Pawan Kalyan the only 'Andhra face' in Telangana polls


by IANS | Tue, Nov 14, 2023, 03:07 PM

Hyderabad, Nov 14 (IANS) The 2023 Telangana Assembly elections are different from two previous elections in the state with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) not entering the fray this time.

The recent arrest of TDP supremo and former chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and the subsequent developments forced the TDP to stay away from Telangana Assembly elections.

Naidu, who was arrested by Andhra Pradesh CID in September in alleged Skill Development scam, is currently on interim bail on health grounds and he is facing investigation in at least three other graft cases.

This is the first time since bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh that the party is not contesting elections in Telangana.

The TDP had contested the 2014 elections in alliance with the BJP. While the TDP won 15 seats, BJP bagged five.

TDP won the seats in constituencies in Greater Hyderabad and Khammam district, which have a sizable number of voters hailing from Andhra Pradesh.

However, almost all the MLAs of TDP later defected to the TRS (now BRS). In 2018, the TDP contested Telangana elections as part of Congress-led Maha Kutami or grand alliance.

Naidu had actively campaigned in the company of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. However, the alliance faced a drubbing as it won only 21 seats in the 119-member Assembly.

In 2018, TDP bagged two seats, both in Khammam district. The TDP’s decision not to contest the elections this time is likely to help the Congress, which is locked in a direct fight with the ruling BRS.

The Congress leaders hope that the TDP's traditional voters will back their party to prevent a split of anti-BRS votes.

However, BRS leaders maintain that the voters hailing from Andhra Pradesh have been voting for their party which is working for the welfare of all without any discrimination.

Naidu's absence from the electoral battle is significant as in both the previous elections TDP had used its presence to build a narrative around conspiracy by the Andhra party for an entry into Telangana.

TRS leaders to invoke Telangana self-respect by appealing to people to defeat what they call the designs of Andhra party to get control over state's resources.

Though Naidu had been claiming that TDP works for the welfare of Telugu people of both the states, TRS leaders tried to portray him as a leader who represents the interests of Andhra Pradesh.

However, the entry of Jana Sena Party (JSP) leader and actor Pawan Kalyan may dash the hopes of the Congress.

JSP, a constituent of BJP-led, had originally planned to contest 32 seats on its own.

However, the BJP central leadership intervened to make Pawan Kalyan agree for 8 seats. The JSP has announced candidates for the eight constituencies.

However, Pawan Kalyan is not contesting the election in Telangana as he is focussing on Andhra Pradesh, where he has already announced alliance with the TDP for Assembly polls scheduled next year.

Last week, Pawan Kalyan shared dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at ‘BC Atma Gaurav sabha’ or BC self-respect public meeting in Hyderabad.

The actor-politician is the only 'Andhra' face in Telangana this time. A bitter critic of Congress, Pawan Kalyan is also likely to campaign for BJP candidates.

The leaders of BJP, which was going aggressive in Telangana till a few months ago, were keen to go it alone. However, the fall in the party’s popularity graph following defeat in Karnataka forced them to reconsider their stand.

They succeeded in roping in Pawan Kalyan, who is popular as 'power star' among his fans. The BJP leaders hope that he may help in transfer of TDP votes to the NDA.

On the other hand, Congress leaders believe that Pawan Kalyan factor will not have much impact as he failed miserably in his home state in 2019 polls.

The Congress party also got a boost when Y. S. Sharmila announced that YSR Telangana Party (YSRTP) will not contest Telangana elections.

She said she did not want to become a hurdle in the path of Congress and provide another chance to KCR to come back to power.

Sharmila, daughter of former chief minister of united Andhra Pradesh, had floated YSRTP in 2021 with the slogan of ushering Rajanna Rajyam (a reference to welfare rule of her late father) in Telangana.

Claiming to be daughter-in-law of Telangana, she had undertaken state-wide padyatra to reach out to people and also challenged KCR government with allegations of corruption.

Sharmila had also announced that she will contest Assembly polls from Palair constituency in Khammam district. Her decision came as disappointment to party leaders and cadres but she defended it saying if KCR becomes chief minister for a third time because of her, history will not forgive her.

Anticipating YSRTP's entry into electoral battle, BRS leaders had already started attacking her. BRS leader and minister T. Harish Rao had stated at a few meetings that anti-Telangana forces are coming together.

He recalled that Sharmila's father was opposed to the formation of Telangana state.

Harish Rao also cited the reported statement of Pawan Kalyan that he could not eat when Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated.

Kalyan is yet to start campaigning for JSP-BJP candidates for November 30 elections. Once he hits the roads, BRS leaders may start invoking Telangana self-respect and target him.

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