Kalvakuntla Kavitha is the daughter of the Chief Minister of Telangana. She represented the Nizamabad constituency in the Lok Sabha from 2014 to 2019. Quite expectedly she was given the ticket to contest the 2019 elections. In one of her speeches immediately after getting the ticket, she gave a call to the farmers of her constituency. She told them that Narendra Modi has caused severe farmer distress in the country. And the only way to teach him a lesson was to go to Varanasi and file 100s of nominations against him.
The farmers were thrilled by her idea. Just that they made a slight change to her plan. Instead of filing nominations in Varanasi, a whopping 245 farmers filed their nominations in Kavitha’s own constituency Nizamabad! 176 farmers finally stayed in the fight against the incumbent MP (also, the CM’s daughter). Nizamabad had garnered attention nationwide, because now we have a total of 185 contestants. This is the highest number anywhere in the country, even setting a world record, with 12 EVMs deployed on voting day, in each polling booth.
There were two opinions going around. One that Kavitha will still win handsomely. Afterall she is the CM’s daughter! Two was that it will be a tight race. The second thought gained more prominence when KCR himself went to the house of a former TDP MLA whom everyone forgot about! This former MLA apparently still had some grip on a couple of villages, and even that mattered so much to KCR that he went to the former MLA’s house.
And the tough fight was expected to be given by the Congress party. Just like the farmers made a slight change of plan, the voters of Nizamabad gave a small twist to the pundits. They voted BJP! They voted BJP in large numbers – so much that the BJP candidate D. Aravind beat Kavitha by a whopping 70,000 votes! These are two political earthquakes no one expected – that Kavitha would lose and would lose to the BJP!
Did the political earthquake stop there? Absolutely not! Even before the leads in Nizamabad came in, the BJP began their unassailable leads in three other constituencies – Adilabad, Karimnagar and Secunderabad. Why is this an earthquake? Because in the just concluded Telangana Assembly elections (December 2018), the BJP won 1 seat out of 119. Just one. It lost deposit in 106. Let those numbers sink in.
The BJP candidate from the Karimnagar Lok Sabha seat is an extremely committed party worker, Mr. Bandi Sanjay. He is just a corporator in Karimnagar. He had unsuccessfully fought the 2014 and 2018 Assembly elections. KCR’s son, KTR is an MLA from Sircilla that falls under the Karimnagar Lok Sabha constituency. KTR even (jokingly) challenged his cousin Harish Rao that Karimnagar will give a larger majority to TRS than Medak will. Who would imagine that the TRS will lose on its home turf and that too to the BJP? Some analyse that Bandi Sanjay had sympathy factor going for him – that he has tried so many times and has worked hard for the party, so he must be given once chance. Some analyse that he ran a good campaign (ofcourse!). But would any of that even explain the nearly 90,000 majority over TRS candidate (who by the way is a very prominent leader of the TRS!).
Adilabad’s BJP candidate, Mr. Soyam Babu Rao was given the ticket just days after he jumped ship from the Congress party. So whilst he did have a good following as the regional leader, everyone is indeed surprised as to how he got a 60,000 majority over his nearest rival.
The only sureshot seat for BJP in Telangana was Secunderabad. The moment Mr. Kishan Reddy’s name was announced as replacement to the sitting MP, Bandaru Dattatreya, it was quite evident that Secunderabad is the seat to watch out for. Kishan Reddy was a 3 time MLA, who lost very narrowly in 2018 elections. He is a well known face and a campaigner too. So while everyone was betting on 1 seat from Telangana, the people have given 4 seats to the BJP!
What explains this paradox? In my mind, this is because of two people. One, is Chief Minister KCR.
Almost immediately after the whopping 2018 assembly election victory, he appointed his son KTR as the Working President of the party. He said that now KTR will take care of the party, while he, the mighty KCR, will strive to play a “national role”. KCR took nearly 50 days to form a cabinet (Only he and Mahmood Ali were sworn in on Day 1). He appointed only 8 ministers and left out his very popular nephew, Harish Rao, from the cabinet. All these have irked quite a lot of voters – this show of arrogance so quickly after winning a historic mandate wasn’t expected of him. To add to this, the TRS party has accepted nearly 10-12 Congress MLAs. People haven’t been able to fathom why this urgency to accept the turncoats. Infact, just prior to the Lok Sabha elections, the TRS even lost the MLC elections!
Dislike towards KCR still doesn’t explain voting *for* the BJP. To complete the puzzle, we must now bring in Prime Minister Narendra Modi! There is no bigger example of the silent undercurrent of support for him than Telangana. This is the first time ever the party won so many seats here. Even while planning for Modi’s meeting, Karimnagar and Adilabad were not even on his itinerary. The party was hoping to win Mahbubnagar (but couldn’t). The massive majorities secured by BJP candidates in Telangana are also because of the phenomenal delivery of welfare schemes by Prime Minister Modi. They are because of the exemplary communication strategy and finally because the voter recognized the value of having a strong Prime Minister who doesn’t differentiate between who voted for him and who didn’t.
At various forums, I was also personally confident of only 1-2 seats. This is a humble pie I don’t mind eating. The Telangana results are a fantastic study of how the Indian voter will always reward exemplary performance even if he/she doesn’t overtly show his/her preference. They are also a gentle reminder that arrogance never succeeds.
Footnote: The 176 farmers who contested in Nizamabad have combinedly received a whopping 94,000 votes! The defeat of KCR’s daughter will stand out as one of the biggest stories of this election.