Nara Chandrababu Naidu holds an unenviable record in Andhra Pradesh politics, he is the longest serving leader of the opposition in the AP state assembly. This is at the heart of the problem for TDP today – a party that was set-up by thespian N.T. Rama Rao in March 1982 and won a historic mandate to rule the state within 9 months – the party is simply unable to make that crucial transition from the opposition benches to the ruling party benches. Naidu was never really a charismatic figure unlike his father in law, NTR, but what he lacked in charisma, he more than made up with his administrative vision and political acumen. Unfortunately, his one mistake of preponing the 2004 elections in the state not only cost him his chiefministership, but also cost NDA (of which TDP was the second largest ally) the power in Dilli. Since that fateful summer a decade ago, both BJP and TDP have been gloriously reduced to the opposition benches in the parliament and AP assembly respectively.
Now, after 10 years, when BJP has finally started rediscovering itself, Naidu’s TDP also wants to hitch on to its former ally and trick destiny to get another chance to rule at least a truncated Andhra Pradesh. This southern state which has been mercilessly mismanaged by the Congress party, should have given a walkover to the main opposition party in the state, but as fate would have it, another new entrant in the form of YSRCP seems to be spoiling Chandrababu’s party.
Interestingly, Andhra Pradesh (and possibly the new state of Telangana) will be one of the only two states (the other being Orissa) that goes to polls with the national elections in May 2014. Thus there could be some spillover effect of the national electoral mood into these assembly elections, which would only add to the guessing game. The guessing game of Andhra today is indeed a veritable quagmire with way too many variables ranging from a four to five cornered contest in many seats to the formation of a new state and all the associated drama around Telangana. Congress which had enjoyed a relatively stable vote-share for almost 15 years, is on a downhill today and may completely lose relevance in at least one of the two states of Andhra Pradesh, if not both. TDP on the other hand is fighting its battle for survival and hoping to reverse the decline it has suffered in the last 15 years.
Opinion poll survey
We conducted an opinion poll across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to gauge the mood of voters from December 13th to Dec 24th 2013 in 53 assembly segments of 18 parliamentary constituencies. Our target sample size was 3897, but we were able to get the opinion of 3115 respondents spread across the state. Of those 3115 respondents, 1663 were male and 1452 were female. A slightly higher weightage of 8% was given to urban constituencies as compared to rural constituencies.
- Close race between TDP and YSRCP.
- YSR Congress gaining from collapse of Congress vote-bank.
- Forced displacements due to thermal projects and anti-incumbency against long time sitting Congress families has led to an antagonistic atmosphere against the ruling party
- Slight edge for TDP due to division of state, forced displacements, unemployment and agrarian crisis which will influence voting behavior
- 71% of respondents prefer keeping the state united
- Decisive edge for YSRCP due to YSR factor and implosion of the Congress vote-bank
- TDP vote share is also declining compared to 2009
- Sentiment against division of state deeply entrenched in this region
- Anger against Congress is at an all-time high
- Jagan Reddy is most popular in Rayalaseema and most preferred choice to lead the state in this region
- 82% prefer keeping the state united
- Surprisingly low support for Rayala-Telangana demand mainly voiced by Rayalaseema politicians
- MIM is likely to win about 1 assembly segment in Rayalaseema
Coastal and South Andhra
- TDP to make heavy gains in South and Coastal districts
- Godavari and Coastal districts are in the midst of TDP wave due to reemergence of traditional Kamma-OBC vote coupled with Kapu vote shifting away from Congress (a majority of Kapu-Balija vote went to Chiranjeevi’s PRP in 2009)
- TDP making gains among youth and upper castes too
- YSRCP continues to hold onto its Reddy-Mala combination
- Kiran Kumar Reddy has more credibility than both Naidu and Jagan as 63% feel he has been honest to the cause of a united Andhra state
- 39% feel Kiran Kumar Reddy is better suited to stall Telangana division while 33% feel Jagan has been more consistent in the united-state demand and 29% feel Naidu is better suited to keep Andhra united.
- In Seemandhra, 73% of the voters oppose the division of the state.
- While the sentiment against T-division has led to a huge upsurge against Congress, it is not translating into one sided gains for either YSRCP or TDP both of which have come out strongly against the division of state
- There is a strong resentment particularly among youth and peasant class that Congress conceded T demand with an eye on LS polls
- TRS is riding the wave of separate statehood demand and is set to emerge as the single largest party
- Congress, TDP set to suffer net losses
- Congress has clearly failed to tap the separate demand sentiment, ironically even after conceding the state
- A majority of voters (48%) feel Congress has conceded Telangana demand due to political expediency
- BJP to increase its tally; BJP surprisingly in top 2 positions in 7/17 Parliamentary seats.
- There is an undercurrent for Narendra Modi particularly among youth
- BJP, TRS, MIM are net gainers in Telangana
- There is an undercurrent of religious polarization among Muslims in Hyderabad for MIM, while BJP is gaining from youth vote for development and the overall political vacuum due to the decline of the Congress
- In Secunderabad LS constituency (won by Congress in 2004 and 2009), it is going to be a direct fight between MIM and BJP this time. MIM has made inroads in Jubliee Hills, Goshamahal, Musheerabad, Sanath Nagar and Rajendra Nagar at the cost of Congress party. Reports suggest that MIM is making inroads in areas dominated by Andhra settlers which could prove to be a setback for TDP.
- An interesting feature is that majority of BJP cadre in Telangana are opposed to a tie up with TDP which is essentially seen as Samikyandhra party
- There is likely to be significant cross voting in Telangana region with voters voting differently for Assembly and Parliamentary elections regardless of whether both are held simultaneously or separately (due to the delimitation process likely to be initiated for assembly constituencies at least, if the reorganization bill is passed in the February parliamentary session)
- There is likely to be significant cross voting in interior Telangana districts on varying scales with youth particularly preferring BJP for the Lok Sabha and TRS for Assembly elections. Reports from Mahbaubnagar, Nizamabad and Nalgonda etc. indicate such large scale dual preferences
- While TRS has consolidated its strength among Madiga, Dalit and peasant classes, Reddy’s seem to be not so enthusiastic about backing Congress given its dwindling fortunes, ironically even after conceding the T-demand. As such, preliminary data indicates that the Reddy community could gravitate towards BJP in the long run but an alliance with TDP at this stage is likely to hamper growth prospects and prevent the late surge noticeable towards BJP at least in the Telangana region.
Congress is almost wiped out from its once strong fortress of south India, which is the harbinger of the national anti-Congress mood prevailing in India. Even in Telangana, the party may find very few takers and TRS could be the beneficiary if the new state is carved out before polls. BJP is the surprise package of Telangana and may perform much better in the LS polls despite lack of inherent strength in the state. The big worry for BJP is how it balances its possible alliance with the TDP and still caters to the Telangana voters. TDP has a slight advantage in Seemandhra where YSR Congress may not be getting the traction that the young fledgling party was hoping for.