A three-pronged race: On Telangana and the general election 2024

As the BRS slips, the Congress stays ahead in Telangana

With a behemoth like the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) on the wane on the one hand and frantic crossovers across party lines on the other, Telangana could well be among the most heavily contested States in South India in the general election. While the Congress won an impressive 39% votes in the Assembly election in November 2023, former Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao’s BRS, which is now the principal Opposition party after a decade in power, was only two percentage points short in terms of vote share. The Congress bettered its vote share by 14 percentage points from the 2018 Assembly elections, while the BRS declined by a similar margin from a dominant 47%. But as The Hindu had reported then, the swing against the BRS appears to have gone both in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress: in Adivasi dominated areas for the BJP and Muslim dominated regions for the Congress.

Moreover, in the nearly four months of Congress Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy’s rule, there has been a marked change in the public’s perception of the government and governance. For one, Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, the Deputy Chief Minister and a Dalit, now occupies the official residence of the Chief Minister built by K. Chandrashekar Rao in 2016. The building has also been renamed Jyothirao Phule Praja Bhavan to counter the perception of inaccessibility and social exclusion. Sure, KCR’s first deputy and Health Minister, T. Rajaiah, who was sacked within a year of taking oath, was also a Dalit. But so too was his replacement and former Education Minister, Kadiyam Srihari. While most welfare measures promised by the Congress, such as 200 units of free electricity, are yet to be implemented fully due to the Model Code of Conduct in place for the seven-phased Lok Sabha elections, the public appears to be in no hurry yet to write off the Congress. And with recent high profile defections from the BRS to the Congress, such as Mr. Srihari and Rajya Sabha Member K. Keshava Rao, who is widely viewed to be KCR’s trusted lieutenant, the likelihood of the BRS matching its performance in the 2019 general election — nine seats and a 42% vote share — appears bleak. An important indicator not to be missed is the doubling of the BJP’s vote share from 7% to 14% between the 2018 and 2023 Assembly elections. This points to a three-pronged race emerging in Telangana. Assaduddin Owaisi’s party, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, is still a major player, though without any formal alliance. It remains to be seen how its supporters vote in the seats that it is not contesting.