supply irrigation facilities to thousands of acres of farming land and construction of two-bedroom flats for the economically weaker sections.

But Opposition parties criticize Chandrasekhar Rao for not implementing his promise made at the formation of the new State to Telangana voters that a Dalit would be made the first chief minister of the State, and gradually promoting his family members like his son, daughter and nephew in the government. Chandrasekhar Rao also being criticized for making himself scarce for his ministerial and legislative members, and officials. The youth and students, especially the students of Osmania University, who supported and fought for the formation of the Telangana State, are not happy as they feel that they have been ignored by his government after the formation of the State.

While the fate of KCR’s TRS government will be known by the end of the second week of December, the fate of the Modi government at the Center and TDP government in Andhra Pradesh has to wait for about seven months.

-Contributed by Mr. JV Lakshmana Rao, a Freelance Journalist in Chicago.

Picture Credits : timesofelection.com

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