Telangana Assembly elections: Parties try to read tea leaves as D-day draws closer

Leaders of these parties are poring over polling trends — whether they make sense or not — to surmise who is ahead of whom.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Dec 02, 2023 | 7:00 AMUpdatedDec 02, 2023 | 7:00 AM

Telangana polling staff bring back EVMs to strong rooms at the end of the day on Thursday, 30 November.

Are the percentage figures of exit polls in Telangana quietly conveying any message? The leaders of all the political parties are trying to read these tea leaves.

Caught between high anxiety and intense bouts of depression, they are waiting for 3 December for the suspense to end to know whether it is D-day or Mayday for them.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao is said to have met several BRS leaders and reportedly asked them not to be misled by the results of the exit polls.

He told them that the BRS was going to win the elections and capture power for the third time. He apparently asked them to bear with him till 3 December to celebrate the occasion.

Against this backdrop, he has called a Cabinet meeting at 2 pm on 4 December, a day after the election results are to be declared.

The calling of the Cabinet meeting has led to speculation over whether KCR was sure of winning the elections, despite the Congress believing that victory was as certain as the day following night.

And amidst all of this, BRS working president KT Rama Rao in a message on X said: “After a long time, had peaceful sleep. Exit polls can take a hike. Exact polls will give us the good news.”

Meanwhile, TPCC president A Revanth Reddy is already walking on the moon in anticipation of a landslide victory in the state.

He said; “I am thankful to all those who worked hard for the victory of the Congress. For the last 10 years, you were with the Congress as it fought against the oppression and tyranny of the BRS. Your effort has not been in vain. All of you have played a crucial role in restoring democracy.”

Related: BJP complains of rule violation; KTR dismisses exit polls

The GHMC factor

One factor that is keeping the hopes of the BRS alive is that the polling percentage was just 47 in Hyderabad, which comprises 15 segments. Then there are 14 segments in districts contiguous to Hyderabad.

The BRS is more or less sure of winning 16 of these 29 segments that fall under the GHMC, while its ally, the AIMIM, might pick up six to seven seats.

Even if the BJP wins three to five seats, the BRS would be comfortable assuming that in the worst-case scenario, it could also team up with the saffron party and the AIMIM even if its total tally came very close to the Congress.

The BRS seems to be basing its calculation in the GHMC area on the premise that a low voting percentage means the polling was in its favour.

It hopes that the Congress might not be able to win any seat in the GHMC area, as it does not have much sway in the city anyway.

The tally in the GHMC area might help serve substratum for the party to build on with seats that it might get from the rural areas, where it has had a hold till now.

Related: 107 constituencies in Telangana saw lower voter turnout than 2018

Chandrababu’s shadow

It appears the BRS has not taken into consideration one important factor. It is quite possible that as far as the GHMC area is concerned, the Chandrababu factor might have worked to the disadvantage of the BRS.

After TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu’s arrest in Andhra Pradesh, support for him rose particularly among the Kammas, who are numerically significant in Hyderabad.

“I have information that many TDP supporters had voted for the Congress,” said political analyst Pagadala Tejaswini, who keeps tabs on which way votes swing vis-a-vis the TDP.

Making matters worse, the off-the-cuff remark by KTR asking why should the BRS react to the arrest of Chandrababu Naidu as it happened in the neighbouring state, as well as the police denying permission to the TDP cadres to organise protests in Hyderabad, appear to have rankled the Kammas, who voted for the Congress, she said.

The GHMC area is crucial for the political parties as it accounts for 20 percent of the state’s Assembly seats and almost 30 percent of the state’s electorate.

The GHMC area is also the prime growth engine of the state and has a diverse population of different communities and cultures.

Also read: Challenges galore as Hyderabad voted on 30 November

The equations

Suspecting possible horse-trading in the event of a hung house, Telangana Jana Samiti president Prof M Kodandaram warned the MLAs who might win on Congress tickets not to join the  BRS  bandwagon later.

“People would not approve of it. We have decided to organise dharnas in front of the houses of Congress MLAs who might do a somersault into the BRS camp,” he said.

At the state level, the voter turnout was 71.23 percent against 73.37 percent in 2018. The Congress is wondering to what extent the BJP split the votes, and in doing so whether it had helped the BRS get more votes than the Congress.

Even if the BJP does not win, its presence might spoil the broth for the Congress in keenly fought contests.

In 2018, the BRS polled 47 percent of the votes while the Congress could net only 28 percent. The difference between the two parties was a whopping 19 percentage points.

The Congress would have to make up this gap and then go beyond to wrest seats from the BRS, which would indicate a strong Congress wave sweeping the state if the exit polls results were any indication.

All exit polls had predicted that the Congress was head of the BRS, though they differed on how close or far the two were.

Even a rise by 5-6 percentage points in vote share in an election is a herculean task, but the Congress appears to be doing a great job.

But the BRS has not been written off despite the strides the Congress appears to have made. The number of predicted seats for it hovered between a maximum of 58 and a minimum of 30.

South First Exit Poll: Congress to have a clear majority in Telangana

Underlying issues

Though analysts attribute the scorching rise of the Congress to several factors, its own leader and chief-ministerial frontrunner in the event of the party winning the election, A Revanth Reddy, has said the result would be an expression of anger of the people against the family rule of the KCR.

He said: “For KCR, Telangana means his family. For the Congress, it means 4 crore people.”

The shift of voting from the BRS to the Congress is suspected to be from Muslims, SCs, STs, and Reddys.

The factors that may have worked against KCR were the MLAs becoming constituency-level satraps.

Many became “nouveau riche” after entering the real-estate business and began flaunting their wealth before the people, not knowing that the masses were loathing them.

The big-ticket welfare schemes — from double-bedroom houses to Dalit Bandhu — appeared to have turned into double-edged swords.

For every person who got their benefits, there were 10 who did not. Thus, many have turned against KCR.

One would have to wait till 3 December to see for sure if Revanth Reddy has moved KCR’s cheese.