KCR’s calculation is that if assembly poll is clubbed with the Lok Sabha elections, both the Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi factors will come into play.

Why Telangana CM KCR may prefer early assembly polls in state
news Opinion Saturday, September 01, 2018 - 17:25

IAS officers, IPS officers, DSPs, Inspectors. In the last week, Government of Telangana has become the ‘Government of Transfers’, issuing orders by the dozen. With the zonal system for recruitments approved by the President of India, locals will get 95 per cent of government jobs in Telangana. Add to this, sops have been announced for just about every community in the state, from women self help groups to temple priests to those in the education sector. This has only reaffirmed the buzz that K Chandrasekhar Rao is getting battle-ready to dissolve the Telangana assembly this weekend to go in for elections this winter.

If the mass transfers were not indication enough, KCR's decision to convene a cabinet meeting three hours ahead of his mega public meeting on Sunday evening on the outskirts of Hyderabad, is a clear giveaway. Most expect him to make the big announcement at the meeting, after having secured the formal cabinet nod for his decision. 

But the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) that like all regional parties has power vested in one person and his family by extension, is keeping up the suspense. For the record, KCR's son and IT minister KT Rama Rao says the large public gathering is only to create the momentum in an election year. 

The meeting itself is being billed as the mother of all political public meetings. Close to 25 lakh people are expected to converge on the 2000 acre area that has been cleared to accommodate the crowd. The preparations are ambitious, with 10,000 tractors on their way from the countryside to the meeting venue. Add to this 7300 of the 12000-odd RTC buses in Telangana that have been hired for the occasion. KCR wants to ensure the optics are larger than life, to impress the TV-viewing public of Telangana and the country at large with the sheer audacity of the mass of people turning up to listen to a regional leader. 

Why would KCR want to advance assembly polls with a deliberate intent to delink them from the Lok Sabha elections? Since 1999, united Andhra Pradesh has always voted for its assembly at the same time as the Lok Sabha elections. 

KCR's calculation is that if clubbed with the Lok Sabha elections, both the Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi factors will come into play. KCR will be reduced in the public imagination and narrative to a third player, with no stakes in the Delhi power game. In his view, this runs the risk of people opting for the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls, since the BJP is not much of a player in Telangana, thereby blunting KCR's ambitions to play a national role. It is also possible that if the Congress does well in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, it could carry that momentum into Telangana. 

An election in December will allow KCR to make it a presidential form of assembly election. The voters will be asked to decide between KCR and the non-KCR crowd. It will put him at a great advantage as none of his political rivals in the Congress can sway the crowd in the local Telangana dialect in the manner that KCR can. Besides, the Congress simply cannot match up to the financial clout of the TRS.

Though his critics attribute KCR's decision to astrological advice given his penchant to factor in the stars before taking important decisions, the fact also is that the TRS chief does not wish to risk facing an election in peak summer. At this time, Telangana has a feel-good factor after a good monsoon. His social welfare programmes especially the Rythu Bandhu scheme under which his government has given Rs 8,000 in two instalments to 58 lakh farmers, has created a positive impression for KCR politically. 

A lot will, however, depend on the Election Commission if it will play ball. Incidentally, the Telangana BJP is miffed with the possibility of early polls and has conveyed its unhappiness to Amit Shah. The BJP president shrugged off the complaint, arguing KCR has the right to dissolve the assembly whenever he wishes to. But the possibility of a PIL in the court, pointing to the wasteful expenditure in holding two elections within a gap of four months is certain. 

Getting the assembly poll done and dusted with, will also allow KCR the luxury of deciding on a Lok Sabha-specific strategy as he targets to win as many of the 17 Lok Sabha seats. If he wins the Assembly polls assuming they are held at the end of the year, KCR will carry that momentum into April 2019. It will enable him to position himself as a two-time chief minister and throw his hat into the ring for the top job (as PM), if neither the BJP nor the Congress get the numbers. 

Alternately, he could do business with the BJP as well, if Modi falls short of the numbers, in return for plum posts at the Centre. The bonhomie between KCR and Modi, with the two meeting thrice in the last two months, has not gone unnoticed in political circles. It may well be the trailer for the joint production releasing next summer.

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