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In Telangana, small parties play a big role

Jana Sena Party president K. Pawan Kalyan waves to supporters in Telangana’s Jagtial district. Photo: Special Arrangement

Jana Sena Party president K. Pawan Kalyan waves to supporters in Telangana’s Jagtial district. Photo: Special Arrangement

As Telangana gears up for the Assembly election, to be held at the end of this year, there is now aggressive posturing even by the smaller political outfits such as the YSR Telangana Party (YSRTP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Jana Sena Party (JSP). Whether the election will be a battle of the major contenders — the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — or whether the presence of these smaller parties will have a bearing on the outcome is the big question.

YSRTP chief Y.S. Sharmila, the daughter of united Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, has entered the fray. Given her determination, some people are speculating about which party will pay the price for her party’s presence in the electoral fray.

Similarly, actor Pawan Kalyan’s JSP too is contemplating the idea of fielding candidates in at least a dozen constituencies. Mr. Kalyan enjoys a huge fan following in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Former IPS officer-turned-politician R. S. Praveen Kumar, State chief of the BSP, has been focusing on the plight of the Dalits and has used every opportunity to raise their woes much to the chagrin of the ruling dispensation. He has carefully mobilised former students of the State-run social welfare residential institutions under the banner of SWAROES (Social Welfare Aeroes, which is Greek for sky) as his party’s brand ambassadors. His meetings draw large crowds. Going by his claims, the BSP could play a role in deciding the fate of the large parties in some constituencies.

The large parties cannot ignore the smaller parties as the elections may be keenly contested. Who will bear the brunt of the split in the Opposition votes is the question.

Ms. Sharmila has been focusing on the old Khammam district, which has a mix of Telangana and Andhra culture. The district has been a stronghold of the Telugu Desam Party, the Left parties and the Congress. Many in the district are still believed to have fond memories of Rajasekhara Reddy. Ms. Sharmila is sure to evoke his memory and legacy to the hilt to garner votes. If this happens, it could prove costly for the Congress. The traditional Congress vote bank could be divided if Ms. Sharmila manages to attract the votes of Rajasekhara Reddy loyalists. She is keen to contest from the Palair Assembly seat in Khammam district. Her brother Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress Party had won a Lok Sabha seat and three Assembly seats in the 2014 elections in Khammam district. Subsequently, the three MLAs merged the YSRC Legislature Party in the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which is now the BRS.

JSP leaders are confident that if Mr. Kalyan decides to test his party’s fortunes, it could be in at least a dozen seats. “We have drawn a list of 32 constituencies where the party has pockets of interest. But ultimately, we may try our luck in a dozen seats,” a top JSP leader said, adding that unlike in Andhra Pradesh, where the BJP is its poll partner, no such understanding has been reached in Telangana.

In the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections, the JSP withdrew from the fray to back the BJP. The understanding was that the BJP would provide a road map to work jointly on issues and constitute a joint coordination committee for Telangana, but the proposal is still to fructify. It appears as if the JSP is not keen to sail with the BJP in Telangana. BJP leaders too maintain that they have not officially or unofficially entered into any alliance with the JSP.

It is the BRS that is likely to benefit in this scenario. A split of opposition votes among the three smaller entities is likely to give a lifeline to the BRS, which has been facing strong opposition from the Congress and the BJP. The BRS leadership is also maintaining a strategic silence against Ms. Sharmila’s attacks against the government and Mr. Praveen Kumar’s accusations of corruption and failures to come to the rescue of the downtrodden.

Mr. Pawan Kalyan’s tour of north Telangana, where he visited temples and showcased his campaign vehicle ‘Varahi’, Ms. Sharmila’s vow to resume her padayatra from January 28, and Mr. Praveen Kumar’s mass contact programmes have once again brought to the centre stage their determined efforts to make a mark. Evangelist K.A. Paul’s Praja Shanti Party is also a party to watch out for. Meanwhile, the Telugu Desam Party, Telangana is trying to create a space for itself in the already overcrowded political landscape of Telangana.

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