Congress set to form govt in Telangana: Did anti-incumbency hurt KCR’s BRS?

Congress set to form govt in Telangana: Did anti-incumbency hurt KCR’s BRS?

Dec 3, 2023 - 14:30
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Congress set to form govt in Telangana: Did anti-incumbency hurt KCR’s BRS?

Telangana appears to be poised for a change in power. The Congress is surging ahead with 65 seats, while the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) is trailing at 39 seats, the trends at 1.30 pm on Sunday (3 December) show. The counting of votes is underway for the 119 seats that went to polls on 30 November.

According to the Election Commission of India (ECI) trends, the Congress is likely to bag only Telangana as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is leading in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and even Chhattisgarh. Anticipating victory in the southern state, the Grand Old Party has dispatched Karnataka deputy chief Minister DK Shivakumar and 10 other leaders to Hyderabad to keep the flock together, sources told India Today.

What do the trends suggest? If Congress wins Telangana, what might have gone wrong for the BRS? Let’s understand.

Telangana Assembly Election Results 2023

The Congress has crossed the majority mark of 60 in Telangana and is ahead with 39.71 per cent vote shares against BRS’ 37.84 per cent, as per the leads at 1.30 pm.

BRS supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), who was eyeing a third term in the state, may lose the state this time. The incumbent Telangana chief minister has an edge in the Gajwel seat with a margin of over 9,000 votes against BJP’s Eatala Rajender.

In the Kamareddy constituency, Telangana Congress chief A Revanth Reddy, who is a CM aspirant if his party comes to power, is ahead of KCR by over a margin of over 2,000 votes.

telangana congress chief
Telangana Congress chief A Revanth Reddy is a contender for the CM post.

The BJP is leading in eight constituencies, while the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has an advantage in six seats currently.

In the 2018 Assembly elections, the BRS, then known as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), had swept to power again by securing 88 seats, the Congress was second with 21 seats while the BJP managed only one.

These trends confirm the predictions of the exit polls for the state, which had projected the Grand Old Party wresting power from the BRS.

What went wrong for BRS?

Many factors may dash KCR’s dreams of a hat-trick in Telangana. The supremo of BRS has been ruling the state since it was carved out from Andhra Pradesh in 2014. His party, which was at the forefront of the statehood movement, was banking on welfare measures and development initiatives to return to power.

However, anti-incumbency against KCR seems to have hurt its chances. KCR’s son and BRS leader KT Rama Rao, popularly known as KTR, had previously admitted there was a sentiment of anti-incumbency but added that there is “higher pro-incumbency”.

To counter any disapproval, the KCR government announced many schemes such as Dalit Bandhu for the deprived classes, Rythu Bandhu and Rythu Bima schemes for farmers, and double bedroom housing scheme for the poor.

As per The Wire, the BRS has, however, faced criticism over some of these welfare schemes over allegations that the government has left out a large number of eligible people under these initiatives.

Unemployment in the state was also a poll issue. While Telangana minister KT Rama Rao claimed that job creation and GDP growth in the state were the highest in the country, the issue of joblessness was raised by both rival Congress and the BJP. Paper leaks in recruitment exams further angered the unemployed youth in the state against the government.

Ajay Gudavarthy, an associate professor at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), wrote for The Wire that “problems of misgovernance and a loss of direction” marked KCR’s second term that began in 2018. He also pointed out the Telangana government’s “neglect” of higher education as KCR was “upset over youth being part of many of the social mobilisations” in the state.

According to NDTV, there is also a perception that with KCR and KTR at the helm, there is hardly any space for dissent in the BRS. The alleged corruption allegations against BRS MLAs in their constituencies could have also had an impact on the party’s prospects.

A resurgent Congress

Riding the wave of a massive victory in neighbouring Karnataka in May, the Congress leaders and cadres went with a new sense of vigour into the Telangana elections.

The party announced its six ‘guarantees’ focusing on women, minorities, farmers, and the marginalised well ahead in September. Congress MP Rahul Gandhi reportedly promised that these six guarantees would be approved in the first Cabinet meeting if his party wins Telangana.

The Congress also spread the narrative during its campaign alleging a tacit understanding between the BRS and the BJP. As per The Wire, this might have given a boost to the Congress among voters from Muslim and Christian minorities.

“They also focused on the alleged ‘arrogance’ of KCR and his MLAs – and the alleged ‘arrogance’ of Andhra Pradesh leaders is something that moved the people of Telangana during the statehood movement,” R Pridhvi Raj, a political analyst from the state, told The Quint.

The Congress steered its campaign around two planks – maarpu (change), and by portraying itself as Telangana ichchina party (the party that granted statehood), noted The Wire.
Telangana got statehood during the rule of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre in 2014.

The BJP replacing Bandi Sanjay Kumar as the Telangana unit chief in July this year with Kishan Reddy is believed to have led to its decline in the state. This benefitted the Congress which successfully projected itself as the only alternative to BRS, as per The Wire.

It looks like the Congress’ strategy has given it another southern state. As Telangana Congress vice president Kiran Kumar Chalama told PTI earlier in the day: “We were expecting victory, we were very confident of winning, but now it looks like a wave”.

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