AA Edit | Saffron sweep in North, a big shift in Telangana

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

The Congress was hoping to retain Chhattisgarh, and defeat the BJP in MP, according to most opinion and exit polls, but could not.

BRS leader K. Chandrashekar Rao, and Congress leaders Bhupesh Baghel and Ashok Gehlot, who are set to lose their positions as chief ministers of Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan respectively after the results of 2023 elections to the Legislative Assemblies of the states. (PTI Photo)

In Telangana, the odds were always against the Congress Party upsetting the BRS applecart. The pink party led by former chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao was, in the mind of most political observers and electoral analysts, the favourite to script history by becoming the first party and leader to win a third consecutive term in southern India.

However, the glory that eluded greats of South Indian politics like E.M.S. Namboodiripad, K. Karunakaran, A.K. Antony, MGR, K. Karunanidhi, J. Jayalalithaa, N.T. Rama Rao, S. Nijalingappa, Devaraj Urs, B.S. Yediyurappa, S.M. Krishna, N. Chandrababu Naidu, or Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, was not to brighten up the illustrious career of KCR either. He wore a hat and had several political tricks up his sleeve, but could not score his desired hat-trick.

The ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), which rechristened itself from the earlier TRS (Telangana Rashtra Samithi), had several reasons for its defeat — severe anti-incumbency, especially in rural areas and amongst the youth, a perception of betrayal despite being given two terms on key promises like three acres of land to dalits, 2BHK homes to all poor, 12 per cent reservations for Muslims and tribals, and a job in every household, and charges of arrogance, lack of access, corruption, dynastic domination, feudal mindset, et al., including the most damaging one of fostering inequality systemically, wherein most benefits of the development post the formation of Telangana were apparently being cornered by just a handful of the new elite.

But the BRS was confident, some even felt, overconfident, to the point of having taken their rivals and voters for granted. It lost, nevertheless.

The Congress Party found resurgence owing to a dramatic turnaround in its fate under the leadership of a Young Turk. A. Revanth Reddy, who took charge of a nearly moribund party with little hope, turned it around just in time to take on the might of the ruling party. Revanth Reddy found backing from the senior leadership, including Rahul Gandhi, whose Bharat Jodo Yatra, besides the party’s electoral win in neighbouring Karnataka, and a manifesto of several welfare promises, played the role of key factors.

The Congress slogan of change indeed resonated across the state, and voters inked for it over continuity and status quo, ending the KCR “regime”.

Meanwhile, defying all odds and most exit polls, and the expectations of the Congress and its INDIA alliance partners, the BJP, singularly led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, flattened the challenge of the grand old party across the Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

The Congress was hoping to retain Chhattisgarh, and defeat the BJP in MP, according to most opinion and exit polls, but could not. The BJP, in its campaign led by Mr Modi, won over the voters overwhelmingly, while the trend of Rajasthan voters’ defeating their incumbent government continued.

With these three wins, there is a clear North-South divide in Indian politics, with the BJP limited to pockets of strength in the southern states, but is a force in every other part of the country. For those who had hoped a strong Congress showing would put a question mark on the leadership of Mr Modi in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the results proved to be a dud — for Mr Modi is the biggest political force in India. No questions asked!