For those of us that follow politics with academic interest, it is inconceivable that the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), more commonly known as the Majlis Party, based in Hyderabad and the BJP, can be on the same side of a political equation. One might argue that if PDP and BJP can come together, anything can happen! But what is unfolding in Telangana for the last few weeks seems to be opportunistic politics at a different level altogether.
Telangana CM KCR pulled off a minor political miracle by forging (unannounced) relationships with both the MIM and BJP.
Telangana CM KCR wants MIM’s support for the upcoming Assembly elections (only) and BJP’s support for the Parliament elections (only). This is impossible to accomplish in ordinary circumstances since Telangana is one of the few states that has simultaneous polls for State Assembly and Lok Sabha in 2019 (which everyone including the Prime Minister wants to happen for all states). So, what does he do?
At great expense to public and what has been dubbed an even greater insult to the voters that gave him a full five-year term with clear majority to govern the new state, KCR dissolved the Assembly a good 6 months before his term comes to an end. His stated reasons for doing what is generally considered an extremely irresponsible act are dubious. I tend to believe the speculation that he is doing this to keep his options open – move to the Centre in 2019 and bequeath the CM seat to his son, KTR.
The BJP and the Election Commission helped by not objecting and notifying the elections to the state Assembly to be held in December itself. PM Modi, who is a major advocate for simultaneous polls, also did not protest.
KCR fancies his chances to win Telangana again but doesn’t want to take any risk - hence the alliance with MIM which controls a significant voting block not just in Hyderabad but in several districts. BJP seems to have conceded the Assembly in exchange for support in Parliament elections - even their national spokesperson says so on TV!
Come May 2019, KCR is likely to publicly endorse Modi as PM and go to polls along with the BJP (Pretending that MIM doesn’t exist). BJP desperately needs to make up for seats that will be lost in Uttar Pradesh and Hindi belt and in KCR and the TRS, they perhaps see a replacement to Chandrababu Naidu and the TDP. As the opposition consolidates under Congress, KCR will have great bargaining power with BJP to land himself in the Union Cabinet and execute the long rumoured succession plan to install his son, KTR as CM of Telangana. Game. Set. Match.
KCR orchestrated all of this quite well as he always does but probably did not see the curve ball coming in the form of most unexpected coalition of Congress (main opposition) and TDP (battered but still commands vote share), along with TJS (new party started by Prof Kodandaram, a prominent leader in the Telangana movement along with KCR but has since fallen out) with a common goal to dislodge TRS. They are not exactly friends, but they realise they cannot beat KCR on their own.
The combined (and desperate for power) forces of TDP and Congress are likely to give formidable fight to TRS. In 2014, the combined vote share of TDP + Congress (40%) was more than that of TRS (34%). Things have changed since 2014, but it is no secret that electoral politics, especially in this state, revolve around caste, money and muscle power. It is now a battle of who gets the arithmetic right!
KCR may end up in the opposition at both the state and Centre and, I, for one, will not be surprised if that happens. I think he made a huge mistake by dissolving Assembly well ahead of schedule, but then, he is the political mastermind, not me! The voters of Telangana have a tough election ahead of them.
Views expressed are the authors own.