The elections to the Telangana State Assembly have unleashed speculation on which party will form the government. Pre-election surveys have favoured the parties depending upon who conducted them. Neither surveys nor their political pundits can decide the outcome of these elections. Only people do that. Despite the fact that the proof of pudding is in eating, curiosity outpaces reason.
If one were to take stock of the how, it becomes evident that certain factors play a deciding role in tilting the scales in favour of a party. Mainly four factors have always influenced the behaviour of the electorate, if not all at once but in turns. These are: charisma of the leaders, sympathy, anti-incumbency vs pro-incumbency and ideological proclivities of a majority of the voters. The last was rarely seen among Telugu voters, including before the division. An objective analysis of these factors and their likely impact in the ensuing elections is attempted here.
Among all the leaders of the contesting parties in the fray, only Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has proven charisma, which springs from his enviable oratory skills that almost unfailingly captivate the audience with witticisms laced with historical facts and figures having a direct bearing on the people’s lives.
His speeches not only entertain people but also ‘shock and awe’ them into instantaneous approval and surrender. No other leader in the State comes anywhere near him and hence on this score the TRS definitely stands a better chance considering the fact that quite a good number of elections in India were won by charismatic leaders like Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Vajpayee, NTR and MGR.
Sympathy is totally absent in any form for any party and hence its role will not be an issue in this elections.
With 1.3 crore beneficiaries of welfare schemes in 40 lakh families in the State, to speak of anti-incumbency is to make a laughing stock of oneself. On the contrary, the TRS enjoys pro-incumbency as every section of society has been a beneficiary of the government’s welfare or development policies.
Like in other States such as Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, the pro-people measures of the TRS did not begin on the eve of elections but soon after the formation of its government with a detailed plan of reaching out to everyone. Another unique feature of these benefits contributing to pro-incumbency is that the benefits offered relate to the basic needs of the people rather than outlandish offers like TVs, laptops and bikes.
That development and welfare programmes when delivered sincerely can overcome anti-incumbency not smeared by corruption or other charges can help in retention of power through ballot has been proved many a time in West Bengal and Tripura. Even in undivided Andhra Pradesh, the Congress under YS Rajasekhara Reddy and the Telugu Desam under Chandrababu Naidu could achieve it through pro-people policies.
Even, hardcore critiques are conceding that within the federal democratic setup, the TRS could reach out to the people and satisfy their needs. This government’s friendly feeling for the people has gone so far that a video in favour of government is being been circulated with a message that now people can live on government doleouts sitting at home.
Without doubt, the incumbent government has succeeded in taking concrete steps in realising Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian ideal of “greatest benefit to greatest number of persons”. No wonder, opposition parties realised that none of them alone can match the ruling party and formed an alliance smacking of fear of losing in the fray.
Shooting in the Air
Notwithstanding raising of a lot of hullaballoo by the opposition parties on corruption in the TRS government, there is much smoke in this than fire. So far, there has not been even a single exposure in a convincing manner. All the opposition parties did was just shooting in the air by way of filing cases against the developmental activities of the government, which only invited the backlash of anti-development image.
Coming to the fourth factor, the Telugu electorate was never ideologically indoctrinated in a significant way as people of West Bengal or Kerala. Its preferences were always weighed by populist measures or momentary issues. Hence, there is no ideological swing.
Nevertheless, a new factor in the forthcoming elections is the pre-poll alliance of parties of all hues. This is not an alliance of hardcore caste-based parties like in UP or Bihar, which could upset the apple cart of the ruling parties. All parties in the alliance except the TJS could not muster a majority in last elections.
Major leaders of the TDP and some winning horses of the Congress have already joined the TRS reducing their winning capability further. All those who joined the TRS are strong and experienced candidates who were returned from their constituencies several times and have strengthened the already strong ruling party.
The attempts to create a strong constituency on caste lines have so far not yielded any success as the ruling party’s all-inclusive policies are going strong. Thus, the TRS faces no threat from such caste-based consolidations.
Some sections of society who worked with Kodandaram and reposed trust in him expected from the TJS leader something different and unique leading to a paradigm shift. By joining the alliance, he has betrayed his political ambitions rather than pursuing a new vision for which he played an active role during the movement representing progressive intentions. This about-turn has become the best example of the dictum – “if you cannot beat them, join them”. This obviated the need for the TRS to deal with an unknown factor.
The analyses and conclusions in the media may have been different on the outcome of the elections; but the foregoing should clear it.
(The author was HoD, Technical Education Department, Rajanna Sircilla)