Silver Lining in the By-Elections

By Nalamotu Cakrahvarthy

Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Nagam Janardhan Reddy must be congratulated for their recent hard-fought victory in the by-elections. Yes, the winning candidates spent a lot of money; but, so did the losing parties.

Like in every other election, TRS contested on a single issue platform of a separate state. TRS claimed that they are the only genuine party representing all those people aspiring for a separate state and accused Congress and TDP of deceiving the people on the issue of separation. Congress and TDP were on the defensive from the get-go on the issue of separation.

At this juncture, it is an open secret that Congress Party is not in favor of division. However, the national leadership lacks courage to state its position publicly. They could also be wary of a possible Jagan-KCR tie up. Congress Party’s inability to come out openly against division should be a concern for all integrationists. It could mean that Congress Party is capable of using this issue for electoral gains, yet again!

 

TDP is also seen by most people as either indifferent to division or against division. Therefore, in my view, those that voted for TDP or Congress could not have separation as their primary criterion when voting.

Given this scenario, there are a couple of encouraging elements that integrationists can take comfort in, despite separatists’ victory.

Firstly, the BJP angle- the rumblings from Mahbubnagar is that BJP used both the community and the communal card to steal the TRS vote. Going forward, a strengthening BJP will continue to steal more votes from TRS than from Congress or TDP. Division of the separatist vote does not bode well for TRS. If BJP and TRS enter into an alliance down the road, it will result in TRS losing Muslim support. Such a tie would only strengthen the argument that MIM has been making for many years on the issue of separation- that in a separate state BJP would emerge as a stronger party.

Second and more encouraging aspect is the erosion of vote for parties that have clearly stood for separation. In the year 2010, when by-elections were held for 12 seats, TRS raked in 66.26% of the vote. In the just finished by-election TRS got 45.39% vote including Nagam Janardhan Reddy’s votes. Even if BJP’s vote is added to the total, the percentage votes received comes to 50.05%. To the contrary, Congress and TDP which have been dilly-dallying on the issue of separation gained votes. In 2010 by-elections, Congress got 18.70% votes and TDP got 7.22%. In this election both the parties strengthened and got 23.74% and 19.22% respectively. Both the parties appear to have gained at the expense of TRS.

Yes, while TRS won in 5 of the 6 seats it contested in, integrationists can take a little bit of comfort in dwindling TRS support among the voters. A strengthening BJP will also alienate Muslims and accordingly weaken TRS. We have to wait till the next election to see how things play out. Clearly, the separatist issue is not going away anytime soon.