Strategic mistakes, voter fatigue led to BRS defeat

Hyderabad, Dec 5 : The failure of Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leadership to see the undercurrent of anti-incumbency and renomination of almost all the sitting MLAs appear to have cost the party dearly as it lost power to Congress after ruling India’s youngest state for nearly a decade.

Voter fatigue and resentment in certain sections of people, especially among unemployed youth led to the BRS missing the hat-trick.

Political analysts say the public perception in some sections about BRS leadership being arrogant and the allegations of corruption were also the other factors responsible for the party losing badly.

The defeat has come as a big shock for a party, which led the movement for Telangana state, achieved the same and claimed to have put Telangana on the path of progress and prosperity while undertaking path-breaking measures for the welfare of farmers and other sections of people.

The refusal of the party leadership to accept the pre-poll surveys and even the exit polls also indicate that it was over confident about its prospects.

Since the party had 104 sitting members in 119-member Assembly, its leadership apparently became complacent and started believing that even if the party loses 40 seats due to perceived anti-incumbency, it will still retain the power. As it turned out, the party lost a whopping 65 seats, almost the same number of seats bagged by Congress to wrest power.

In 2014, TRS (now) BRS had started its journey to power by winning 63 seats. It was a new state and there was strong Telangana sentiment. KCR had promised to lead the state on the path of reconstruction after the discrimination it suffered in united Andhra Pradesh for nearly six decades. He lured legislators from Congress, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and other parties to consolidate the position.

KCR played the gamble of going for early elections in 2018, seeking a fresh mandate on performance of his government. Confident of a comeback, he retained most of the sitting MLAs and announced the list of candidates much ahead of the announcement of poll schedule. His gamble worked as the party retained power with a huge majority of 88 seats.

After the elections, KCR lured a dozen MLAs of Congress to nearly wipe out the main opposition party. Four more MLAs from other parties also joined BRS, taking its tally to a whopping 104. Political analysts ‘MLA buying’ had also not gone well with the people.

Though this time KCR did not go for early polls, he announced 115 candidates on August 21, nearly two-and-half months before the process of filing of nominations began. Barring seven changes, he retained the sitting MLAs.

The BRS leadership had defended its decision, saying it reflects the party’s confidence. The move was aimed to unsettle the opposition, especially a resurgent Congress but the party apparently failed to see the undercurrent of anti-incumbency against many sitting MLAs. The long gap also gave time to Congress to fish in the troubled waters by luring disgruntled BRS leaders to its camp.

BRS working president K.T. Rama Rao had cited surveys done by the party to claim that the party will get more seats than what it had secured in 2018.

The anger among unemployed youth over the leakage of question papers of Telangana State Public Service Commission (TSPSC) exams with involvement of a section of its own employees, the problems faced by job aspirants due to repeated postponement and even cancellation of exams and some alleged suicides by youth turned a major section of unemployed youth against the government.

The opposition Congress and BJP targeted the government on this issue during the campaigning and promised to fill vacancies and going a step ahead Congress wooed the youth with a job calendar, giving dates of conducting the recruitment exams and announcement of results.

According to political analyst Prof. K. Nageshwar the anti-incumbency in youth, government employees, in certain sections, in certain areas and at the constituency level turned into general anti-incumbency which proved costly for BRS.

The BRS with its manifesto tried to match the six guarantees announced by the Congress party but people were not convinced. Some sections were unhappy over benefits under schemes like Dalit Bandhu, double bedroom housing not reaching them.

KCR launched the campaign ahead of the opposition, highlighting the achievements of his government during the last 10 years. KCR, who addressed 96 election rallies across the state, cautioned people that power to Congress will undo all the achievements of the state under BRS during the last 10 years. At every public meeting, he and other BRS leaders said if Congress comes to power there will be no electricity and implementation of schemes like Rythu Bandhu will come to a halt.

On the other hand, leaders of both Congress and BJP attacked KCR over the family rule and corruption in irrigation projects, especially Kaleshwaram, which is billed as the world’s largest lift irrigation project. The sinking of some piers of Medigadda barrage, a part of Kaleshwaram during the campaign, also provided ammunition for the opposition attack

Political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy said some people also started believing that there was a tacit understanding between BJP and BRS. This view gained ground as the BJP government at the Centre was seen going soft on KCR’s daughter K. Kavitha in the alleged Delhi liquor scam. The leaders of the saffron party had earlier created a hype that she will be arrested.

Many critics questioned the silence of KCR on BJP while a few months ago he was going all out on the saffron party. He had also gone silent on the alleged attempt by BJP to poach BRS MLAs. KCR had alleged a conspiracy by BJP to topple his government after three alleged agents of a BJP leader were caught red-handed in October last year while they were trying to lure four MLAs of BRS with offers of huge money.

Making the ‘evidence’ public, KCR had tried to make it a big issue at the national level and even appealed to the Chief Justice of India to save democracy. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Telangana Police had summoned BJP General Secretary B.L. Santhosh and other suspects in the case.

The Congress party with an intensive social media campaign tried to spin a narrative that top BRS leadership is arrogant. There were allegations that KCR does not even meet ministers and MLAs. The Congress called for putting an end to the ‘10 years of arrogance’.

The Congress party came out with the catchy slogan ‘Marpu kavali, Congress ravali’ (Change should come and Congress is needed). This resonated well with the people, who wanted a change after seeing KCR and family in power for two terms.