K’taka polls 2018: As BJP hopes to regain foothold in south, Telugu states watch warily

Naidu is likely to benefit from the BJP’s defeat in Karnataka, while KCR might face a resurgent Congress in Telangana if Siddaramaiah makes a comeback.
K’taka polls 2018: As BJP hopes to regain foothold in south, Telugu states watch warily
K’taka polls 2018: As BJP hopes to regain foothold in south, Telugu states watch warily
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The Assembly elections in the south Indian state of Karnataka is expected to be a game changer for the neighbouring successor states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

The BJP blew the poll bugle hoping to turn Karnataka into a gateway to the south and expanding its footprint below the Vindhyas. It aimed to turn into reality its “Mission 350”, a strategy to secure 350 out of 545 Lok Sabha seats in the coming Parliament elections on its own. However, the task appears to be not a cakewalk given the public mood reflected in the outcome of the recent byelections held on the party’s home turfs – Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, besides Bihar.

BJP’s hopes on the south

The electoral reverses forced the BJP to nurse its hopes on the south, although it is considered to be hostile terrain and home to regional parties.

The ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in Telangana seem eager to read into the BJP’s electoral fortunes for their own reasons. Modi’s pain in Karnataka is Chandrababu Naidu’s gain in Andhra Pradesh after the latter pulled out from the NDA projecting the BJP as a “betrayer” of the truncated state. Naidu stayed put in Delhi for two days, attempting to expose the “true colours” of the BJP vis-à-vis the fate of bifurcation-related promises.

AP’s special status sentiment

However, Naidu chooses to tread with caution with respect to the Karnataka election as he is not prepared to be accused of siding with the Congress by abdicating his party’s anti-Congress philosophy.

“We will not openly campaign against the BJP in Karnataka but will certainly let word of mouth do the work,” a TDP leader commented, wishing to be unquoted.

The martyr image put up by Naidu is expected to generate sympathy among Telugu voters that may work against the BJP’s interests in at least 40 out of 225 Assembly seats in Karnataka that border the three Rayalaseema districts and in a considerable chunk of Telugu voters in Bengaluru.

“The hawkish Modi has to be reined in and we should make it happen in the Karnataka elections,” feels a senior TDP MLC from Rayalaseema region. All the Telugu-speaking people in Karnataka are seething in anger against the BJP over how it deceived their home state. But it has to be translated into an anti-BJP campaign by the TDP by acting as a trigger, he stressed.

The Telugu settlers, mostly software professionals based in Bengaluru, have already taken to social media to vent their anger against the BJP.

T Lakshminarayana, a political analyst, told TNM that the BJP may also have to face the hostile mood of Tamil voters, in the areas that share borders with Tamil Nadu, during the elections for the party’s stand on the Cauvery water dispute.

What do the Karnataka polls mean to KCR?

On the contrary, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) of the TRS is likely to face a resurgent Congress in his home state in the event of a comeback by Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. CPI Telangana state secretary Chada Venkata Reddy said the Congress will receive a fresh lease of life in Telangana if the BJP fails to contain Siddaramaiah.

After all, KCR promised to deliver “Bangaru Telangana”. To realise this dream, the government is expected to fulfil three major election promises – 1 lakh jobs for unemployed youth; three acres of farm land for each of 3.5 lakh Dalit families and 3 lakh double bedroom flats for the homeless poor.

But the KCR government’s four-year progress card on these major programmes has failed to cheer the people, Venkata Reddy said. The TRS government in the budget session of the state Assembly admitted that only 28,000 out of 1.13 lakh job vacancies were filled in various government departments; only 5,000 Dalit families have received land and 7,000 poor families have been given double bedroom flats so far.

Perceiving a threat from the principal opposition, the KCR government targeted the Congress by expelling two of its MLAs and suspending the remaining 15 from the budget session of the Assembly. Currently, the Congress leaders are on a bus yatra covering all the 119 Assembly segments exposing the “misrule” of the TRS government.

The Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president Uttamkumar Reddy lambasts KCR for being despotic and inaccessible to the people. He cites Rao’s failure to turn up at the secretariat for the last one year as a case in point for his charge. Buoyed by the party’s notable gains in the Assembly elections in Gujarat and in the byelections in the northern states, the state Congress leaders are planning to hold a massive rally in Telangana by inviting party president Rahul Gandhi.

KCR pitched a third front against both the BJP and the Congress and even elicited support from vocal regional satraps like Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal. But he appears to be wary of the fallout of his strident anti-BJP campaign which obviously may benefit Congress, his arch rival.

BJP floor leader P Vishnukumar Raju said the party will deploy a team of leaders from AP to counter the rhetoric over the special category status in Karnataka. The party has already designated former union minister Daggubati Purandeswari as election in-charge in Karnataka in a bid to woo Telugu voters.

Raju ruled out the impact of special category status on Karnataka voters. “Our party will present a fact-sheet relating to the special status. I hope Telugu voters will be wise enough to act in the elections without getting carried away by the TDP’s talk of sentiment revolving around special status,” he added.

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