The sole aim or intent of multiparty coalition pre-poll alliance in Telangana - Mahakutami (grand alliance) as per the Congress Party, Prajakutami (Peoples Alliance) as per Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS) and derisively labeled as Mayakutami (Illusion Alliance) – is to defeat the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) at the polls scheduled on 11 December 2018.
The stated aim of Mahakutami/Prajakutami is to defeat the TRS and put an end to K Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR) family rule. Of course, people are no more fools. The contrarian position is what about the family rule of “Gandhi Dynasty” at the national level and Nara Chandrababu Naidu (NCN) family rule in Andhra Pradesh (AP)?
As per the recent poll surveys, the fight between the TRS and the Mahakutami or Prajakutami is too close to predict. And, the BJP stands outside chance to retain their seats. Stating the obvious, people are the ultimate arbitrators of the viability of Mahakutami or Prajakutami to ensure political stability that is vital for promotion of growth and development in Telangana.
Following the dissolution of the Telangana State Assembly by KCR, the Chief Minister, on 6 September 2018 (months ahead of May 2019 elections), the relatively weak and fractious Opposition, led by the Congress, forged the Mahakutami to humble KCR and the TRS at the polls. To start with, the Mahakutami alliance was reportedly based on the left parties and the TJS.
Followed NCN, the Chief Minister of AP, National President of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) jumping on to the bandwagon of the Mahakutami after meeting Rahul Gandhi (RG) for the first time on 1 November 2018.
Both NCN and RG are desperate to reclaim and retain their relevance in politics. So, despite bitter antagonism that existed since the founding of the TDP by NCN’s father-in-law, N T Rama Rao in 1982 based on the “Self-Respect and Pride of Telugus” - pro-Telugu ideology – and as an alternative to the Congress hegemony – with the sole purpose of fighting Congress and its corrupt methods of governance in the undivided state of AP, the new found bonhomie – real gamble by both.
NCN is famous for his political U-turns, whose sole obsession is to somehow retain power at all costs. No place for ideological convictions and political morality. For example, major flip-flops and U-turns of his political career includes: joined the Youth Congress as student leader and elected as MLA (1978 to 1983); defeated by TDP candidate in 1983 elections; deserted the Congress Party and joined the TDP immediately thereafter; appointed General Secretary of the TDP in 1984; elected as TDP MLA in 1989 elections and served as Coordinator of the TDP; served as Chief Minister (1995-2004) after staging and backstabbing the founder of the TDP (NTR-father in Law); served as the Chief Coordinator of the 13-Party United Front (UF)(1996-1998) and declined the offer of PM post.
In his capacity as the convener of the UF, NCN had enthroned Deve Gowda as Prime Minister with the support of the Congress. When then Congress president Sitaram Kesri was "unhappy" with Gowda and withdrew support to the UF, it was again NCN who used his Congress connections to make sure IK Gujral replaced Deve Gowda, and the UF regime continued in office.
After the UF lost power, NCN joined hands with the BJP in a post-poll alliance. He had his party’s nominee GMC Balayogi as the Speaker of Lok Sabha, soon after the 1998 elections. By the time the BJP had to seek a fresh mandate from the people in 1999, Naidu forgot his past and conveniently joined the NDA bandwagon before the elections itself. The alliance with the BJP would see him fight huge anti-incumbency and win hands-down in the state and also in the Lok Sabha elections.
Next, NCN went to polls in 2004 along with the BJP as part of the NDA. Also, less known is NCN (staunch votary of a united Andhra Pradesh) joining hands with TRS as part of “Grand Alliance” to contest 2009 Assembly elections. But that did not help his party wrest power from the Congress. He faced a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Congress, led by YS Rajasekhara Reddy, in undivided AP.
NCN held the BJP responsible for the humiliating defeat of his party in 2004 elections and severed ties with the BJP. Yet again, NCN forged alliance with the BJP in 2014, but exited from the NDA in March 2018.
· Now, facing an uphill challenge in Andhra Pradesh, NCN has aligned with the Congress Party and other opposition parties – Mahakutami in Telangana and Mahaghatabandhan at the national level.
Ipso facto, NCN was involved in a ‘no-holds barred’ spat with Lakshmi Parvathi, second wife of NTR, in the aftermath of NTRs demise. Lakshmi Parvathi called NCN as a traitor, cheat, and thief - a shameless person". NCN had retorted by calling her "a man eater".
Some political observers hail NCN as an astute, ambitious and seasoned politician. Now, he is facing a fiercest battle to retain power. NCN latest move to abandon the NDA and forge an alliance with the Congress Party in Telangana and at National level is to somehow retain power at all costs.
Having opposed bifurcation of United AP, NCNs capability to sway the emotions and sentiments of people of Telangana is poor. By RG forging ‘unprincipled alliance or coalition of convenience” with NCN, he too loses whatever sway and influence he wields over the people of Telangana.
Furthermore, there is running feud between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh over sharing of waters of Rivers Godavari and Krishna (Kaleshwaram project in Telangana and Polavaram project in AP) besides sharing of assets and shifting of the High Court. NCN is the villain of the act of stalling development of Telangana.
Also, NCN capability to sway and polarize the “Andhra settlers” vote banks in favor of Mahakutami is contentious. After all, even the “Andhra Settlers’ loyalties are divided between the TDP and the YSRCP. As per media reports, the YSRCP voters en bloc are going to favor the TRS in their respective strongholds. Even the other “Andhra Settlers” too may vote for the TRS candidates since the TRS has not acted detrimental to their interests.
In reality, voter’s backlash against NCN could spoil whatever chances the Congress Party could gain in the face of counter offensive by the TRS on the dangers of NCN exercising manipulative skills to wield power from behind the ‘throne’.
In sum, NCN has very little influence and sway over the people of Telangana despite total domination of Telugu TV Channels under the ownership of Andhra settlers. Can he actively undertake pre-poll campaigning in Telangana? Will he join RG/Sonia Gandhi on the common meeting platforms and road shows in Telangana?
What if the Mahakutami/Prajakutami fails to make significant breakthroughs in Telangana? So also, what happens if the T-TDP candidate’s performance at the polls remains insignificant?
Also in 2017, several TDP workers, led by MLC, B Venkanna, waved black flags and raised slogans saying Rahul had no right to set foot in Andhra Pradesh, which his party so "illogically divided" in 2014 when they planned to block the convoy of Congress vice president RG on his arrival at Vijayawada airport to attend a public meeting in Guntur. "Rahul go back", the TDP workers shouted at Kesarapalli village located on the NH16. Earlier in the day, the TDP workers staged a rally in Guntur city protesting RGs visit. "Having so brutally divided the state, the Congress has no right to organize the public meeting (on special status)," TDP senior leader Mannava Subba Rao said.
Most important also, the lessons of the past coalition initiatives - Janata Party (1977-1979); National Front (1989-1991); UF (1996-1998); and the Mahaghatabandhan (2018-) - do not inspire confidence for political stability. All of them are only ‘opportunistic alliances’ sans convergence of ideologies. They are mostly politically fragile what with none of their leaders occupying Prime Ministers position for sustainable periods. In retrospect, all past attempts of forging “Joint Fronts” at the national level have followed the script of 5-Monkey metaphor and truly synonymous.
What is the ‘5-monkeys’ metaphor? An experimenter placed 5 monkeys in a large cage. High up at the top of the cage, well beyond the reach of the monkeys, is a bunch of bananas (political power). Underneath the bananas is a ladder. The monkeys immediately spot the bananas and one begins to climb the ladder. As he does, however, the experimenter sprays him with a stream of cold water. Then, he proceeds to spray each of the other monkeys.
The monkey on the ladder scrambles off. And all 5 sit for a time on the floor, wet, cold, and bewildered. Soon, though, the temptation of the bananas is too great, and another monkey begins to climb the ladder. Again, the experimenter sprays the ambitious monkey with cold water and all the other monkeys as well. So goes on the experiment wherein all the monkeys that try to climb the ladder, the other monkeys, wanting to avoid the cold spray, pull him off the ladder and beat him.
How true and relevant is the metaphor to past initiatives of “Joint Fronts” in Indian politics? In retrospect, political parties have failed to appreciate the wisdom of the quote “Fools learn from their own experience; wise learn from others experience”.
Finally, the Mahaghatabandhan initiative at the national level mooted by the NCN with the sole intent of removing Modi from power in the name of “Save Democracy” or “democratic compulsion” to forge alliance is simply scaremongering and a hoax. No curbs on freedom of speech and movement so much so Congress minions are following their leaders – SG and RG – in hurling choicest abuses against Modi, the PM. Also, yet another fraud is RG speaking on alleged corruption in the Rafale deal.
In retrospect, the real battle at the national level is between “Dynasty” vs. “Democracy”. A cursory look at the opposition political parties in the Mahaghatabandhan – Congress Dynasty; NCN Dynasty; Mulayam Singh Yadav Dynasty, Laloo Yadav Dynasty; DMK Dynasty etc, - should glaringly expose the realities. Almost all of them including the Mayawati BSP and Mamta’s TMC do not believe in “internal democracy”. How can suddenly they forge a front claiming to be champion the spirit of democracy? Even they cannot lay claims to be “holier than thou” on the issue of corruption having presided over gargantuan eruption and envelopment of corruption.
In sum, the prospects of Mahakutami or Prajakutami may end up as Mayakutami. If so, its fallout on the Mahaghatabandhan could be detrimental and adverse to its prospects, particularly in Telangana and also in Andhra Pradesh, in 2019 polls.