Friday, Nov 07, 2003
Front Page |
Southern States |
Other States |
Advts: Classifieds | Employment | Obituary |
ALL SIGNALS FROM Andhra Pradesh say early Assembly polls. It is clear now that no sooner had Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu got over the shock of the claymore mine attack on him at Tirupati than he began to think elections. The leading factor behind the decision to bring forward the State Assembly contest seems to be the Telugu Desam Party's assessment that substantial sympathy has been generated for its leader by the People's War's assassination attempt that very nearly succeeded. The ruling party evidently hopes to cash in before the effect wears off. Consider the political uncertainty that lies ahead, with general elections due in late 2004. Add to this the fact that the monsoon thus far has been quite favourable. You have a recipe for a shrewd political leader opting to maximise his chances and give his opponents minimum time to get their house in order. It only remains for Mr. Naidu to announce the decision and dissolve the House. Since the TDP enjoys a comfortable majority, no one should have any quarrel with that.
Until a couple of months ago, the odds seemed stacked against the TDP. The anti-incumbency factor was much talked about. There was reported to be a widespread feeling, especially in the Andhra Pradesh countryside, that the TDP leader's obsession with economic reforms had led to a spiralling of prices, unemployment and other ill effects, and that the hyper-concentration on Information Technology did not touch their lives. The perception within the TDP at least is that this ground situation has been transformed. An early Assembly election divorced from a highly uncertain Lok Sabha contest makes compelling sense to the ruling party. It sees its best chance in keeping the focus on State issues and what Mr. Naidu can PowerPoint as his `developmental achievements'. He might have consciously kept out of the National Democratic Alliance and stayed away from the Government, but the identification of the TDP as the Bharatiya Janata Party's most important ally is strong. By going in for a sudden, separate poll, the TDP hopes to improve its chances with minority voters who might see the stakes rather differently in a general election.
What is clear is that the challenge from the Congress, which has been out of power in the State since December 1994, will be tough and resourceful. To note that the Congress in Andhra Pradesh is faction-ridden is not to say anything new. But in addition to the strong anti-incumbency factor it detects, the party will be banking on the feel-good force it hopes will be with it following triumphs in the coming round of Assembly elections in five States. It has a big stake in closing ranks, working out clear and potent campaign themes, and mobilising all its resources to neutralise Mr. Naidu's advantages. The Congress will no doubt dwell heavily on the theme that eight years of Mr. Naidu's rule has brought more hype than hope to the lives of millions of ordinary people in the State, especially the rural poor. It is bound to bring to the fore the issues of the stamp paper scam, regional imbalances in development, and the travails of cotton and tobacco farmers, especially the suicides. The party's faction leaders, including former Chief Ministers and Pradesh presidents, have come together in a "unity bus yatra" that itself tells a story. The revision of electoral rolls, which will begin soon and be completed by January 20, 2004 is a significant factor. It will bring in an army of earnest first-time voters whose preferences and expectations are completely unknown. For all Mr. Naidu's calculations, the coming Assembly contest in south India's largest State looks, at this stage, tight.
The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | The Hindu eBooks | Home |
Copyright © 2003, The
Hindu. Republication or redissemination of the contents of
this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of