Gauging Public Pulse: All parties in a tizzy in TS

Gauging Public Pulse: All parties in a tizzy in TS

Even as all major parties - BRS, Congress and BJP - are intensifying their campaigns, there is no clear picture as yet of which one has an edge in Telangana. Whether it is in rural areas or in urban segments, voters are keeping their cards very close to their chest. In the past talking to those who participate in rallies used to give some indication, but now they are all hired activists who are paid Rs 500 each per day plus food packet and, perhaps, a bottle of liquor. If you ask anyone on the street or any cab driver or any other person, pat comes the reply: “Emo Sir, tight antunnaru,” (Can’t say sir, seems to be tough contest)

The countdown for polling in Telangana has begun. All political parties have intensified their campaign which would end on November 28. But the youngest state this time is presenting a very interesting scenario. Unlike in 2014 and 2018, knowing the pulse of the people this time has become a difficult task. Whatever analyses the pollsters have been doing are either based on their political affiliations or random survey reports which are subjective.

The real voters whether it is in rural areas or in urban segments are keeping their cards very close to their chest. In the past talking to those who participate in rallies used to give some indication, but now they are all hired activists who are paid Rs 500 per day plus food packet and perhaps a bottle of liquor. If you ask anyone on the street or any cab driver or any other person, they would say “Emo Sir, tight antunnaru,” (Can’t say sir, seems to be tough contest).

One thing is clear, the Congress party has gained ground in Telangana. Certainly, its performance this time would be better than what it was last time. But then the BRS has been trying hard to demolish the claims of the Congress party regarding the five guarantees it had given in Karnataka and how the farmers in neighbouring state are agitating for power for agriculture. This certainly has cast some shadow on the Telangana Congress party which is trying hard to unseat the pink party.

Issues like Dharani portal and sinking of pillars at Medigadda in October and the allegations that the BRS government had failed in fulfilling its three main promises, water, funds and jobs and showcasing of the six guarantees, Mahalakshmi, Rythu Bharosa, Gruha Jyothi, Indiramma Indlu, Yuva Vikasam and Cheyutha seem to have gone well with the voters.

The assurance of Vidya Bharosa card worth Rs 5 lakh for students, setting up Telangana International Schools in every mandal and Rs 10 lakh under Rajiv Aarogyasri Insurance, Gruha Jyoti scheme top the chart, which seem to have made the women and youth in urban areas to think whether to vote for Congress or not.

The Congress party has pressed into service all its top leaders including the former AICC president Rahul Gandhi and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi to lead the campaign. This has enthused the cadre and the campaign has been on in full swing. Leaders like Priyanka Gandhi have been repeatedly saying that the expiry date of BRS is over, but this does not seem to have gone well with the people. Another main problem for Congress is that it does not have a CM face who can create confidence among the voters.

This has come as an advantage to the BRS. Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao and party working president K T Rama Rao have been going on whirlwind tours and in a very strategic manner addressing not only the common people but also different communities, youth and other sections, highlighting how Telangana has been transformed in the last two terms of BRS and how it proposes to move forward from good to great Telangana.

KCR and KTR have been explaining how the state would be committing a great mistake if it gets lured by the “false and empty promises” of the Congress party. Not just that, they are now even saying a vote for BRS will ensure the State will go from local to national and from national to international, by taking up mining activities in other countries as well.

What is interesting is that people in large numbers are seen in all public meetings of both BRS and Congress and even BJP which has lost most of its ground and time. BJP’s appeal, The “Sabko Moka Diya bar bar, Hamko Dekar Dekho Ek bar” appeal and issue of orders for setting up of Turmeric Board and assurance of a turmeric research centre or the road shows of Amit Shah and other Union Ministers have not, however, gained enough traction to take on the BRS. Analysts say it is all part of BJP-BRS strategy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, would be in Telangana on Monday, perhaps, as part of the wrap-up exercise of the poll campaign.

But still it has become a tough task to assess which way the wind is blowing. Certainly, there is palpable nervousness among all leaders. A lot would depend on the image of the local candidate this time if the mood of the voters is any indication.

This election, the campaign has thrown up some interesting aspects like a young 25-year-old girl Sirisha who is popularly known as ‘Barrelakka’ contesting as an independent candidate from Kollapur Assembly constituency. She is an unemployed graduate from a very poor family and has been surviving by rearing buffaloes and has been waiting for job notifications so that she can get a government job. She claims that though she was a non-entity till she filed her nomination, leaders of different parties pressured her to withdraw from the contest to avoid splitting of votes and promised to give her huge money.

Her campaign line is that she decided to reject that offer from all parties so that she can ensure better opportunities to jobless youth in the constituency. In fact, all opposition parties have been criticising the government that no major government recruitment has taken place in the last nine years as was assured by the pink party during its past two terms. The BRS had promised to fill two lakh vacancies but it did not happen. Still, the youth had given the BRS a second term hoping against hope.

The government could not complete the promised recruitment for much coveted Group 1 and Group 2 services for a variety of reasons including legal challenges, paper leaks and deviation of procedures in conduct of the examinations by the Telangana Public Service Commission. This has attracted the wrath of lakhs of aspirants from the poor family background.

Sirisha laments that when she made a brief video on how she decided to buy buffaloes to rear and earn a living as job notifications were not issued, cases of criticising the government were slapped against her by the police though she did not criticise the government or any leader by name nor did she use any harsh words. This “harassment” made her decide to plunge into electoral battle, she claims. Her campaign seems to have given goose bumps to the senior politicians like Jupally Krishna Rao of Congress and Beeram Harshavardhan of BRS contesting from this constituency. There are a few more important constituencies like Maheshwaram and Khammam where independents can spoil the chances of BRS and Congress candidates.

The opinion polls by several agencies are divided but the general belief is that the ruling party may have to struggle to cross the magic figure of 60. BJP despite the big-ticket campaign may find it difficult to cross the single digit.

Congress according to the surveys done before the ECI restrictions came into force indicate that it may get around 45 seats. But there is another view that following the hectic campaign taken up by KCR and KTR, the possibility of BRS forming government on its own, though with a reduced number of seats, is not ruled out. Efforts by both the main contenders to lure voters with direct cash benefit are on and it is being said that anything from Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 would be paid to each voter. On the other hand, election squads have intensified their searches. Still, the leaders have their own innovative methods to lure the voters.

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