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Telangana Assembly Election 2018: Naidu helps KCR win a landslide
When Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) recommended, on 6 September 2018, the dissolution of the state assembly eight months before its term ended, paving the way for early elections in the state, he was taking a huge gamble.

KCR was not only the first chief minister of Telangana, the youngest state of India, but had also played a stellar role in the formation of the state, which came into existence in 2014, following a decade-long campaign for separate statehood led by KCR.

In the first election to the newly created state assembly held in April-May 2014, the KCR-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) expectedly won a majority (63 assembly seats out of 119) and formed the state's first government.

Though the KCR-led government had given a fairly decent account of itself in its first innings, especially with its welfare schemes like Rythu Bandhu that focused on the rural economy and farming community and programs aimed at giving the IT and infrastructure a facelift, there were murmurs that KCR failed to fulfil all the promises that he had made at the time of elections to the assembly in 2014, for instance, his failure to create jobs for the Telangana youth.

A shrewd politician that he is, KCR knew that the murmurs could soon turn into a crescendo and drown out the feel-good mood that prevailed when he came to power riding on the separate statehood movement wave and his own charisma.

With about eight months remaining for his first term to come to an end, KCR decided to go for early elections. Though the opposition derided him claiming that his decision to dissolve the assembly was made on astrologers' advice (KCR is a firm believer in astrology, numerology, and vaastu), KCR knew that eight months is a long time in politics, sufficient for opposition parties and fringe players in the state to come together and forge a united front to take on him.

While KCR was right in his political calculations, he did not bargain for the opposition to band together in just three months — between the dissolution of the assembly in September and the elections in December — and put up a viable front called "Mahakutami" (Grand Alliance), comprising Indian National Congress (INC), Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Communist Party of India (CPI), and the Kodandaram-led Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS).

And the Mahakutami did put up a spirited fight in the run-up to the polling day, creating doubts in the mind of KCR whether he had erred in opting for early elections ("Take this seriously. If TRS loses, it is no personal loss to me. . . . I will sleep at home and take rest," he was reported to have said at an election rally).

It was then TDP chief and Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu aggressively entered Telangana's electoral fray in what could be seen, in retrospect, as an ill-timed and ill-advised move, giving the TRS in general and KCR in particular the much-needed opening to turn the tables on the Mahakutami.

Naidu's presence and aggressive campaigning against TRS came as a godsend for KCR to revive the fading-but-not-forgotten anti-Andhra hostilities of Telangana voters and resuscitate their Telangana pride. That Naidu had also fielded a family member, Nandamuri Suhasini, granddaughter of N T Rama Rao, as a TDP candidate for the Kukatpally constituency in Hyderabad did not help matters either.

Suddenly, Naidu, who had laboured to cobble up the Mahakutami, became its biggest liability, as KCR gleefully reminded the electorate how Naidu, the "enemy of Telangana" had exploited them in the name of Telugu for years. "We won't allow it anymore," KCR thundered at public rallies. This in effect sealed the fate of the Mahakutami, with the Congress paying the price for aligning with the "enemy."

While factors such as TRS's OBC support base, Muslim votes (thanks to support from Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM), absence of any scandal involving KCR or his family members, and failure of Mahakutami parties to transfer their vote share to each other in the election have generally helped KCR ward off anti-incumbency, it is Naidu's presence and belligerence in the last phase of the campaign that gave an opportunity to KCR to turn this election once again into the tried-and-tested "Telangana people vs. Andhra rulers" and "KCR vs. Naidu" showdown, and emerge triumphant with a better and far improved showing of 87 seats out of 119.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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