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Disarming the Opposition, TRS style

By Prof K Nageshwar

The political language in the country has altered for some time now. The ruling parties are not just focusing on consolidating their party popularity through a host of welfare measures, but they are leaving no stone unturned to demoralise and disarm the opposition to the extent possible so that the ensuing fight would be less challenging.

The two Telugu states have seen enough illustration of this political phenomenon in the form of engineered defections and brazen violation of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution. No mainstream party can cry foul as they lack political credibility and moral courage to question such political engineering precisely because they were and continue to be perpetrators of political defections.

The BJP’s political histrionics in state after the state and the Constitutional subversion it indulged in to grab power even by undermining the people’s mandate is well-documented in the recent past. In fact the Congress chest-beating now is an unprecedented orchestration of political hypocrisy as it was the author and innovator of such an expedient politics.

The ruling TDP in Andhra Pradesh and the ruling TRS in Telangana could allure a significant number of opposition MLAs thus politically disempowering them till the next elections. The possibility of increase in the number of seats in the Assembly further emboldened these parties to unabashedly carry out their political machinations.

Though such a political engineering in the form of defections is not uncommon to India, the TRS in Telangana is a step ahead in inventing new forms of disarming the opposition. Though none can question this strategy of co-opting the political agenda of the opposition to make the rival’s campaign pointless, it’s worth analysing the trend.

The opposition parties and even the civil society group in the form of TJAC mounted a virulent campaign against the Telangana government on the question of unabated farmer suicides. The government was accused of intransigence towards the plight of farmers even after the new state was carved out.

Throwing a bombshell on opposition activism, the state government suddenly started talking about farmers only. Notwithstanding its earlier measures like the loan waiver which the opposition called as half-hearted implementation, the Chief Minister announced populist measures like providing cash relief to farmers to buy fertilisers , a scheme which opposition finds it difficult to differ on.

The TRS used its massive meeting, marking its plenary, to run a single point campaign on the farmer’s welfare only. However, the opposition finds in the crash of agricultural prices an instrument of their political activity against the ruling party.

But, the incidents in Khammam agricultural market have come in handy for the ruling party to hijack the agenda from the serious issue of farmers getting a pittance for their produce into a political confrontation between the ruling and the opposition parties.

The agony of chilli and turmeric farmers certainly hogged the attention. But, the explosiveness in this issue is yet limited as such a crash is a seasonal phenomenon and the opposition too failed to come out with a coherent policy response to the recurring problem.

The Congress that ruled the state for several terms has done precious little during its regime when such a plight haunted the peasantry. The TDP tirade has no credibility as prices of chillies and turmeric and other crops have also sharply fallen in Andhra Pradesh.

Though the BJP announced Rs 5,000 support price, it has come too late and too little. The TRS and its government could effectively counter the BJP-led central government with its demand for a justifiable price of Rs 7,000.

The Left parties, especially the CPIM, focused on the issue of social justice through its walkathon. The party successfully mobilised several caste groups in the name of social justice on to the common platform. Though its electoral implications are not so serious, the TRS did not leave the challenge unattended to.

The government started focusing on rural economy, especially artisans. The slew of measures aimed at strengthening the sectors allied to agriculture were aimed at serving dual function. These allied sectors insulate farmers from the price volatility in the agricultural markets. Besides, the beneficiaries belong to backward classes. Now, the government started delineating the Most Backward Castes (MBCs) too.

The Left political campaign was countered through government’s welfare agenda. In the absence of politicalisation of masses, populism or welfarism is certainly more alluring than politics.

In fact, the government walked an extra mile by embarking upon new reservation policy that may have much more significant political impact. Notwithstanding the Constitutional hurdles in implementing enhanced quota formula, it certainly holds good for electoral politics.

The TRS has threat in the form of BJP, especially on the question of Muslim reservations. The BJP has always benefited from its opposition to politics of Muslim appeasement by the secular parties. But, for some or other reason, the BJP lost the shine in its campaign, though it was the only party to oppose Muslim reservations. All the other opposition parties were compelled to toe the line of the government.

The state BJP in its relentless search for a Yogi to descend has certainly lost a political opportunity much to the relief of TRS. Many TRS leaders including some ministers in their private talk with media expressed apprehensions over the possible political implications of such a politico-religious mobilisation by BJP. But, the BJP’s muted response also owes to an extent to the political dexterity of TRS leadership. There are many Shalyas in the opposition camp to derail their own parties from within.

The TRS operation to disempower the opposition still continues. Taking advantage of the congenital disorder suffered by the TDP in the post-bifurcation period, the TRS is making every attempt to decimate the TDP by wooing its leaders at every level. Influential TDP leaders are pitted against the Congress rather than TRS in their own constituencies, making their entry into the ruling party a win-win situation.

This seems to be the bargaining chip in the TRS political parleys with TDP leaders. The TRS is not even leaving the TJAC. The ruling party is trying its best to poach the TJAC by attracting as many leaders of the TJAC to its fold to defeat any possible threat from it, however feeble and intangible it may be at this point of time. Many in TJAC leadership are in it only because they could not be accommodated in the ruling establishment making them highly vulnerable to political offers from the ruling party and the government.

Meanwhile, the political chemistry between Modi dispensation and the TRS is also part of this grand plan to leave no space for anyone. Even as the state BJP pretends as if it is the principal opposition in the making, the TRS leadership mocks at it by forging a friendship with central BJP.

This pooh-poohs BJP claims to be a serious contender to TRS. Given the Modi wave, the TRS does not want to be seen out of ruling national combine in 2019 to bolster its own image back home. The NDA also does not intend to antagonise any strong anti- Congress regional force that can be co-opted at any time to make up for its post poll arithmetic.

The political soap opera enacted by TRS has all the qualities of contemporary political craftsmanship. The opposition has to reinvent its political idiom to stay relevant and seriously challenge the TRS juggernaut.

 

(This Editorial is originally published in The Hans India by its Editor Prof. K. Nageshwar)