The Congress’s willingness to walk the extra mile to rope in even small parties such as the CPI, the CPM and the TJS contrasts sharply with the BJP that is trying to elbow itself into the territory of its own partners.
HYDERABAD: Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s move to dissolve the state assembly and opt for polls, nine months ahead of schedule, was a calculated gamble. It was meant to spring a surprise on the main
opposition Congress and prevent it from consolidating its position.
With elections to four more states — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram — due around
the same time, Mr Rao may have been hoping that the Congress, which has a big stake in those elections
if it wants a national revival, will not be able to devote the same attention and resources to
Telangana. Mr Rao’s calculation would also have factored in that the Congress high command would be
tied down fighting those other battles.
However, India’s Grand Old Party, in a display of alacrity, has shown a degree of political speed and
nimbleness which has caught not just analysts but its opponents by surprise. It quickly joined hands
with the Telugu Desam Party and the Communist Party of India to form a ‘Maha Kootami,’ a grand alliance
which can pose a formidable challenge to Mr Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). The new alliance is
even trying to rope in a few other partners such as the CPM and the Telangana Jana Samithi floated by
one-time KCR protégé, M Kodandaram, who was also the head of the joint action committee that
spearheaded the demand for a separate state.
There are three reasons why the grand alliance that the Congress is putting together will be watched
closely. One, the fact that the TDP (which was born on an anti-Congress platform), is part of the
alliance carries a symbolism which is hard to miss. One may argue that, given the TDP’s acrimonious
break-up with BJP and its initial role in opposing the creation of Telangana, it had its own political
compulsions. Nonetheless, its open embrace of the Congress will be observed carefully by other regional
parties across the country. Several of them carry legacies similar to the TDP’s.
Second is the Congress’s newfound flexibility and its willingness to walk the extra mile to forge
partnership with even small parties such as the CPI, the CPM and the TJS. This, and the fact that it is
ready to be accommodative in seat allocations towards its allies, contrasts sharply with a strident BJP
which is trying to elbow itself in to the territory of its own partners. Regional parties protective of
their turf would not miss this difference in attitude between the two main national parties.
Finally, irrespective of the eventual outcome of the election in which the TRS has had an early head
start, this alliance could provide a national template in which the Congress could opt for state-
specific alliances to form a broad anti-BJP front.