Everyone is talking about how the forthcoming by-polls in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions will affect the political future of YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy. But perhaps the most interesting by-election in Andhra Pradesh is going to take place in Parkal assembly constituency in Warangal district.
The only election that is taking place in the Telangana region has five political parties -- Telangana Rashtra Samiti, Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress, Telugu Desam Party and YSR Congress -- battling it out. The by-poll is being held due to the resignation of Konda Surekha, a Congress leader who later joined the YSR Congress.
The TRS, that has championed the Telangana cause for over a decade now, is the frontrunner in Parkal. But the BJP and the YSR Congress are slated to give it a tough fight. The Congress and the TDP are fighting for the wooden spoon, with no senior leader from either party even bothering to canvass for votes.
T S Sudhir spoke to K T Rama Rao, TRS member of the legislative assembly and son of party chief K Chandrasekhar Rao, on how the by-poll result will help the Telangana cause and the bitter political rivalry between his party and the BJP.
The presence of five main political parties makes the Parkal by-poll a very exciting one. How do you see the result helping the Telangana cause, given that the MLA who resigned -- Konda Surekha who is now the YSR Congress candidate -- has not been a vocal champion of statehood to the region?
Yes, it is a most exciting contest. We see it as a curtain-raiser to the 2014 assembly polls. A TRS victory here will put pressure on the Congress, which looks set to lose significant ground in the other two regions to the YSR Congress. It will realise that granting statehood to Telangana alone will save its skin. The Congress and the TDP are fighting for the fourth and fifth spots in Parkal, because of the emergence of a regional force like TRS.
The fact that its principal opposition in the Lok Sabha, the BJP, is now ahead of the Congress -- only because it is supporting the cause of a separate state -- will make the Congress realise what it is losing out by not granting statehood to Telangana. If it does not, the Congress is in a lose-lose situation in all three regions. Through this election, we will convey to them the inevitability of saying yes to Telangana.
You spoke of the BJP. That party surprised everyone by pushing the TRS to second place in the last by-election in the Mahbubnagar assembly seat, which incidentally is part of your party president KCR's Lok Sabha constituency.
The BJP won Mahbubnagar by only 1,800 votes. That too because it stooped very low in the kind of communal campaign it ran there. It told the people, 'you are with Ram if you vote for the BJP and with Raheem if you vote for the TRS'. We want Telangana to happen but we want a secular state with the Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb that Mahatma Gandhi spoke about. The BJP should not be allowed to vitiate that. We are for a geographical division, not a division of people.
We see a turf battle taking place between the TRS and the BJP on who is a better champion of the Telangana cause and in that sense, Parkal has become significant.
TRS has been at it for over a decade. The BJP climbed on to the bandwagon only two years ago. Both the Congress and the BJP say a new state is not possible unless national parties agree to pass the Bill. But we have to remember that in the past, these two parties have betrayed the cause of Telangana and finally it was KCR's fast that forced the Union government to issue a statement in favour of a separate state.
Today, in the by-polls in Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh, you see both national parties bending over backwards to accommodate a regional party like the Samajwadi Party. That supports our theory that regional parties can dictate terms. We are looking at a situation where TRS has 12-14 members of Parliament to put pressure on the Centre to grant statehood to Telangana.
With you and the BJP splitting the Telangana vote, is there a danger of Surekha squeezing through by a narrow margin?
I want to ask the BJP why its central leadership is obsessed with Parkal. We have had (senior BJP leaders) Sushma Swaraj and Prakash Javdekar coming only to Parkal. Its state president Kishen Reddy campaigned for over a week in Parkal, even though the party is also contesting in some of the other 17 seats.
The BJP is working in collusion with Jagan and Gali Janardhan Reddy, who was a minister in Karnataka's BJP government, facilitated this. At his behest, and with Venkaiah Naidu's blessings, the BJP is playing the spoiler to split the Telangana vote and thereby help Surekha. We hope that would not happen.
But why should the BJP help Jagan in Telangana when it is looking to grow as a force in the region?
Kishen Reddy, when he won in 2009 from Amberpet assembly constituency in Hyderabad, had a secret understanding with YSR to field a weak Congress candidate. What you are seeing now is a quid pro quo -- from Amberpet to Parkal. He is returning the favour done by YSR to help Jagan's candidate now.
Another whisper campaign is about how the TDP cadres will tactically vote for the BJP to ensure a TRS defeat, given the bad blood between KCR and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu.
That will not happen because the TDP cadres are for Telangana even though the party leaders have their own self-serving agenda. Take for example the by-election in 2010 in my constituency Sircilla. The TDP cadres actually voted for me, boosting my winning margin considerably.
While you allege collusion between BJP and Jagan, you are also accused of having an understanding with the YSR Congress. Compared to the way you obstruct a Chandrababu Naidu in Telangana every time he tours the region, Jagan's mother and sister's road show were not disrupted by your party.
In an election, we have to follow the model code of conduct. Yes, we know the YSR Congress is anti-Telangana but if we obstruct its leaders, our candidate could get disqualified. We have not stopped any party leader from campaigning in Telangana during the election.
Do some crystal-gazing now. Do you see the government falling after June 15 if the Congress does badly in these by-polls?
Yes, unless Chandrababu Naidu supports the ruling party openly. He is extremely desperate to avoid an election now. The Congress can then opt either for President's rule or concede Telangana.