uch has been said, written and bellowed about the Congress’ gloomy prospects in what are now Telangana and Seemandhra (for a refresher on how the two states came to be, check out The 545’s story from February).
Telangana voted last week and Seemandhra is among the 64 Lok Sabha constituencies that are polling today. As the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh winds up voting, we thought we’d simplify the bewildering combination of parties in the region and their chances at the polls.
Here’s one way to look at it. Five reasons why the Congress should be worried.
There is No Andhra Pradesh Anymore
Back in 2009 when it was still a single state, Andhra Pradesh supplied the UPA with 33 MPs. It was the largest contingent from a single state. Now, split in two, the region’s 42 Lok Sabha seats are a wild-card. It’s hard to predict how the newly-minted Telangana will influence voting, but the Congress’ chances don’t look good.
The ruling party gained little support from Telangana for its decision to divide the state. It had wavered for so long that the credit went to Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) for its persistent demand for a separate state. Meanwhile, the Congress’ base in Seemandhra fractured as the region seethed at both the split and the fact that Hyderabad would be the capital of Telangana.
And That’s a Bad Sign for Congress
For the first time, the Congress is looking slightly lost in a state that has long been its stronghold.
Since 1956, the year that Andhra Pradesh was created, the Congress has won nine of the 13 assembly elections in the state. The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has won the rest. The Congress has also consistently beaten TDP in every parliamentary election, except two: In 1984, when actor-turned politician N. T. Rama Rao swept to power and 1999, when incumbent chief minister, Chandrababu Naidu was elected.
There Are Too Many Parties
For nearly four years the Congress has been battling former chief minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, the son of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who launched his own party, the YSR Congress.
In March, weeks after the UPA agreed to a separate state of Telangana, former chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy also launched his own party. Added to the mix are Congress, TDP and the Telugu Rashtra Samithi (TRS), flush with its recent victory.
The BJP, which is sharing seats with TDP, is also in the running: it is contesting for eight seats in Telangana and five in Seemandhra. The TRS, meanwhile, has refused to ally with Congress ahead of the polls.
That’s a lot of players for 42 seats – 17 in Telangana and 25 in Seemandhra. What complicates matters further is that each of these parties except TRS, are contesting in both Telangana and Seemandhra.
Congress is Without a Star Campaigner
The UPA is yet to recover from Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s death in a helicopter crash in 2009. The former Chief Minister was a powerful figure who played a huge role in Congress’ win in 2004 and then again in 2009. His son Jaganmohan Reddy, who left Congress to start his own party has been campaigning furiously ever since, although he prefers to call them “consolation tours.”
Narendra Modi has been campaigning in Seemandhra, with translators in tow, including political heavyweight Venkaiah Naidu. The TDP has Chandrababu Naidu and the TRS, K. Chandrashekhar Rao. But the Congress’ star campaigners, meanwhile, were Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, who addressed one meeting each in Seemandhra. The former apparently didn’t draw much of a crowd.
Congress Might Have Lost Not One, But Several Vote Banks
Although some see Congress as a party predominantly supported by the Reddys, it has historically drawn voters from across the state, including Dalits and Adivasis. This time however, its vote base has splintered. YSR Congress, led by Jaganmohan Reddy, is relying on the same voters who once supported Congress.
YSR Congress is likely to win the Reddy vote in Rayalaseema, not least because of its vociferous opposition to breaking up the state. In Seemandhra, it’s in a tight race with the TDP, but will probably draw more Dalit and lower caste votes compared to the latter, which is perceived as a pro-upper-caste party.
In Telangana, Congress will lose a sizeable chunk of its votes to TRS, but those who are anti-Telangana might still vote for the grand old party.
Aparna Alluri is a freelance reporter, finishing up a graduate degree at Columbia University. For now, she is tinkering with words and sound, and she is always plotting where to travel next. Follow her @aparnalluri