The verdict of the Lok Sabha elections 2019 has come as a shocker for Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) for two reasons. Although the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) bagged the majority number of seats by winning in 9 out of total 17 constituencies, the tally did not match the confidence of KCR, who kept fostering that TRS would lead the third front in case of a hung parliament. Secondly, the Bharatiya Janata Party won in four constituencies against one seat in 2014 elections, and registered a notable 19.5% vote share.
In the May 23 verdict, TRS registered the highest vote share in the state, 41.3%, followed by Congress winning in 3 constituencies with 29.5%, and AIMIM registered 2.8% and its head Asaduddin Owaisi won from Hyderabad constituency. But, these figures are in contrast to the 2018 December Assembly polls. At that time, merely four months before the Lok Sabha polls, TRS had registered 47% vote share, Congress alliance got 32% vote share and BJP was limited to 7%.
What is most surprising was KCR’s daughter Kalvakuntla Kavitha, sitting MP from Nizamabad lost with a margin of over 70,000 votes against BJP candidate Arvind Dharmapuri in this polls. This makes one point clear, that there could be no tacit arrangement between TRS and BJP, as doubted by numerous analysts.
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Nizamabad constituency was in spotlight during the poll season as some 180 farmers, mostly turmeric growers contested for the seat. These farmers succeeded in grabbing nearly 10% of vote share, around 1 lakh votes. KCR had earlier alleged that BJP funded those farmers as part of their electoral strategy.
At a closer look at the constituencies where the BJP won, it emerges that the saffron party has been experimenting its traditional polarisation tactics and had become closer to the dominant land owing communities in those areas.
For instance, BJP retained Secunderabad seat, where it has had a stronghold for the last two decades. In the region which has a considerable concentration of Christian community, the saffron party cadre and its affiliated groups in the region are known for fostering communal tensions among Hindus and minorities. Here, BJP’s G Kisan Reddy won over TRS candidate T Sai Kiran Yadav with a margin of over 60,000 votes.
Alongside, Nizamabad, BJP won comfortably in Adilabad and Karimnagar, all three seats located in the Northern Telangana. In 2017 and 2018, there were tensions between adivasi communities and the Lambadi community in these regions. It was being circulated that the Lambadis were benefitting better than adivasis through Scheduled Tribe reservations. Several adivasi leaders even led protests demanding the government to remove ST status for Lambadis leading to deepening of the tensions between the two sections.
Soyam Babu Rao, who spearheaded the adivasi groups against Lambadis, had joined BJP before elections and won from Adilabad constituency with a majority of over 58,000 votes. Rao was criticised by political observers for creating spat between the tribal communities.
In Karimnagar constituency, BJP’s B Sanjay Kumar won against TRS candidate Vinod Kumar with a margin of nearly 90,000 votes.
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While several political observers have argued that the TRS may have made some tacit understanding with the BJP starting with December elections, Kavitha’s defeat negates such allegations. What is pressing is that the BJP’s rise in Telangana has come as a shocker for civil society activists, as the state is known for its pluralism and peoples’ movements.