From TINA to WATA “There Is No Alternative” to “We Are The Alternative”

Prelude: TRS party was formed in 2001 on the back of the then AP CM Chandrababu Naidu’s reluctance to accommodate the then Deputy Speaker KCR into his cabinet. Stung by the insult meted out to him KCR started TRS with a single ideology of creation of the state of Telangana.

We had seen 13 years of struggle on the streets, fighting several electoral battles, unprecedented protests, sacrifice of several precious humans’ lives and then under enormous pressure exerted by several pro Telangana forces the dream of a separate state of Telangana became a reality.

The Chairperson of UPA Sonia Gandhi dreamt of sweeping the state of Telangana in 2014 based on the fact Telangana became a reality under the UPA Government. She also had made a huge miscalculation of expecting TRS to merge into Congress.

Instead KCR went on a trip with his entire extended Parivar to 10 Janpath and offered his gratitude to Sonia Gandhi.

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Pro Telangana Sentiment & Wave:

KCR knew pretty well that but for his intense struggle the creation of the new state would not have been a possibility and he was sanguine that he could easily convince the people that he was the brainchild of the newborn state.

The same happened to an extent in 2014 Assembly elections where TRS rode to power by grabbing 63 out of the 119 seats. Post the elections KCR systematically destroyed TDP which had won 15 seats and most of the MLA’s who won on the TDP symbol happily migrated to TRS.

The honeymoon continued for TRS in the subsequent local body elections and could sweep most of the elections. Realizing that if he fights the assembly election along with that of Lok Sabha 2019 elections he would be swept by the national sentiments KCR chose to advance the assembly elections to December 2018 which paid rich dividends for TRS.

The party won 87 seats. This was in spite of certain anti-incumbency coming into play in 2018 elections.

There were murmurs by certain sections of electorate in 2018 like that of failing to deliver on the loan waiver promise of up to Rs. 1,00,000 which was either not delivered or was not delivered to the satisfaction of certain sections of farmers (they were disbursed in four instalments and thereby allowing the interests to accrue), failure to provide 200,000 two-bedroom houses to the poor, failure to deliver drinking water through tap connections (for which the state government initiated the Mission Bhagiratha drinking water project) and finally there were Chinese whispers going around on how one family was garnering all the power resulting in all round corruption in the state.

Fortunately for TRS the opposition was unable to tap into the undercurrent of anger since the alliance between Congress & TDP was looked at with bitter mistrust and there were usual stories of dissidence in the local leadership of Congress and the last nail on the coffin being the utter lack of direction & clarity from the central leadership of the Congress party.

BJP on the other hand simply did not have the arsenal to fight the 2018 elections and hence TRS milked the situation to its advantage and posted their best results to date in the election.

If KCR had destroyed TDP after the 2014 elections this time the Congress party fell under his radar and he systematically finished the Congress party luring its elected representatives and offering them plum positions.

From TINA to WATA:

All this led KCR to proudly proclaim that “There is No Alternative” (TINA Factor) for TRS and he was 100% confident that TRS would win 15 out of the 17 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

However the results showed the mirror to TRS since the present Union Minister G. Kishan Reddy won comfortably from Secundrabad seat where just a few months back in the assembly elections TRS had swept those assembly segments and KCR’s own daughter Kavitha was defeated in the hustings at Nizamabad by BJP’s firebrand leader Arvind Dharmapuri.

The present BJP State unit President Bandi Sanjay scored a marvellous victory from Karimnagar a seat from where KCR had won twice in the past and added to that was the surprising victory by BJP at Adilabad.

It was not that the Congress came a cropper in the 2019 elections at Telangana. Unlike the 17 states where they drew a blank Congress could win 2 seats in the Nalgonda district which is still a strange Congress stronghold and Revanth Reddy ran a spirited and vociferous campaign which led to his victory at Malkijigiri which is a semi urban consistency close to the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secundrabad.

This performance of the opposition particularly of BJP broke the myth of TINA factor created by TRS in a diligent manner ever since the formation of the separate state of Telangana.

While the performance of both the opposition parties were noteworthy in 2019 LS elections it was the BJP which seized the initiative thereafter. The Congress party with its rudderless and unimaginative leadership has hit the abysmal of depression in Telangana like in many other states.

BJP on the other hand having increased its vote share to 19.45% in the LS elections from a mere 7.1% in 2018 Assembly elections could sense a potential second beachhead in the south of Vindhayas after Karnataka.

Hence, none other than the Union Home Minister Amit Shah kickstarted a membership drive on July 6th 2019 at Hyderabad clearly stating the party’s intent of adding a million more karyakartas in the state.

Historically BJP had always felt that Telangana was a fertile soil for the saffronization. The party had supported the creation of separate state but could not take it to logical conclusion due to its alliance with TDP which was vehemently opposed to bifurcation.

This was the reason why BJP could never claim credit for creation of the separate state although without the party’s support on the floor of the Parliament the birth of the new state would not have been possible.

It should also be noted that in 1984 Lok Sabha when BJP won just 2 seats across the country with one of them being from Hanamkonda in the Telangana region. RSS has also been pretty active in the rural Telangana over a period of time. All this led to the rejuvenation of the party after the LS elections.

2020 – The Challenger:

Many political analysts were failing to see the growth of the party but results of the Nizamabad Municipal Corporation which is the 3rd largest city in Telangana in January 2020 clearly showed that BJP was calling the shots where BJP won 28 out of the 60 seats relegating TRS to the 3rd position.

It took an unholy alliance of all the other parties led by TRS, AIMIM and Congress to form the Government in the corporation with 32 seats.

The rattling point for TRS was when BJP scored a thrilling victory at Dubakk in November 2020. Dubbak is predominantly a rural constituency which was a TRS stronghold since 2014.

The neighbouring constituencies of Dubbak are Siddipet, Sircilla and Gajwel which are represented by the all-powerful TRS triumvirate of T. Harish Rao, KTR & KCR respectively.

A victory for the BJP at the TRS heartland was nothing but a bombshell for TRS. In the 2018 elections BJP candidate Raghunandan Rao got merely 13.75% votes and his support skyrocketed by 24.72% to 38.47% in the recently concluded byelections.

This victory was achieved in spite of the might, muscle and money power exhibited by the ruling TRS. It also broke the myth that BJP is just present in a few urban pockets of the state.

Pro NaMo Seva which is voluntary organization campaigned hard for the BJP candidate at Dubbak by elections. A group of 60+ volunteers did door to door campaign for 12 days reaching out to over 20,000+ voters in 6 mandals covering 60+ villages and played an important role in the victory of Raghunandan Rao.

Sanjay Chillappa who was a lead campaigner of Pro NaMo in Dubbak tells me that there were hardly any cement concrete roads to be seen and the drainage system was in a pathetic condition in most of villages.

Villagers cried that their huts were dismantled after promising them that double bedroom flats would be provided which were not fulfilled and in fact even the construction work had not started.

Medical facilities, cleanliness, hygienic conditions were simply non-existent in most of the villages. Sanjay adds that compared to the neighbouring high profile constituencies there were no infrastructure development at Dubbak which led to the anger of the voters. In Toguta mandal, farmers lands were grabbed for Mission Bhagiratha but alternate lands were not given and compensation given was also very less compared to the present market value.

These were some of the reasons which led to the shocking defeat of TRS in the hands of BJP candidate who was 3rd time lucky after having lost badly in 2014 & 2018. As BJP emerges as a credible challenger for TRS in 2023 several lessons can be learnt from the victory at Dubbak which need to be replicated across the state.

Stung by the shocking defeat in Dubbak, KCR in a haste announced the GHMC elections with just a few days left for the opposition to plan and strategize for the elections. BJP ran a high profile campaign invoking several top leaders including Amit Shah, Yogi Adityanath and others to campaign which led to BJP winning 48 seats and thereby emerging as the clear alternative to TRS in the state.

BJP is the principal challenger and has emerged as the clear alternative to the TRS for the 2023 assembly elections. Most of the second rung leaders of Congress party have migrated to either TRS or to the BJP reducing the Congress to be a sub-regional player with presence being confined to only the Nalgonda district.

BJP has also earned the support of the erstwhile Congress supporters in the state. The BJP would need to get its strategy right to conquer the state of Telangana.

So from a situation where the narrative was TINA in Telangana the BJP has announced its arrival in 2020 by being the Single Largest Party at Nizamabad, beating TRS at its heartland in Dubbak and by producing a spectacular performance in GHMC elections.

Now we are in for a real mouth-watering contest as the both the challenger and the incumbent have the resources to fight to the finish.

Author: JVC Sreeram

International Keynote Speaker, Best Selling Author and Political Commentator

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