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General Elections 2009 - Analysis of AP Results

Caution: Long post :)

The newspapers, the blogworld, and the electronic media are full of election results analysis this week. With the amazing victory of Indian National Congress (INC) led UPA in the Lok Sabha elections, and the INC's successful defense of its citadel in Andhra Pradesh (AP), hopes have been raised because of assured stability at both centre and state for the next five years.

Even though I am not a supporter of Congress politics, I find it hard not to feel happy about the results because: 1.The Left has been routed in its strongholds and 2.Indian electorate has decisively voted for a National party(though for the wrong one !) ; except for Bihar and Orissa, INC has fared well wherever it was pitted against the regional parties. This bodes well for our polity. I will have another post where I am going to look at the short, medium and long term possibilities for inclusive growth and economic policy under the new dispensation.

For now, I would like to indulge in some analysis of my own on the election results. In this post, I will focus on my home state of Andhra Pradesh.

Background (Longish one; skip it if you already know all this):

INC led by Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy (YSR) came to power in 2004 elections after a 10-year rule by Telugu Desam Party (TDP) led by Chandra Babu Naidu (CBN). Whilst the founder of TDP, the Telugu film star N.T. Rama Rao, created political consciousness among the people of AP (NTR made people realize the power of their vote, by giving them the option to dethrone the Congress), CBN created 'development consciousness' among the Telugus.Naidu was known as the CEO of AP Inc, due to his penchant for powerpoint presentations, hobnobbing with Bill Gates to bring Microsoft Global Dev Centre to Hyderabad, and in general putting Hyderabad on the global IT map. Naidu also spent a lot of money beautifying the city and working on the infrastructure in the State. Naidu also made citizens realize that they can question officials and politicians on their performance directly. But his developmental policies were seen as pro-rich, and five suucessive years of bad monsoon did not help agriculture at all.

YSR made his money from Barytes (Barium Sulphide, used in petroleum processing mainly) mines in Kadapa district (Kadapa is my home town too).For almost 22 years, he was an eternal dissident within the State Congress Party, and was also a faction leader of some notoriety.YSR is a charismatic leader, and learnt his political craft in the rough and tumble of AP Congress politics.I remember the Hindu-Muslim communal riots in AP during the early 1990s when Cong was in power in the State. Though it has not been proven, many people allege that YSR organized those riots to create a law and order situation thereby making the Congress high command dismiss the State Chief Minister. But the Congress' Delhi elite saw YSR as a rabble rouser, and kinda country hick type, and never gave him the CM chair.

By 1999, YSR became the main Congress leader in AP, with the older, more urbane leaders retiring from active politics.YSR tried his best, but Naidu, in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a huge majority in State assembly and also delivered 32/42 seats for the BJP-led government at the Centre.

Things changed for YSR around 2002-03.He ran into some troubles with his children earlier, but finally saw everything settle down, and he became the numero uno Congress leader.He knew the 2004 elections were his last chance to have a go at power.And he undertook a pada yatra - a walking tour of the entire state of AP, in severe summer.He visited hundreds of villages, spoke with the farmers, and created a massive negative swing against the TDP government.Naidu was so successful in demoralising his opponents that all of them (the Communists, Congress, and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti) joined hands to defeat the ruling party. The media, both state and national, never saw the wave against TDP.YSR promised freebies such as free electricity, and the reinstatement of Rs. 2 a kilo rice scheme.And a decade of anti-incumbency against Naidu culminated in YSR winning a huge popular mandate for his party.And more Lok Sabha seats for his party than from any other state.He had arrived on the national scene.

In the past five years of YSR's rule, there has been a lot of noise, but not much development in the state.The Union Govt's rural unemployment welfare scheme was implemented shoddily, and the housing scheme for rural poor got mired in inefficiencies, and large scale corruption.YSR's son Jagan started a media empire, a steel factory, expanded the mining businesses, and grew his personal wealth to become a billionaire (though his declared assets make him only a millionaire).Congressmen throughout the state revelled in the ease of use of corruption opportunities, and made millions in real estate deals (mainly robbing the rural poor), civil contracts and so on.From a culture of development consciousness, AP became a place where acceptance of corruption and communal politics became THE CULTURE.No major new roads were built, existing roads were not maintained, and the promise to give a separate state of Telangana was not kept.

A few months before the 2009 elections, film star Chiranjeevi launched his Praja Rajyam party (PRP).Chiru, as he is popularly known, belongs to the Kapu caste, while CBN is a Kamma and YSR is a Reddy-Christian (meaning he could be whatever he wants to depending on who he is addressing). Though Chiru never made casteist statements, the coterie around him and his opponents made sure that PRP is seen as a Kapu party.

All along, Naidu was against the idea of separate Telangana.But now he changed tactics and openly supported the cause of Telangana.Naidu also rallied the Communists to his side, thus creating a Maha Kootami (Grand Alliance) between TDP, TRS, and the Left parties.

Naidu's calculation: Alliance will trounce Congress in Telangana.In Rayalaseema, TDP will share the seats with Congress.In Coastal Andhra and North Andhra, Kapus will vote for PRP thus damaging the Congress, and TDP will gain as a result.

TRS calculation: Led by the maverick Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), the TRS plan was to ally with whoever they can, with the sole intention of creating a separate state.KCR has a way with words and he is adept at making inflammatory speeches.He is also a political opportunist and has a dictatorial approach towards party governance.He was a senior cabinet minister under CBN earlier.But after 7 years of breaking promises, his reliability factor was a bit low. And yet, TRS and TDP counted on the Telangana sentiment to get to power.

Left Parties: In AP, the Left is led by two individuals who hardly agree with each other - Raghavulu of CPM and Narayana of CPI.Their calculation is simple - latch on to whoever looks like a winner, and gain from the reflected glory after the election.They have one asset though - being cadre-based parties, the Left were trained in transferring their vote to the allies.

Lok Satta and BJP: Now, why am I clubbing these two small, insignificant parties in AP?Well, we will get to that point later.

Congress calculation aka YSR's calculation: True to their nature, Congressmen love to fight among themselves.So, one section of the Party want a separate state for Telangana whilst the rest want AP to stay as it is.Chief Minister YSR never opposed Telangana, but never allowed any initiative to start the due process.

(NOTE: Both Naidu and YSR are from Rayalaseema, which is smaller in area and seats compared to Telangana and Coastal AP.So, they know that if Telangana is given, Coastal AP leaders will not allow a Rayalaseema leader to become the CM.Also, who would want to lose some area from under his rule?)

YSR sounded confident throughout the election campaign that he will return to power, and will also get maximum number of MPs for Congress from AP.He kept repeating this statement and the numbers, inspite of his own party members disagreeing with him, the opinion polls showing an advantage for the alliance, and PRP's presence complicating the matters further.

The general feeling was that Congress won't be able to form a Govt, and there will be a hung assembly with no party getting simple majority.Chiru would become the king maker as he is sure to get atleast 30-40 seats, people said.Chiru himself said his party would get simple majority and he will be the next CM.

Results: We all know what happened.For the record, Congress led by YSR got 157 seats out of 294, comfortably crossing the half-way mark of 147 for a simple majority.Surprise, surprise, YSR won 33/42 parliament seats for his party as well ! TDP won 90 assembly and 6 Lok Sabha seats.The much hyped Praja Rajyam got only 18 assembly seats and did not win even a single LS seat.

What really happened in AP ?

1. The voters of Telangana have decisively rejected the separate state sentiment and voted for integration.TRS candidates lost security deposits in 9 seats, and won only 10 out of the 35 they contested.Congress won around 52 seats in Telangana, while the Congress ministers and sitting MLAs from Telangana (most of them agitated for a separate state) lost.TDP (no one believed Naidu's words of support for Telangana) did extremely well, and won 32 out of 55 they contested, a strike rate of almost 73%, better than even the Congress.

2.PRP with its 17 % share of the votes polled in the State, largely helped the Congress, especially in North Andhra, Godavari districts, and Nelore, Anantapur and Kadapa districts.

3.Inspite of PRP's impact, TDP did very well in Rayalaseema and won 21 seats against the Congress tally of 26.

4. Massive consolidation of Dalit Christian vote in favour of Congress. YSR's advantage is that Reddys see him as a Reddy, and Christians see him as a pious Christian.YSR's son-in-law, the Brahmin-turned aggressive evangelist Bro.Anil Kumar did a hectic campaign in the state, but focused on coastal areas where, due to the success of Joshua Project, the % of Christians has seen a sea-change in the last two decades.Unofficial estimates put the % of Christians in Coastal AP at almost 20%, but even if it is 12%, it is a huge bank, when allied with the Congress traditional vote base.

5.The perception of Muslim voters that any vote for TDP in LS elections would mean a vote for BJP at the national level ensured heavy cross voting in favor of Congress in LS elections.Interestingly, the Muslim voters did not vote on religious considerations in the Assembly elections. Cong had 12 Muslim MLA candidates but only 4 of them won this time.

6.Congress tried all the tricks it had and then some more.For example, the riots between Dalit Christians and Kapus in Godavari area 2 days before the elections saw a major polarisation helping the Congress candidates win the LS and assembly seats against all odds.

7.YSR ensured that the right emotional messages were sent to the Hindu upper castes in AP by focusing on TTD (the trust that manages the famous Balaji temple in Tirupati)'s religious activities.Many Brahmins I spoke to (Disclaimer: I am a Brahmin myself) were happy with initiatives like Dalita Govindam, mass vedic marriage ceremonies for poor people, the Annamayya project, launching of a Hindu devotional channel by TTD and so on.And where there are signficant upper caste voters such as Vijayawada, Congress put up a Brahmin candidate.Of course he won.

8.TDP lost this elections because it overestimated the strenth of TRS and the Left.If it had contested for all 294 seats on its own, we would have seen a different story.Instead, it contested only 225 seats, and won 90.Congress contested 294 and won 157.Naidu had also messed up candidate selection and there were over 60 rebel candidates.Out of these, 34 candidates came close second against their Congress opponents and the official TDP candidates came third.If TDP had got this aspect right, we would have seen them getting 124 and Congress would also have got around 130.And with TRS/PRP help, Naidu would have formed the Govt :)

9.BJP lost a lot of its core vote base of 8% and ended up with 2% votes.Lok Satta also got around the same or slightly less % of votes.This means, a good chunk of BJP's core vote base of liberal right and Hindutva supporters, especially the urban middle class, shifted towards Lok Satta, as they were impressed by JP Narayan, the Lok Satta founder. Lok Satta's manifesto and approach appeal to the same voter base that usually votes the BJP.Also, as said earlier, the competitive minority appeasement talk of Chiru and Naidu put off the Hindutva voters and they voted Congress for its apparent balance of appeasement under YSR.

10.Okay, we can't discount the money power and caste combinations.However, it looks to me that in Telangana and Rayalaseema, people voted for individual candidates and party policies, and not on caste lines.In coastal AP, it was money power and caste all the way.YSR wisely desisted from spending too much in Seema and Telangana and focused on coastal AP.

(NOTE: YSR got lucky with the defeat of 14 of his ministers, including the state Congress president D.Srinivas.This leaves him with no visible challenger in his Party for the next five years.)

What next for the parties?
Congress under YSR: Enjoy the second term, make more money, supress the opposition.I hope they also finally start getting some things done for the poor people instead of creating a culture of entitlement for specific sections.Congress would do well to attract the urban middle class youth, and also strive for efficient delivery mechanisms for its flagship welfare schemes.

TDP under Naidu: Contrary to what people say, I feel that TDP can be proud of its performance and its ability to motivate the cadre and also retain its core vote base.They need to learn their lessons, and focus on the local body elections.Naidu can and would play a responsible opposition, but he needs to understand that stalling assembly proceedings will not endear him or his party to the electorate watching Live Assembly on TV !

PRP: Chiru was such a big disappointment really that it needs a separate post altogether.Many people are saying that PRP will dissolve after a while and the MLAs would join Congress.That may or may not happen, but I have some ideas for what Chiru needs to do, which I will put down later.For now, I hope he attends assembly regularly and learns the ropes of being a peoples' representative.

BJP: Start from scratch.As I consider myself a centre-right person (a liberal Republican voter in the American sense), I have a stake in how the BJP does in my home state.They have a huge potential but facing a leadership problem.I hope they find a leader from the interior parts of the State instead of Hyderabad city.Operation Lotus, the way it was done in neighbouring Karnataka may not work in AP.But there are other approaches.I am discussing some of these steps with like minded folks on the Net and on the ground.Lets see what happens.

Lok Satta: I wish I could join this party as its policies are a mix of the best practices across the world, modified to fit India/AP. I see Lok Satta growing steadily in AP for the next decade or so till it becomes a decisive player in the state.

Left parties: If they want to remain relevant, they should do some honest introspection.Don't want to say more than this because I consider the Left in India as among the scum of the earth and stooges of China.They don't deserve my brain cells or key strokes.Period.

Media: Has largely played a decent role in AP, unlike their national level English counterparts.

To end this post, I want to salute the sagacity of AP voters.They did not vote Congress into power.It happened due to various factors some of which I listed above.By and large, irrespective of the party affiliation, the better candidates among the ones contesting have won.The voters exercised their choice equally in favor of TDP and Congress, and mostly discarded the rest.It is the nature of our 'first past the post' system that gave a decisive mandate to the Congress with such low margins in terms of votes polled.Also, for the LS elections, the voters went for the only national party that has a presence in AP. What else can a nationalist like me ask for?

Oh yea..I can always hope that AP voters will have a genuine choice between the two national parties in 2014.Till then, watch the Govt and make sure they know we are watching !

(Next post will be on analysis of national level results including links to articles from various analysts. Watch this space !)


Anonymous said…
I am from AP too. One of Godavari districts to be precise.

My 2 cents:

* The 20% Christians from my district and Krishna (I lived there too) are predominantly (80%) SC. SCs always voted for Indiramma's party anyway.

Now the risk is with the new converts which include the likes of Settibalija/Ediga, Kapu, Kshatriya and even Brahmin etc. and these numbers are increasing rapidly. Believe me some well known Vaidiki Brahmin families in my town converted due to financial hardships.

I have close friends who 'took Matham' and an Engineer turned evangelist friend.

o give an example, some Kapu Christians in this area didn't vote for Chiru since he is a Satan worshiper (He, like all Kapus in Godavari districts, is a Hanuman worshiper and wears it on his shoulder).

I think BJP will have to give up on such areas.. I am just setting right expectations.

However, I see a silver-lining here. Christians too fight among themselves on caste lines - they have separate churches. So, in the future BJP may field a Kapu Christian for example.. :-)

* Next the 3% Brahmin vote is irrelevant except in 5-6 constituencies e.g. One consti in VJA, one in Vizag etc.

* Villagers in AP got used to freebies so much that it would be difficult for anyone to match Congress or TDP in future without being populist.

* In the past BJP did well in some areas like Hyd etc. where there is already some amount of division (due to MIM etc.), they may concentrate on those areas. Agreed that people who knew Rajakar stories are minority now. But it is not difficult to teach history to Telangana youth again.

* National leaders ignored a state that contributes 41 seats to LS, this may be set right.

* BJP may also ignore Rayalaseema. They won't be able to decode the factions equations - They couldn't do it even when G. Pulla Reddy was alive.
Kumar Narasimha said…

Thanks for the comment.

Yes, I am aware of the situation in Coastal AP vis-a-vis religious conversions.And I am afraid it is a time bomb waiting to explode.It will be much worse than Kandhamal, if and when it happens.

But, I don't think the BJP, Lok Satta or any centrist or centre-right party should base their approach on the same communal and casteist lines used by Congress, Left, and regional parties.There won't be any difference between these parties then.

I am expecting BJP/Lok Satta to focus on the developmental issues, poverty alleviation, infrastructure, education and health sectors.

I am from Rayalaseema and let me tell you that Pulla Reddy was rather shy about his RSS connections.BJP never really made an attempt in Rayalaseema.

If BJP focuses only on issues of national interest, and embarks upon a war on casteism, it will have a lot of appeal any where in India.
Anonymous said…
This election was infact a refrendum on separate Telangana. People from Telengana rejected the idea totally! I wish people like Devender Goud should at least realize now. He was so insecured that he contested in two places. Shame that he couldn't even win at one place.

Chiranjeevi's films were box office hits but his debut political thriller bombed at the electoral box office.Voters taught a good lesson to Chiranjeevi who was over confident right from the beginning. Cash for the seat scandal ruined the party. Chiranjeevi lost Palakol which clearly shows how intelligent are the voters. Allu Aravind is another major contributor to PRP's loss. He influenced Chiranjeevi in vital party's decisions. Shame that Anakapalli voters sent Allu Aravind packing.
Kumar Narasimha said…
Hi Anon,

Spot on about Telangana.

Regarding PRP, yes, huge disaster.But why is it a shame that Allu Arvind lost? It is a good sign that voters in Anakapalle did not vote on caste considerations, IMO.
Anonymous said…
I just came across and got an opportunity to read this. I'm so glad I did... What an awesome analysis and I can't agree more with the author. Keep up the good work!

YSR this time around was so lucky to pull this off. He got good support from Muslims and Christians. National elecetions also helped him bcoz people wanted Congress than BJP or any confused third and that reflected on voting percentage difference between state and central. Chiru coming in helped YSR by splitting the anti-govt votes and taking away tradional TDP BC votes. I would think most loksatta votes are from TDP side. If loksatta wasn't there, most of their votes would have gone to TDP (be it more educated or be it anti-govt). An analysis showed if TDP had got LS votes, TDP would have 34 seats in addition. Alliance killed TDP. 75% of the allinace seats were won by congress. All stars alligned for YSR this time and worked perfectly for him.
Kumar Narasimha said…
Thanks for dropping by, Anonymous.Yes, the Grand Alliance killed TDP's chances.

Right now, CBN's biggest worry seem to be the financial well-being of TDP cadre.A decade out of power, no contracts, no regular source of revenues..will be interesting to see what he does.
Anonymous said…
Hi Narasimha, Just wanted to know if you have ever been to kodur in kadapa district in your childhood?
Kumar Narasimha said…
Yes, Anon.I know Rly.Kodur well.Been there several times. Why?
Anonymous said…
Wonderful blog Narasimha, i'm a native of Vizag and yes these mass conversions are ticking time bomb. Wonderful analysis hope you write more!