Earlier in this series we sized the TRS victory in the GHMC elections. In the most recent post I demolished certain outlandish "reasons" offered by the losers or their apologists.
In this concluding part I will examine explanations that are (or, on the face of it, appear to be) more credible. I will also provide my own assessment of the historic verdict.
As we are aware GHMC is spread across 24 assembly constituencies. 14 out of these members of legislative assembly (MLA's) were elected on NDA ticket while 7 MLA's won on the Majlis symbol with TRS capturing the balance three seats.
Talasani Srinivas Yadav (# 62 Sanathnagar), Teegala Krishna Reddy (# 50 Maheshwaram), Madhavaram Krishna Rao (# 46 Kukatpally) and G. Sayanna (# 71 Secunderabad Cantonment) broke away from TDP and shifted their loyalties to TRS. The contention these defections played an important part in the TRS victory needs to be verified in earnest as these four constituencies traverse 20 wards.
Subsequently six more TDP MLA's (including 4 from the city) jumped ship effectively reducing the party to 3 MLA's from the original 15 with just one "absentee" legislator from GHMC. Two Congress legislators also joined the chorus. This is not relevant to our analysis and is only noted in the passing.
A little history first. As many as 14 MLA's (TDP: 6, Congress: 4, Congress rebels: 2 & YCP: 2) defected to the TRS between the 2014 general elections and the 2016 GHMC polls. Adding the nominated MLA, the 8 later day turncoats and a lone bye-election win, TRS's effective strength is 87 out of 119 with one seat vacant.
The subject of defections raises a lot of heat & dust with much indignation and posturing. I am compelled to point out that several other states (Jharkhand, Assam, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu & AP) have seen equally controversial party hopping with the very same folks raising concerns in Telangana benefitting in some of these cases.
Defection has been a time honored practice right from independence. TRS gave tickets to 14 defectors in 2014 among whom six emerged victorious. 35 NDA candidates (TDP: 33, BJP: 2) in the 13 Andhra districts were defectors who donned the party colors on the eve of the elections with 15 (TDP: 14, BJP: 1) of these party hoppers winning at the hustling, three going on to join the cabinet.
It is probably not an exaggeration to say every major political party has accepted or even encouraged defections when it suited its interests. A large number of leaders including very prominent ones have jumped ship one or more times in their career.
There has been a steady influx into the TRS post 2009. This broadly consisted of second & third rung leaders as well as ordinary cadre from almost all political parties, the statehood & other contemporary movements and civil society. Congress too enjoyed a lower but reasonably strong upswing in the months between the central Telangana decision & the 2014 general elections. Media often overlooked this exodus & focused only on high profile defections of those in elected positions.
As an analyst, one must look at the impact of these events. The moral, ethical or even legal angles are beyond the scope of this report.
Assuming for the sake of argument these defectors tilted the scales I simulated a scenario where the TRS stays at its 2014 vote share in these four seats. We still arrive at a remarkable 40.3% vote share, a nominal 3.4% dip. The resulting set back is quite low with a "guesstimate" of around 85-90 wards, still a historic verdict. But did even this happen?
Talasani Srinivas Yadav is a veteran leader of good standing. Having said this, his preferred constituency is the neighboring Secunderabad (# 70) that TRS won comfortably both in 2014 & 2016. He bagged 45.3% of the Sanathnagar votes in 2014 against TRS's 23.3%. This time around the combined TRS vote was at 55.5% against NDA's 31.1% i.e. much higher than 2014 NDA share. Even if we attribute the entire 14.2% swing away from NDA to the defecting leader, TRS "stand-alone" performance at 41.3% share & 18.0% swing would still be substantial.
G. Sayanna, another veteran leader, won by a narrow 3,275 vote majority in 2014. TDP's fortunes dipped in the 2015 SCB elections with the party losing all four wards. His daughter G. Lasya Nanditha lost despite much fanfare. It may be noted in passing that she won comfortably from Kavadiguda (ward # 90) outside her father's geographic domain with a majority of 11,388 votes!
This time around NDA retained much of its vote in Secunderabad Cantonment falling just 0.9% below its previous 35.5%. TRS share grew 14.9% from 32.9% to hit a formidable 47.8%. This can be attributed to "cannibalization" of Congress, YCP & minor parties rather than the defection.
Though a first-time MLA, Teegala Krishna Reddy too is a senior politician having served as MCH Mayor in the past. He won the 2014 elections by a comfortable majority 30,784 votes cornering a 42.9% share. In 2016, TRS jumped from a third position 19.5% share to the top of the table with 40.3%, a swing of 20.8%. Majlis, who did not fight in 2014, stood second with 20.1%. NDA share fell 25.4% ending with third position at 17.5%. Congress slid two positions losing 7.7% votes.
Maheshwaram therefore presents a very complex scenario. Majlis could not have gathered such a large vote share merely from Congress. One therefore has to assume the voters preferring the absent Majlis split their patronage between Congress, TRS & smaller parties in 2014. This leads to a near 30% TRS swing in 2016: something no single individual can accomplish all by himself. Reddy's contribution may have been good but TRS probably did not need him desperately.
Madhavaram Krishna Rao, another first-time MLA, is comparatively less known. His family is quite active politically in Kukatpally: two of his relatives contested from Vivekananda Nagar Colony (ward # 122) with the TRS candidate beating the TDP relative by a modest 1,492 vote majority.
NDA lost around 10.9% share in 2016 from Kukatpally while TRS went up to 50.6% share i.e. a swing of 26.6%! Even in the highly unlikely event the entire NDA negative swing is the result of the defection, TRS "stand-alone" performance at 39.7% share & 15.3% swing would still be commendable.
One must conclude from the above the defectors did not benefit TRS to any material extent. The only possible (that too partial) exception is that of Teegala Krishna Reddy.
Looking at it from a different angle, we find:
· TRS swing in the 4 defectors' constituencies is between 14.9%-32.2% with a simple mean of 23.5%
· The four seats that saw defections later are more range bound (22.2%-29.0%, simple mean: 27.3%)
· The numbers for the balance six constituencies: 18.6%-39.8% range, simple mean: 28.3%
A cynic would congratulate the eight defectors on their "wise decision" and recommend the others (with the possible exception of T. Raja Singh, # 65 Goshamahal BJP MLA, incidentally a defector who won the 2009 GHMC election on TDP symbol but jumped to BJP later) to switch over as well J
Local strongmen effect
As we know TRS did not contest the 2009 GHMC elections. Quite a few councilors shifted to TRS in the run-up to the 2016 elections. Councilor defections are quite common in India. For example Congress won the Gandhinagar corporation in 2011. Some Congressmen crossed over to BJP enabling it to rule the corporation the next two years. It may be noted in passing the anti-defection law (tenth schedule) does not cover local bodies.
The theory that such local strongmen (contesting directly or through a "proxy") are particularly good at winning votes irrespective of party affiliation deserves serious consideration. After all the wards are reasonably small and geographically concentrated. It is quite conceivable that someone in a commanding position in one or two localities (especially weaker section areas) can poll quite well on his own strength.
Parties select candidates considering several complex parameters including social composition, loyalty, internal dynamics and a strange animal called "winnability". There is little doubt that strongmen are blessed in the last factor. This may even have been one of the main reasons why the present defecting councilors won in 2009!
In the present case we saw delimitation not only reduced skew across wards but also resulted in several boundary changes. The 2016 wards do not correspond to those in 2009 even if the names are the same. By definition a local strongman stays local: his advantage is diminished when boundaries change.
Deciding who won the votes- party or the individual- is rather tricky. One can however draw some deductions using the performance of rebels & independents as a clue. Because of the complexity of candidate selection it is not possible to accommodate all aspirants, defectors or otherwise. This typically gives rise to the rebel phenomenon i.e. disgruntled individuals fighting as independents. As we saw earlier GHMC in 2016 was singularly devoid of well performing independents.
Before proceeding further let us examine how the other strongmen fared:
· Mulla Vikram Goud, declared by Congress as their choice for Mayor, came in a dismal fourth position at Jambagh (ward # 77) losing his deposit & polling just 3,382 votes
· Former Congress mayor Banda Karthika Reddy (whose spouse incidentally is also a strong local leader) contesting from Tarnaka (ward # 143) lost to TRS novice Alakunta Saraswathi by a huge margin of 12,941 votes and, in fact, barely managing to retain her deposit
· Vemullapalli Pradeep Choudhary, the presumptive TDP Deputy Mayor candidate, lost Vengalrao Nagar (ward # 99) by 1,182 votes to Kilari Manohar, the comparatively unknown TRS nominee
· Most of the TRS's own strong candidates such as Bonthu Rammohan (# 3 Cherlapally), Bethi Swapna Reddy (# 8 Habsiguda), V. Srinivas Reddy (# 87 Ramnagar), G. Lasya Nanditha (# 90 Kavadiguda), P. Vijaya Reddy (# 91 Khairatabad), Kavitha Reddy Manne (# 92 Venkateshwara Colony), Vijaya Laxmi Gadwal (# 93 Banjara Hills), Baba Fasiuddin Mohammed (# 103 Borabanda) and KM Padma Goud (#132 Jeedimetla) won comfortably
Let us now look at the performance of those 2009 councilors (or their kin) in the present election. 43 out of the 106 non-Majlis councilors returned to the fray this year. 20 of these (TDP-12, Congress-6, BJP-1 & PRP-1) fought on the TRS ticket.
· With the exception of Kanjarla Annapurna (#101 Erragadda, relative of Kanjarla Sadashiv Yadav) who lost to her Majlis opponent by 951 votes, the other 19 TRS candidates won their wards
· Two of these candidates lost vote share in comparison with 2009 while the gain for two others was rather modest (less than 5%)
· The other fifteen candidates increased their vote share significantly with a simple mean of 17.1%
The other 23 strongmen (6 of whom contesting from a different party) presents a sharp contrast:
· Only two BJP candidates i.e. Ale Lalitha (# 35 Gowlipura, relative of Ale Jitendra) & G. Shanker Yadav (# 50 Begum Bazar) managed to win. It may be noted these wards are in the Hindu pockets of the old city, a traditional BJP stronghold. Another point of interest is that these individuals are both defectors from Congress, their party in 2009
· Two others gained vote share compared to the 2009 performance
· The other 19 lost significant vote share with a simple mean of -17.4%
· 9 of the 23 candidates secured third or lower position with only one of these retaining deposit
The conclusion is obvious: individuals did not matter in this admittedly wave election!
The "settler" question
An interesting point of view often floated in several forums can be summarized as per the following:
· There are a large number of "settlers" in Hyderabad. If you throw a brick at any random direction it will hurt several of these nice folks J
· These individuals were largely opposed to Telangana statehood and preferred status quo or, as a second option, Hyderabad as a separate Union Territory (UT)
· They were so angry at Telangana formation that they voted enmasse for TDP (or BJP where it contested as a part of NDA) rejecting Congress & TRS totally
· This anger has subsided by now and most of them want to buy peace with TRS (or forgave the party in response to KTR's "apology")
This theory appears to be popular with educated web savvy upper & upper middle class upper caste Andhra men: the very same group that vigorously opposed Telangana statehood movement. You will remember the Hyderabad UT bogey was a frequently used arrow in their quiver!
Let us first resolve the terminology. The word "settler" refers to Andhras who migrated to the Hyderabad state before 1956 and gave up links to their former homes. The number of settlers in Hyderabad is not very high. Originally limited to areas like Chikkadpally, Dilsukhnagar, Vijay Nagar Colony, Vanasthalipuram & Anand Nagar Colony, they are now fairly well spread out across the city. They are broadly indistinguishable from other Hyderabadis, have few if any links to Andhra and are involved in a wide range of white collar work.
The first generation white collar Andhra migrants who migrated after 1996 (or 1983 depending on whom you ask) are not settlers. They maintain close links to their home, enjoy a lifestyle quite difficult from the rest of the city and are limited to a few professions like technology, films, media, education & real estate.
Another group consisting of government employees broadly shares the same interests as the first. They have comparatively fewer links to Andhra but strongly identify with the region. Their numbers may not be high but they make up for this with high visibility.
The third group consists of blue collar workers employed in a wide range of services. Except those in segments supporting the white collar migrants (e.g. Andhra "mess" workers), there is little interaction and/or common interests between this and the other two groups. How big is this group? Difficult to estimate but I would guess it would not be insignificant.
There is little evidence or basis to suggest the blue collar Andhras vote (or even think) on lines similar as the other articulate groups. After all a construction worker is not likely to be concerned with grievances such as article 371-D, river water sharing or the so called Telugu mother. For the limited purpose of this analysis however I will club all three groups as "Andhras" with a common cause.
Demographic data is not easily available in India and, where available, of suspect accuracy. This is probably the main reason why armchair "experts" can get away with outlandish speculative shibboleths passed off as "wisdom". Due to the proliferation of sensation hungry media, any Tom, Dick or Harry with a gift of gab can enjoy glory grossly out of proportion to his knowledge & analytical skills J
How many Andhra migrants are registered electors in GHMC? As there is no way to provide a reasonably accurate answer, people tend to indulge in their own number game. A "commenter" recently claimed 20-30 lakh Andhras travel to their hometowns from Hyderabad every Sankranthi!
What is the evidence behind this exaggerated claim? Media frequently claim around Sankranthi "Hyderabad has become empty" with visuals of smooth flowing traffic! What do you expect on a holiday especially at the commuter peak hours? If the claim is even reasonably close, the usual Sankranthi major film release should bomb at the box office in Hyderabad!
There is no conceivable way the transportation system can handle this kind of volume in a short duration. Even if entire fleets are commandeered to cater to this rush, we should be witnessing two diametrically opposing chaotic scenarios: total traffic jam on the alleged route & lakhs of people waiting for transportation in the districts that "donated" their fleet. No media outlet has ever provided these visuals: yet the gullible lap up this nonsense just because it suits them J
Sri Krishna Committee citing census data shows a total 533,198 Andhra origin population in the districts of Hyderabad & Ranga Reddy. This comes to 7.2% of the population in the two districts. This territory includes several areas outside GHMC borders but misses out Medak district GHMC areas. Assuming there are no Andhras in the non-GHMC areas and extrapolating for Patancheru we arrive at an Andhra population of 543,007 in GHMC.
Census is an exercise where enumerators visit your home to collect data while electoral registration is a process that involves certain amount of time & effort. White collar registration is therefore on the lower side in India especially with people that shift jobs/residence regularly. Let us however assume that all eligible members of the GHMC Andhra population are registered electors in the city.
As countries go we are a young country: 41% of the population is under the voting age of 18 years. Assuming this ratio holds we arrive at 320,374 Andhra electors in GHMC. At the 2016 turnout of 45.1%, this translates to 144,489 votes. Even assuming these votes are restricted to just 75 wards, the average per ward is a mere 1,927 votes! It may be worth noting here that 84 of the 99 TRS councilors won with a majority of over 2,000 votes J
Let us look at this from a different perspective. If the contention is correct, NDA vote share should have gone up dramatically in 2014 in comparison to 2009. As we saw NDA actually lost 2.6% votes in these five years. In fact this fall could be as high as 10.2% if we accept TDP claim that PRP & LSP "stole" their votes in 2009!
This theory is incompatible with another known fact: YCP polled 5.2% of the Hyderabadi votes in 2014. Surely some of these folks were Andhra migrants?
Pursuing a different line of investigation, 30 lakh population with 59% adults works out to 17.7 lakh electors i.e. 21.7% of the 2014 electorate. NDA won 35.4% of the votes in that elections. Even if every single Andhra voter voted for the alliance, it would still account only for 61.3% of the alliance's performance. The balance votes would have to be from Telangana voters but for whom NDA would have been just a notch above TRS's 19.6%. NDA may be thankful to receive the so called "Andhra protest vote" but could scarcely be expected to ignore the interests of a demographic that effectively catapulted them to the top of the table, especially when they otherwise lost votes in the previous five years.
Let us shun the idle speculation and focus on data. This does not reveal any evidence whatsoever to support the contention that TRS did better in areas where the Andhra voters live. There are probably very few Andhras in the assembly constituencies of Goshamahal, Karwan & Nampalli. As we saw earlier, TRS did pretty well in the wards in these seats.
The oft repeated claim that Andhras in Hyderabad opposed Telangana statehood is not backed by any credible evidence. The "performance" of the individual calling himself G. Kumar Chowdary Yadav and the unrecognized party with the grandiose name of Samaikyandhra Samithi Party founded by him is extremely interesting. This gentleman, incidentally a part of the so called Visalandhra Mahasabha fringe group, contested from Sanathnagar in 2009 winning a grand total of 182 votes (0.16%) and securing a remarkable twelfth position in a field of 15 rivals. Doubtless he was encouraged by this as he aspired to enter the Loksabha in 2014 scoring 547 votes (0.054%) and an improved rank of 25 out of 31 Secunderabad aspirants. The fact that such vote counts are usually associated with student body or housing society elections need hardly be stressed.
Perhaps one should check aggregate data rather than the saga of an individual's "heroic" struggle? Sundry ragtag parties opposed to Telangana secured 0.033% of the 2009 GHMC votes. Assorted anti-Telangana groups bagged 0.46% of the GHMC votes in 2014. This time around none of these worthies (or the Hyderabad UT fans, their ideological cousins) deemed it fit to risk their caution deposit by entering the fray J
The conclusions from the above analysis are summarized below:
· There is very little support for the anti-Telangana or Hyderabad UT platforms in Hyderabad
· Andhras may have voted for TRS in droves but no more than every other demographic (except Muslims in the wards Majlis contested)
· Andhra votes were certainly welcome but TRS would have pulled off a historic win even without them
I will conclude this four-part report by providing my own assessment of the verdict. This is by definition purely subjective.
This is a comprehensive victory for TRS. The usual electoral models are inadequate to explain the huge surge in vote share. Even sophomore surge, a phenomenon never seen before in India, does not cover situations where an incumbent jumps up 24.1% in under two years.
A steep raise in a ruling party's popularity is often caused either by an atmosphere of fear (e.g. post-911 Bush surge) or a striking "game changer" idea (e.g. "garibi hatao"). Neither scenario is applicable in the present case.
Landslide elections are usually negative. The 1971 Loksabha election, probably the best known positive wave election, saw Congress peaking to 43.7% vote share.
The most remarkable part of the present verdict is that it is not only huge but also positive. Neither the circumstances nor the government performance appear to warrant such a big victory.
There is much speculation that Hyderabadi voters were swayed by factors such as uninterrupted power supply and the double bedroom scheme. No doubt these may have helped but could not have been the prime reasons by themselves.
In my assessment, the two main reasons why TRS won so big are as follows:
· Telangana was seen by the activists as a gateway or an interim destination. The refrain that Telangana's problems can be solved only after achieving statehood dominated the discourse. This hitherto untested hypothesis is gaining wider acceptance as results (or even projections) start coming in. The problems remain broadly undiminished but the construct of Telangana as the vehicle to solve these looks much more real than ever before
· TRS was perceived both by friends, foes & others as an agitation platform. The party's inherent shortcomings (weak structures, hit-or-miss strategies, one-man show etc.) raised doubts whether it can emerge as a party of governance. TRS appears to be handling the transition quite well in relative terms. They may or may not be settling as well as they need to: what is important however is that they are doing so way ahead of the expectations!
This is not to say TRS can get complacent. The tougher job of delivering is still ahead!