HYDERABAD/JAIPUR: It’s a referendum on the chief minister. In both the country’s youngest state, Telangana, and its largest, Rajasthan, Friday’s vote will be a mandate for or against the current chief minister.
In Telangana, it’s K Chandrasekhar Rao who’s facing the test and his second election, while Rajasthan’s Vasundhara Raje is leading her fourth consecutive election battle, but this time having to counter the impression of being imperious and inaccessible.
The Telengana election is a vote on two key aspects: Whether KCR sustained his image as the statehood superman, and whether his government did enough to touch people’s lives. The main criticism of KCR is that he was inaccessible even to his legislators, and that he kept power within his family.
Even the opposition framed its debate around KCR. PM Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and TDP president and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu all targeted KCR and his family. As Congress’ Uttam Kumar put it, “It’s a battle between the people of Telangana and KCR’s family.”
At poll rallies, KCR’s son K T Rama Rao declared, “Simham singlega vasthadu (a lion comes alone).” Apart from likening his father to a lion, the comment also refers to the fact that the Praja Kutami (people’s alliance) made sworn rivals, Congress and TDP, join hands and also brought on board Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) and CPI.
In the northwest, in Rajasthan, Friday’s vote is crucial to BJP’s Vasundhara Raje, and Congress’ Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot. Raje has to retain her chair and emerge as a mass leader. Gehlot and Pilot, the strongest contenders for the CM’s post if Congress wins, are also competing for their space in the party hierarchy.
Congress is believed to have the edge in the desert state, which has earned a reputation of voting the ruling party out, as it won recent bypolls. Rebellion among senior members rocked the boat for both parties and could split votes. Former BJP members Ghanshyam Tiwari and Hanuman Beniwal have each floated parties and fielded candidates in 55 seats.
Whether the vote goes pro-CM or anti-CM in either state, the outcome will indicate the road to 2019.
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