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Telangana Assembly Elections 2018: The ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) is facing a do-or-die battle in its stronghold of North Telangana. Of the 54 seats in the region, TRS had won 37 in 2014. In 2014 assembly election, TRS won 63 seats. Congress stood second with 21 seats, AIMIM secured seven while the BJP won five and its then alliance partner TDP won 15 seats. The five remaining seats went to Others. Telangana assembly has 119 seats with 60 being the majority mark.
Yet, the fact is TRS could win just three seats above the half-way mark of 60 and 30% votes during the “Telangana-birth outpouring emotional 2014 elections”, in which the Congress was completely derailed and the anti-AP bifurcation of TDP was in a spot. Against this backdrop, TRS’ 2018 calculations can get tricky if its tally drops in North Telangana given that in the party’s weak area –– South Telangana –– the Congress-led four-party Opposition alliance is expected to put up a better show this time.
In North Telangana, people here think, is a TRS bastion as it was here that the maximum impact of TRS’ Telangana statehood plank was felt in the 2014 Assembly polls. District-wise, TRS won all nine seats in Nizamabad, 12 of 13 in Karimnagar, 7 of 10 in Adilabad and 8 of 12 in Warangal. Only in Khammam, closer to the current Seemandhara state, did the TRS slip, winning just one out of nine seats.
The worry-lines for TRS, people here say, are: As the creation of Telangana a done thing for more than four years now, ‘the engine’ of TRS’ electoral surge of 2014 –– people’s outpouring of Telangana emotion –– has now clearly diminished as voters have started focussing on the governance record of the TRS regime. As TRS has re-nominated an overwhelming majority of sitting MLAs, the party appears to be suffering from local incumbency of many party legislators.
The dramatic announcement of the formation of a Congress-led four-party Opposition alliance meant TRS faces two unexpected challenges –– a united rival camp to tap the incumbency burden and, the resultant Congress’ refurbished electoral standing, which in extension meant, party’s improved efforts to woo back sections of Muslim voters at a time when TRS is banking on their wholesome backing in return the administrative and financial incentives that the KCR regime has been offering this community.
Knowing that the ‘Telangana emotion’ has receded here, the TRS is banking heavily on their welfare schemes –– Rs 4,000 per acre Rythu Bandhu cash input for farming, monthly pensions for senior citizens, the handicapped, land for landless Dalits, promise of a job per family, Mission Bhagiratha irrigation scheme, financial assistance schemes for poor girls, two-bedroom houses for below the BPL population, Rs 1 lakh loan-waiver for schemes among other things, with party’s manifesto promising more.
These mixed responses to KCR’s best bet on his home turf –– that is, the welfare schemes –– adds to the suspense in this “emotionless” Telangana poll.