If Telangana was a classroom, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) is like that ambitious student who aimed for a 100 per cent score in all the 16 subjects. Which is why when it cleared only nine papers, there was huge disappointment with the 56 per cent performance. On the other hand, the Congress and BJP despite scoring less than 25 per cent were happy because it was way beyond their expectations.
What does this less than satisfactory electoral verdict mean for the TRS?
(a) The party will note with worry that three of the seats lost are in north Telangana, considered the bastion of the TRS. The BJP making inroads into Adilabad, Karimnagar and Nizamabad is not good news for the ruling party.
(b) Party Working president KT Rama Rao had taken upon himself to ensure victory in the Greater Hyderabad constituencies of Secunderabad, Malkajgiri and Chevella. The TRS lost in the first two and Chevella was a close fight with the TRS managing to pull it off at the end.
Given his appeal with the urban voter, KTR has reason to be disappointed with the scorecard especially after having hit the opposition out of the park in the Hyderabad municipal polls in 2016 and the December 2018 elections. KTR who is seen as the chief minister-in-waiting within the TRS, would want to rectify this less than flattering commentary on his leadership and electoral management skills at the earliest.
(c) The loss in Karimnagar also will hurt KTR as his own constituency Siricilla falls under the Lok Sabha constituency though the TRS was in the lead there. Health minister Etela Rajender represents Huzurabad which too forms part of Karimnagar where again the TRS was in the lead.
(d) Kavitha’s defeat from Nizamabad is the worst blow as this was seen as a VIP constituency of sorts, represented by the CM’s daughter. The inability to manage the mass nominations by the 178 turmeric farmers created an impression that Kavitha had not done enough for Nizamabad. This is also one constituency where internal dissent and alleged match-fixing between the BJP and Congress proved a potent combo.
(e) Four of the seven opposition candidates who won were those who tasted defeat in December 2018. Kishan Reddy and Bandi Sanjay of the BJP and Revanth Reddy and Komatireddy Venkat Reddy of the Congress bounced back strongly. In this lies hope that no politician can ever be written off.
(f) The threat to the TRS in its second term in office will come not so much from the Congress but from the BJP. Amit Shah will see Telangana as his second gateway to the south after the BJP’s triumphant march in Karnataka. Along with Bengal, expect Telangana to be on the BJP radar in the run-up to the 2023 assembly elections.
(g) The TRS will have to revisit its strategy of emptying the opposition camp by encouraging defections. While it deflated the energy in the Congress tent in many constituencies, it also resulted in an overcrowded car. What the voters have done is to issue the TRS a challan for overspeeding while being overloaded.
The message is to keep looking in the rear view mirror while driving the TRS car. Because objects in the Telangana political mirror, as the verdict showed, are closer than they appear.