Going by the 2014 poll data, the Congress-led alliance could wrest 16 seats won by TRS and other parties in the previous election, if votes transfer smoothly between the former rivals
Opinion surveys from Telangana have suggested that the Congress-led opposition alliance is on an upswing ahead of the assembly elections on December 7.
As the battle to take control of India’s newest state hits its crescendo, political analysts believe the wide advantage held by the incumbent Telugu Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has been neutralised.
TRS Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) led by Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao had dissolved the Assembly on September 6, paving the way for snap elections in the state.
When the assembly was dissolved, TRS was believed to be cruising smoothly towards forming a government with a healthy majority.
However, the unexpected coming together of the state’s principle opposition party Indian National Congress and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has changed the scenario. The Communist Party of India (CPI), a long-time ally of the Congress, and M Kodandaram’s newly formed Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) are also part of the alliance.
Observers suggest that over the last month, the opposition alliance, popularly known as the ‘Prajakutami’, has been mounting a serious challenge and that the TRS may have peaked too early in the campaign.
The situation has also led to rumours of a possible hung assembly and state’s relatively smaller players such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) could play ‘kingmakers’.
In an election like this, every extra seat could make a difference.
Arithmetically, the Prajakutami is on strong footing. In the 2014 assembly elections, Congress and TDP had a vote share of 25 percent and 15 percent, respectively. The combined vote share of 40 percent would have trumped TRS’ vote share of 34 percent, thereby significantly altering the seat share.
TRS had won 63 seats, just above the magic number of 60. Congress and TDP had won 21 and 15 seats respectively.
However, it is to be noted that the assembly polls for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana had happened along with the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. TDP was in an alliance with the BJP.
Will votes transfer smoothly?
It must also be noted that vote share and seat share are not relative. A higher vote share does not necessarily translate into a higher seat share.
The situation in Telangana is similar to that in Uttar Pradesh. Earlier this year, Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had extended support to arch rival Samajwadi Party (SP) for the Lok Sabha bypolls in BJP bastions Gorakhpur and Phulpur.
It was observed that BSP voters smoothly transferred to the SP, helping the latter beat the saffron party. However, the reverse — SP’s voters easily transferring to the BSP — is still an untested premise.
Congress and the TDP have been arch rivals in Andhra Pradesh for over 35 years. In fact, the party was founded by NT Rama Rao, Chandrababu Naidu’s father-in-law, to break Congress’ hegemony in Andhra Pradesh.
It is unclear if the core Congress votes would transfer smoothly to the TDP and vice versa.
Also read: A look at how various regions voted in 2014
What Prajakutami could gain
In 2014, Congress-CPI and the TDP had fought head-to-head in 72 seats. Going by data from that election, the alliance is likely to have an impact in at least 53 constituencies.
If the votes were to transfer smoothly, Prajakutami could gain around 16 out of these 72 seats which are currently held by TRS and other parties.
The 16 constituencies are: Achampet, Asifabad, Aswaraopeta, Bhadrachalam, Bhongir, Boath, Bodhan, Devarkadra, Gajwel (held by CM Rao), Mahabubabad, Medchal (where Sonia Gandhi held a rally on November 23), Mulug, Patancheru, Suryapet, Thungathurthy and Wyra.
In these constituencies, the combined vote share of Congress-CPI and the TDP surpasses that of the winning candidate, data suggests. Out of the 16, the alliance could wrest 13 seats from the TRS, two from YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) and one from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM).
The alliance would also be able to consolidate its hold on 37 seats its members had won in 2014.
These include Alampur, Jagtial, Kodad, Kukatpally, Narayankhed, Maheshwaram, Palakurthi, Quthbullapur, Serilingampally, Wanaparthy and Zahirabad, among others.
The combined vote share of Prajakutami would still fall short in 36 seats, according to the voting pattern from 2014.
Last time, both BJP and TDP had benefitted from the alliance. It remains to be seen if the non-traditional BJP voters would transfer to the Prajakutami or the TRS.
In 2014, the Congress and the CPI had fought all 119 seats. Congress had contested in 113 seats and the CPI in 7. This included Maheshwaram where the two allies were involved in a friendly contest. Incidentally, the winner in Maheshwaram was a TDP candidate.
According to the seat-sharing formula, Congress has fielded candidates on 100 seats, TDP on 13 seats, TJS on six seats and CPI on three seats. However, there will be some 'friendly contests' between alliance members in some seats.
Both sides, especially Prajakutami, would also have their eyes on the three seats won by YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), which has decided not to contest these elections and focus on Andhra Pradesh where it is the second-largest party. Congress would be hoping to take back the votes the YS Jaganmohan Reddy-led party had snatched from it in 2014.
The number of seats Prajakutami can wrest because of the consolidation of votes could be decisive in a close election like this.If the opposition alliance performs well in Telangana, the model could be replicated at the national level during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
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