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Telangana: Can the Congress Beat the Odds and Topple KCR?

The Congress and its supporters may be chanting 'bye, bye TRS', but the road to victory requires a huge shift in voters from the BRS to the Congress.
Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra and Rahul Gandhi, and Bharat Rashtra Samithi chief and Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao. Photos: Twitter and Facebook

Election campaigns aren’t dead. Not yet.

As we enter the last phase of assembly elections this winter, a fascinating and surprising contest is developing in Telangana, where chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao is hoping he has done enough to win a third term. And if ground reports, social media, pollsters and satta bazaars are to be believed, he has a fight on his hands. What started as a small anti-incumbency breeze seems to have manifested itself into a gale force wind that could, many believe, bring the recently moribund Congress into power. If that happens, it would be the biggest upset of recent times.

Unlike the Congress party in neighbouring Karnataka, which had the leadership, resources, and credibility it could ride to victory on an anti-incumbency wagon, the Telangana Congress was looking like a party that would run a sorry third in this assembly election. The Bharatiya Janata Party had a great showing in the General Election in 2019, winning four seats and 20% of the vote share. Eighteen months later, in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Elections, it matched the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) in vote share, gaining 25%.

The BJP believed they were on the brink of a second consolidation in Southern India, after Karnataka. Today, that story seems to be over, with N.V. Subhash Rao, BJP spokesperson, saying that the party will be competitive in 20-30 seats.

With the decline of the BJP, the chatter is that the anti-incumbency vote has shifted strongly to the Congress and that the party has built on this, projecting itself as the alternative to the aloof KCR. Harsh Goenka, the industrialist, in his tweet, predicted a hung assembly.

Source: X@hvgoenka

Others are confidently predicting a Congress majority (60+), although a poll of opinion polls projects the BRS winning a small majority.

Source: deKoder/iKroya

ABP-C Voter have called it a “photo finish’.

And while the Congress and its supporters may be chanting “bye, bye TRS”, the road to victory requires a huge shift in voters from the BRS to the Congress. The biggest stumbling block for the Congress is the huge number of seats the BRS holds with a margin of over 20%. Of these 37 seats, 20 are where the BRS has a vote share of above 55%; 32 are outright victories (above 50%).

Source: deKoder/iKroya

On the negative side, BRS has 26 seats which are vulnerable, and assuming a straight exchange of votes, even if the Congress picks up these, they would be short of 60. As the graphic below shows, it needs to win some seats which have margins above 15%. If they can pull that off, it would be a great victory.

Source: deKoder/iKroya

The problem to remember is that while the BJP may be down, it isn’t out. And votes going to them are just as likely to be votes that KCR is losing. Congress can also hope that the trend of declining vote share of third party, others and independents will continue and the vote along with its erstwhile ally of 2018, the TDS will come to it. That would change the equation considerably. The 3% its allies received and a continuing decline in votes from others would boost the Congress’s cause. The question then is, are voters who are fed up with KCR going to vote strategically for the party most likely to beat his? And is that the Congress? Political tsunamis happen.

Source: deKoder/iKroya

One of the takeaways from the BJP surge in Hyderabad in 2020 was that the vote for them was anti-KCR and not necessarily pro-BJP, as it may have been in the General Election of 2019. If that is the case, the Congress can cross its fingers and hope that its vigorous campaign will pay off.

Ishwari Bajpai is a senior journalist who has covered elections since 1980.

The data has been sourced from decoder.com/iKroya .The analysis is the author’s responsibility.

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