With its camp almost deserted in Telangana and its prospects looking bleak, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP)'s presence in the Lok Sabha elections in the state is going to be only a symbolic one. Reeling under the drubbing it received in the Assembly elections in December and the deep crisis due to desertions by top leaders, the TDP may enter the fray at the best to prove its existence in Telangana.
Elections to all 17 Lok Sabha seats in Telangana are scheduled in a single phase on April 11.
The TDP's Telangana unit leaders denied that the party is planning to skip the Lok Sabha elections but admitted that there are not many aspirants for party ticket. With its cadres looking completely demoralised, the party may field candidates in 3-4 constituencies and extend support to the Congress in remaining seats, party sources said.
Party's state unit President L Ramana has already submitted a report to party's national President and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu about their poll plans.
With his entire focus on Andhra Pradesh, where simultaneous elections to the state Assembly and Lok Sabha are scheduled on April 11, Chandrababu Naidu has taken no decision about Telangana.
In Telangana, which was once the stronghold of TDP, the party is struggling to find suitable candidates as almost the entire leadership has switched loyalties to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
With elections in both Telugu states scheduled in a single phase on the same day and Naidu also facing a tough challenge from the opposition YSR Congress in his state, he is not likely to campaign for the party in Telangana.
Moreover, Naidu is currently locked in a bitter fight with Telangana over the alleged data breach. The Telangana Police early this month booked an IT company providing services to the TDP for allegedly misusing sensitive and personal information of citizens of Andhra Pradesh, while Naidu alleged that TRS resorted to theft of TDP's data and gave it to the YSR Congress under a conspiracy.
The TDP chief has also upped the ante in Andhra Pradesh by calling the elections a fight between him and KCR, as Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao is popularly known.
The TRS, which treats TDP as an Andhra party and an "outsider", has attracted many key leaders of the party during the last five years. KCR has almost succeeded in achieving his goal of wiping the TDP from the state.
Analysts say, now there is hardly any TDP leader in Telangana who enjoys mass support.
The TDP had fought the recent Assembly elections under "Praja Kutami" or People's Front, which was led by the Congress and also consisted of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS). The Front came a cropper bagging 21 seats in 119-member Assembly.
Despite Chandrababu Naidu campaigning in the state, the TDP secured only two seats. One of the two MLAs last week defected to TRS.
Some Congress leaders attributed their party's poor performance to alliance with the the TDP as the TRS used this to its advantage by playing Telangana sentiment card. KCR accused the Congress of joining hands with "enemies of Telangana".
In 2014 elections fought in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the TDP had won one Lok Sabha seat. Malla Reddy, who was elected from Malkajgiri constituency, later switched loyalty to the TRS.
With the experiment of the grand alliance failing in Telangana, the Congress has decided to contest both Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in Andhra Pradesh on its own.
The Congress is preparing to contest all Lok Sabha seats in Telangana on its own. It, however, expects the support from the TDP and the TJS. The CPI is in talks with the Communist Party of India-Marxist for a tie-up.
(Mohammed Shafeeq can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)