The residual state of Andhra Pradesh will be going to the polls on April 11. While the 2014 elections centred around the bifurcation and decimated the Congress, the upcoming polls had been revolving around the compensation for the bifurcation – Special Category Status (SCS) – which now will probably wipe out another national party from the state, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
With no other concrete issue having a pan-state appeal, the parties in the fray, except the BJP, had been effectively using SCS as a poll issue. While it was earlier assumed that only SCS would determine which party would come to power, recent developments in the state, including the ‘data theft’ issue, missing voter names and the murder of politician YS Vivekananda Reddy, uncle of YSRCP chief Jagan Mohan Reddy, have changed the course of politics in the state.
“The political narrative has shifted now, there are several tensions in the state. Everyday there is a new controversy cropping up,” says Telakapalli Ravi, senior journalist and political commentator.
Ravi says that the SCS issue has now waned, and only welfare schemes and policies proposed by the parties will help them come to power.
Expressing a similar opinion, senior journalist AM Khan Danny says, “SCS was the main point of contention till four months ago. However, that sentiment is no longer there. People will only vote for the party that promises better welfare schemes in their manifesto.”
Danny, however, opines that the denial of SCS to Andhra will cause a massive rout for the BJP.
After the state bifurcation in 2014, Andhra Pradesh was to be accorded SCS as per the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act 2014, which assures several financial benefits for the upliftment of the state. However, after the BJP formed the government at the Centre, instead of SCS they offered the state a Special Package. Though initially the ruling TDP, which was then an ally of the BJP, accepted the Special Package, it soon sensed the public mood prevailing in the state and took a U-turn on the issue.
Even after hard lobbying by the TDP, the BJP categorically denied SCS to the state, leaving the TDP no choice but to pull out its ministers and snap ties with the NDA. It joined other parties, like the YSRCP, JSP, CPI and CPI(M), in demanding SCS and evoking ‘Telugu pride’.
While the TDP has pinned the blame of the ‘poor development’ in the state to the BJP-led Centre not according Andhra SCS, the YSRCP has targeted the TDP for their U-turn, careful to not go against the BJP or PM Narendra Modi. The JSP, led by Pawan Kalyan, on the other hand has been slamming both the ruling parties – TDP and BJP – for failing on their promise to accord SCS to Andhra Pradesh.
“The state feels betrayed. The people are really angry with the BJP,” says political commentator T Lakshminarayana. Irrespective of the recent developments, he argues that SCS will still be the main factor determining which party comes to power.
“SCS is the major factor in this election. While several other factors will also determine who comes to power, SCS is a sentiment that the entire state resonates with. People are genuinely angry with the BJP, and the party candidates may not even get their deposits,” Lakshminarayana opines.