Despite exodus, TDP upbeat about Telangana polls

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Hyderabad: More than three-and-a-half years after the creation of Telangana, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in the state has lost 13 of its 15 legislators and several district-level cadres to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the Congress. While political analysts and other parties see the end of the road for the TDP in the 2019 assembly elections, its remaining leaders however remain optimistic that they can put up a fight and overcome the crisis it is facing.

The latest salvo from within the party came from leader Motkupalli Narasimhulu on 18 January. On the day, which marked the 22nd death anniversary of TDP founder N.T. Rama Rao, he told the media that the party’s Telangana unit should merge with the TRS, embarrassing the party. He claimed that Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who is the TDP’s national president, was confining party activities only to Andhra Pradesh.

“We have a strong base in Telangana, with village, mandal and district committees and the TDP is strong structurally in comparison to the TRS and Congress. The party also still has support from the Backward Classes (BC) and weaker sections and our vote share ranges between 7% to 25% in the assembly constituencies,” said E. Peddi Reddy, former MLA and cabinet minister in the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh.

The TDP expects to give a tough fight in at least 40 to 50 of the assembly seats (out of 119) in Telangana, Reddy told Mint, adding that the party will identify new leaders from its ranks and appoint new office-bearers to replace those who have switched loyalties. A dozen MLAs defected to the TRS in 2016, followed by Kodangal MLA Revanth Reddy—the last to leave—in October last year.

Revanth Reddy, who crossed over to the Congress with his followers, was disgruntled. During his time with the TDP, he was booked as an accused in the ‘cash-for-vote’ scam in 2015, for allegedly offering money to legislators to buy their votes in the legislative council elections.

“The TDP certainly cannot retain seats in the districts of Telangana, but in Hyderabad there is still a remote possibility. It has chances in seats like Kukatpally, Serilingampally and Jubilee Hills, but it will be difficult. It will definitely lose support in rural areas,” said political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.

“In 2019, TDP’s alliance partner, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), will also talk from a position of strength, so it won’t kneel down to the TDP. It is to be seen how the TDP’s Backward Classes cadre works in the next elections,” he added.

The TDP’s situation in Telangana stands in contrast to that in Andhra Pradesh, where it rules in alliance with the BJP. However, unlike the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), which has seemingly ceased its activities in Telangana, TDP leaders are active and regularly hold programmes across various districts. “It is ridiculous to think of the TDP as a Telangana or AP party. It will be active wherever there are Telugu people. We even have elected representatives in the Andaman and Nicobar islands,” said Lanka Dinakar, TDP (AP) spokesperson.

“If you see TDP as a stand-alone party, it won’t pose a problem, but a TDP-BJP combine might be a problem as a vote-splitter and give an upper hand to the TRS,” said a Congress leader from Hyderabad, who did not want to be named.livemint