Lok Sabha elections in Telangana: Between Congress and BJP, who has moved how much of BRS cheese?

Will Congress weave a web of magic and emerge as an indomitable force in Telangana after the declaration of LS elections results on 4 June?

ByRaj Rayasam

Published May 24, 2024 | 8:00 AMUpdatedMay 24, 2024 | 8:00 AM

Lok Sabha elections

Who is moving BRS’ cheese in the Lok Sabha elections in Telangana?

Will the Congress weave a web of magic and emerge as an indomitable force in Telangana when the counting of votes polled for Lok Sabha elections begins on 4 June?

Which of the two — BRS or BJP — would emerge as the runners-up in the high-stakes and high-decibel parliamentary elections in the state?

How are the results going to shape the politics of the Telangana state in the years to come?

What has emerged more or less clearly is that that both the Congress and the BJP had tried to eat into the BRS vote bank in the Lok Sabha polls to emerge stronger than before.

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Congress or BRS?

After losing the Assembly elections in November last year, the BRS appears to have begun losing ground rapidly. Though party chief K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) had tried to stop the downward spiral, it remained relentless with several BRS leaders joining the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Even the BRS MLAs too began showing the signs of Congress fever and some even crossed the Rubicon like Kadiam Srihari and his ilk which led to a perception growing that the fortunes of the BRS were on a downhill journey.

This, despite lofty claims to the contrary by the party leaders — KCR, KT Rama Rao (KTR) and T Harish Rao — that the Congress is not as strong as it was and that the people were disillusioned with its performance.

But the argument may not have cut much ice with the voters since the Congress is hardly into its sixth month of rule while the BRS was in power for the last 10 years, during which time, though it had done a lot, it did not keep several of its promises.

Ironically the waiver of the ₹1 lakh crop loan also remained unfulfilled fully but the BRS is quite insistent, to the point of being importunate, that the Congress regime should immediately do it as it was a promise made to the voters.

Vote share in past elections

Telangana vote share.

The BRS vote share which was 46.87 percent with 88 seats in the 2018 Assembly elections crashed to 37.35 percent with 39 seats in 2023.

The Congress’ vote share which was 28.43 percent with 19 seats in 2018 miraculously rose to 39.4 percent with 64 seats in 2023.

The BJP’s vote share which was 6.98 percent with one seat in 2018  rose to 13.9 percent with eight seats in 2023.

As far as both Assembly elections are concerned in 2018 and 2023, it is evident that both the Congress and the BJP grew at the expense of the BRS which conceded about 10 percent of its votes in 2018 to both the Congress and the BJP.

If one takes a look at the performance of the three parties in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BRS ended up with nine seats with a vote share of 41.71 percent, the Congress with three seats (29.79%) and finally BJP with four seats (19.65%).

The verdict on 4 July will answer how much of the 41.71 percent vote share of the BRS in the Lok Sabha elections would remain intact.

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Surprises expected

Given the slide that the BRS had witnessed in the Assembly elections, it is more than likely that it would be quite significant in the Lok Sabha polls held on 13 May, 2024 as indications are emerging that there might be surprises in several constituencies, which were hitherto BRS bastions.

Telangana Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy and several Congress leaders have been saying that their party might win anywhere between nine to 13 seats while the BJP is hopeful of pulling off victory in about nine to 10 seats.

The BRS might end up a poor third, notwithstanding the spirited effort of KCR to revive the party’s fortunes.

The Congress which won Nalgonda, Bhongir and Malkajgiri in 2019 wants to add more to its tally. Nalgonda and Bhongir are the Congress’ strongholds. In Malkajgiri, the party’s prospects appear bright.

Even though Congress candidate P Sunitha Mahender Reddy is weak, Revanth Reddy has focused on it as it was the seat he represented in the 17th Lok Sabha. The BJP has fielded one of its most influential Backwards Caste (BC) leaders Eatala Rajender from there.

Congress might gain

The Congress is expected to sail through Khammam, Mahabubabad, Nalgonda, and Bhongir which are its strongholds and in Peddapally, Zaheerabad, Nagarkurnool and Warangal, it will have a keen fight with the BJP where the result could go either way.

In Secunderabad, Chevella, Mahbubnagar, Adilabad, and Nizamabad, the BJP may not have much difficulty.

That leaves the BRS which seems to be comfortable in Medak where it has fielded former IAS officer P Venaktaram Reddy as its candidate. The Congress has a weak candidate in Neelam Madhu.

The fight might be between Venkatram Reddy and BJP’s M Raghunandan Rao.

After the Assembly elections in November last, the political discourse has changed completely. This is on account of Congress winning the elections, pushing the BRS which was seeking a third time to second place. The momentum that the elections had imparted is taking the grand old party forward without much effort.

The Assembly elections have derailed the BRS’ gravy train, ending the vice-like grip of KCR on Telangana. The BRS, till then had been indulging in kite-flying that it would lead all other non-Congress and non-BJP parties in the nation in the Lok Sabha elections.

KCR at one stage had even said the BRS would form the government at the Centre.

Also Read: Congress contesting lesser seats to keep Opposition together: Kharge

A dream without a basis

Now in retrospect, the tall talk of the Telangana leader looks like a dream that had been built without any basis or foundation. The BRS leader did not know that the very substratum — his party in Telangana state — on which he was standing was shaking.

One could recall how furious KTR became when exit polls predicted an imminent defeat of the BRS in the Assembly elections. KTR had predicted 80 to 100 seats for the BRS.

He reeled off statistics of how exit polls could go horribly wrong. He might either be sounding off or was speaking without gauging the undercurrent of people’s disapproval of KCR’s rule.

At the moment, after the drubbing it had received in the hands of the Congress, the BRS is struggling to emerge as an alternative to the Congress even as the BJP is making all-out efforts to push the BRS out of the Telangana landscape.

“As the Lok Sabha election is a contest between the Congress and the BJP as they are national parties, the average voter tends to vote for the party that is likely to form government at the Centre,” said senior journalist and political commentator Somasekhar Mulugu.

“Viewed in this context, the BJP is likely to get a fair share of BRS votes rather than the Congress. This is because, at the national level, a narrative has been built that the saffron party is likely to win the elections,” he added.

Congress might gain Muslim votes

In splitting the BRS vote bank, Congress may not succeed much in Lok Sabha polls as it did in Assembly elections, except with respect to the Muslim minorities in the constituencies.

“The Congress has appropriated to itself whatever it could from the BRS vote bank in the Assembly elections. In the Lok Sabha polls, it’s impossible that the grand old party may have cut into the Muslim vote bank which is sizeable across the state,” Somasekhar said.

“This is because the Muslims are tempted to vote for the Congress as they cannot vote for the BJP and they may not vote for BRS either after the propaganda that the BRS and BJP have a covert understanding. Another reason is that voting for BRS may not help the constituency in which one is as the election for formation of the Union government,” he added.

The recent Lok Sabha elections indicated the determination of the Congress to retain its vote share, and appropriate to itself the BRS’ while the BJP was also on the same mission, annexing as much BRS vote share as possible.

In this pincer attack, the BRS is struggling to retain its vote share. To arrest the salami-slicing of the vote share that appeared inexorable, KCR got into action and tried to raise the issues that formed the core of the Telangana movement.

It remains to be seen to what extent he has succeeded in his mission.

(Edited by Muhammed Fazil)