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TWIN VICTORIES

It is fortuitous that the formal division of Andhra Pradesh and the constitution of the two state assemblies fall on the same day — June 2. The bifurcation of the state is the single factor overriding all others in deciding the outcome of the Lok Sabha and assembly elections in the constituent states of Andhra Pradesh. The winners of both the elections in the two states — the Telangana Rashtra Samiti in Telangana and the Telugu Desam Party in the Seemandhra region — owe their victories as much to this factor as the Congress owes its defeat. The Congress knew that it would come a cropper in the Seemandhra region, where the public mood was against it for dividing the state. It had been counting entirely on Telangana to make up for that loss. Unfortunately, it could pry away only two Lok Sabha seats and 21 of the 119 assembly seats there. The failure to enter into a pre-poll alliance with the TRS (which was always keen to run away with the trophy), the lack of any clear leadership in the region, and the all-pervasive anti-incumbency mood queered the pitch for it. The leadership crisis was even more severe in the Seemandhra region, where a rebellious chief minister held on, scotching all chances for the Congress. Here, the TDP made hay under the astute leadership of N. Chandrababu Naidu, who ran with the hare and hunted with the hounds by protesting against the bifurcation but also stitching up an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has always supported the division. Given his pro-development image, strong party organization and caste support in the coastal belt, Mr Naidu found it far easier than Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSR Congress to provide the sense of mooring that voters needed in the region. Mr Reddy, encumbered by his long incarceration and unable to shake off rumours about his dalliance with the Congress, has lost out to the TDP. The BJP has improved its footprints in Andhra Pradesh, but, as in Tamil Nadu, has failed to steal the regional parties’ thunder.

Having determined the election outcome, the bifurcation issue also changes the complexion of Andhra’s dealings with the Centre. No more will it be possible for a single party to bargain for the region’s rights as the Congress once did under Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy. Not surprisingly, his son has already paid a visit to Narendra Modi to wrest the early bird’s advantage for himself.