The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has announced that it will not contest in the upcoming Telangana Assembly elections, scheduled for November 30th. The party, which was once a formidable force in the state, has been reduced to a marginal player after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014. It is important to note that, despite being marketed as an anti-Telangana party, it garnered 15 seats in 2014 assembly elections.
Now, the TDP’s decision to opt out of the polls has raised the question of “who will benefit from its votebank, which is mainly concentrated in Andhra settlers’ pockets of the state, which includes districts around Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy areas apart from Khammam.
The TDP’s vote share in Telangana has been declining steadily since 2014, when it won 15 seats and 14.7% of the votes. In 2018, it managed to win only two seats and 3.5% of the votes, and in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it drew a blank and got only 0.7% of the votes. The party has also faced several defections of its leaders and cadres to other parties, mainly the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
The TDP’s exit from the electoral fray is likely to benefit the Congress, which is now preparing to beat the mighty BRS. On the other hand, the TRS has been wooing TDP’s core voters, who belong to the backward classes and the Andhra settlers. The pink party has also projected itself as a champion of Telangana’s self-respect and development, while accusing the TDP of being an outsider party that betrayed the state’s interests. Additionally, IT Minister K.T. Rama Rao’s statements criticising protests of IT employees in support of Chandrababu Naidu haven’t gone down well with the Andhra settlers’ votebank, which is a crucial votebank in Telangana.
While he tried doing damage control, what also turned the sentiment against BRS is their constant anti-Andhra jibes on people hailing from Andhra Pradesh. These crass statements had worked in favour of BRS in the past, but after Chandrababu Naidu’s release, they seem to have boomeranged. And, now, the BRS is running from pillar to post to undo the damage it has done by creating a negative propaganda against the TDP and Chandrababu Naidu.
Meanwhile, the Congress is hoping to gain from the TDP’s absence, as it seeks to revive its fortunes in the state and as it rides on the popularity of its TPCC chief Revanth Reddy. The Congress is trying to attract the anti-incumbency votes against the TRS and has also promised to implement a minimum income guarantee scheme and waive off farm loans if voted to power apart from announcing its 6 guarantees.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which emerged as the second largest party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections with four seats and 19.5% of the votes, is also aiming to expand its base in Telangana. The BJP has been targeting the TRS for its alleged appeasement of minorities and corruption, and has been projecting itself as a viable alternative to both the TRS and the Congress. However, it has not been able to campaign aggressively as there are rumours of a BJP-BRS secret alliance.
The TDP’s decision to stay away from the Telangana elections may have a significant impact on the outcome of the polls, as it may alter the vote share and seat distribution of various parties. The TDP’s votebank may not transfer en bloc to any single party, but may split among different parties depending on various factors such as local issues, candidates, caste equations and regional sentiments. The TDP’s exit may also create a vacuum in some constituencies, where new players or independents may emerge as contenders. As of now, it looks like the Congress is doing its best to gain TDP’s votebank as these voters generally fall under the anti-BRS bracket of voters while some could be fence-sitters.