Telangana political circles are agog with speculation over the possible impact of the Karnataka electoral mandate on the state’s electoral landscape.
The reasons for this are obvious. Telangana shares a border with Karnataka. The regions that are now called Hyderabad Karnataka were once part of the undivided Hyderabad state. Thus, Telangana and Karnataka have socio-cultural bonding.
Telangana elections come close on the heels of the Karnataka mandate. The two contending rivals in Karnataka — the BJP and Congress — are primarily competing to unseat the ruling BRS in Telangana.
All this does not necessarily mean that the Telangana political landscape will be deeply influenced by the election results in neighbouring Karnataka. There is no empirical evidence or political logic in arriving at any such far-reaching conclusion.
This is because the political and electoral landscape in India significantly varies across borders.
Also read: National implications of Karnataka verdict
The political situation in Telangana and residuary Andhra Pradesh completely changed after the bifurcation.
The YSR Congress pulled out of Telangana, while the TDP is struggling for existence. The BRS, despite lofty claims, has not shown even an iota of influence in Andhra Pradesh politics. The people of Andhra Pradesh continue to punish both the Congress and BJP for bifurcation.
Similarly, there is no comparison between Andhra Pradesh politics and the landscape in bordering states such as Tamil Nadu or Odisha.
Telangana and Maharashtra have no common political idiom or electoral conflict despite the BRS’s attempt to penetrate into the neighbouring state.
Interestingly, while Karnataka politics is increasingly getting polarised between the Congress and BJP, both the national parties have been decimated in Andhra Pradesh.
There are similar examples across India.
The RJD and JD(U) have no significant presence in Jharkhand after the bifurcation of Bihar.
The SP failed to make its presence felt in Uttarakhand, which was carved out of Uttar Pradesh.
Thus there is no empirical basis from the past to find a positive correlation between the Karnataka election results and Telangana poll scene.
Also read: Congress win busts myths around BJP’s electoral prowess
However, the results in Karnataka have made Congressmen in Telangana euphoric.
The victory in neighbouring Karnataka has helped the Telangana Congress puncture the BJP’s narrative that the grand old party is a sinking ship and therefore the saffron brigade is the only alternative to ruling BRS.
Yet, it will be politically suicidal if the Congress believes that a Karnataka win would automatically catapult it to power in Telangana.
There are significant differences in the state of the Congress in Karnataka and Telangana. The Congress could effectively bridge the gap between two competing leaders, Siddaramaiah and DK Shivakumar, at least in the eyes of the electorate. On the contrary, Telangana Congress continues to engage in internecine battles.
The Congress promises focusing on welfarism could find resonance with Karnataka voters given the Siddaramaiah government’s track record of implementing such policies. The Telangana Congress does not enjoy such an advantage given the fact that the party in the new state has abandoned YS Rajasekhar Reddy’s legacy owing to the post-bifurcation change in political idiom.
Despite not being in power, the Congress in Karnataka could continue to retain a robust organisational presence. On the other hand, the Congress in Telangana has been battered and bruised by a series of electoral defeats in the by-elections and desertions by elected legislators since 2014.
The Janata Dal (Secular) has suffered significant erosion, giving an advantage for the Congress and helping it polarise the anti-BJP vote. But the Congress faces a tough competition from the BJP in its claim for anti-incumbency vote in Telangana.
Telangana anti-incumbency vote could get split
Thus, any sweeping generalisations on the impact of the Karnataka mandate on the fortunes of the Congress party in Telangana are devoid of any logic.
But the Karnataka win at this point in time would undoubtedly energise Congress cadres and leaders alike. Enthused by the Karnataka victory, the Congress high command could descend on Telangana.
The BRS has suffered embarrassment as its declared ally, the Janata Dal (Secular), suffered humiliation. But KCR largely minimised the damage by not campaigning for his ally across the border. Thus, the BRS is unlikely to be adversely impacted by the Kumaraswamy fiasco.
Meanwhile, a surging BJP and a jubilant Congress may even help the BRS as the anti-incumbency vote gets divided.
Also read: Will Telangana model convince voters across India?
(K Nageshwar is a political analyst and professor of journalism at Osmania University. He is a former member of the Legislative Council, both in united Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. He has worked as an editor in print and electronic media. These are the personal views of the author)