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A battle of anti-incumbency vs welfare-native sentiments in Telangana

The ruling dispensation is confident that not just welfare scheme beneficiaries and Muslim voters but also the renewed native sentiments against the domination of Naidu-led Seemandhra leaders would sizeably tilt it in favour of TRS.
As the campaign ended on Wednesday, analysts and representatives of political parties assert it’s going to be a battle of anti-incumbency against a combination of welfare schemes and renewed nativist sentiment.

Some key factors and voter groups that could influence the outcome range from Muslims, migrants from Seemandhra, or the new state of Andhra Pradesh, welfare scheme beneficiaries, jobless youth and those influenced by renewed regional sentiment. While Muslims account for 12.7% of Telangana’s population and Seemandhra migrant voters account for nearly 15% of total voters.

The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leaders claim that welfare schemes reached over one crore people.

Telangana, with 2.8 crore voters, is set to go for polls on December 7.

While the TRS enjoyed an initial edge by announcing candidates for 105 out of 119 Assembly constituencies within days of dissolving the Assembly for early polls, thus delinking them from Lok Sabha polls in 2019, it also helped the Congress opposition to deploy its leadership, including president Rahul Gandhi, for a series of rallies and public meetings, apart from cobbling together People’s Front with Telugu Desam Party, CPI and Telangana Jana Samithi.

The opposition is pinning hopes on the disgruntled sections of the society, apart from the votes of Seemandhra migrants after Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu led Telugu Desam Party joined the Congress-led People’s Front.

Against this, the ruling dispensation is confident that not just welfare scheme beneficiaries and Muslim voters but also the renewed native sentiments against the domination of Naidu-led Seemandhra leaders would sizeably tilt it in favour of TRS. Political analyst Thunga Lakshminarayana said displeased sections of Telangana and the Seemandhra migrant voters should help the Opposition People’s Front to consolidate votes, ensuring a tough fight for the ruling TRS.

“While the welfare schemes would help TRS build a sizeable base of loyalists, one should not forget that those who didn’t get benefits far exceed the number of beneficiaries. We cannot rule out the possibility of populist schemes, including Rythu Bandhu, boomeranging on the ruling party,” Lakshminarayana said.

A person who is part of KCR’s think tank said rural voters, especially beneficiaries of schemes that improved electricity supply, Aasara pensions and Rythu Bandhu, have turned a bastion for the ruling party, apart from government employees, whose pay scales were increased substantially post Telangana formation.

“We think Chandrababu Naidu has in fact helped us a lot by joining the Congress-led People’s Front. It has facilitated us to reignite the sentiments among the native voters by highlighting the threat of domination from Naidu-led Seemandhra politicians over Telangana once again. It also helped us neutralise a section of the native adversaries and disgruntled sections of society,” said the person, who did not want to be identified.

“While there are several disgruntled sections in Telangana from jobless youth to those fighting for the social justice, there is no clarity on their size and influence on the poll outcome. Besides, Seemandhra migrants are not a homogenous group. They have influences of regional, political and caste affiliations and it is unlikely that the Seemandhra votes will go in favour of People’s Front en masse,” said political Telakapalli Ravi.

Referring to various poll surveys, analyst Manchala Srinivasa Rao said the emotionally charged government employees, unemployed youth, students, farmers and agitators during the Telangana movement were the major strength of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), helping him win in 2014 polls.

“Interestingly, all these sections are now against KCR. It is not clear if the survey agencies have taken into consideration these disgruntled sections, especially at a time when shift in half to one percentage of votes could alter the poll outcome,” said Rao.

Meanwhile, Congress Lok Sabha member Lagadapati Rajagopal on Monday announced the results of election survey by his team that indicated People’s Front leading the charts on Tuesday. TRS minister KT Rama Rao and KCR’s son challenged the authenticity of Rajagopal’s survey.

“The issue of poll surveys by Rajagopal in Telangana could also help the ruling TRS to reignite the regional sentiment given the role Rajagopal had played in opposing Telangana in the Parliament,” says Telakapalli Ravi. Rajagopal has famously used pepper-spray on MPs in the Parliament when the AP State Reorganisation Act 2014 was introduced to carve out Telangana from Andhra Pradesh.
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