The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference.
Events over the past one week in Telangana have been quite unbelievable, even leading to perhaps one of the biggest crisis for the Telugu Desam Party.
Elections to the Legislative Council
In May, Election Commission issued a notification for elections to the MLC seats in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. These seats opened up under the MLA quota, i.e., MLAs will vote to elect a few MLCs. Six seats opened up in Telangana Assembly; Four in Andhra Pradesh Assembly. Only four candidates filed nominations in the AP Legislature so there was no election. Seven candidates filed their nominations in Telangana Legislature, making an election inevitable.
Out of these seven, five were from the ruling TRS party; one from the Congress and one from the TDP. To win, a candidate needed 17 first preference votes for him, i.e., 17 MLAs have to vote for him. Following is the “official” composition of the Telangana Assembly:
As you can see, TRS has 65 MLAs. For all of its candidates to win, it needs support of 5*17=85 MLAs. Congress has enough MLAs to get its candidate elected. TDP+BJP combine has enough candidates to get its candidate elected. But this is “official”.
5 MLAs of the TDP have jumped ship to the TRS party. One of them has been made a Minister too. 4 MLAs of the Congress party have jumped ship to the TRS. 7 MLAs of MIM have also supported the TRS party. KCR’s son, a Minister in his cabinet, KTR spoke to Jagan Mohan Reddy to garner support of 3 YSRCP MLAs. This brings their overall strength to 84. The Left parties have 2 MLAs and they have decided to abstain from voting.
Now, “unofficially” the TDP+BJP combine has only 15 votes, therefore they can’t get their candidate elected – which means they are just putting up a token fight. TRS needs one more MLA, TDP needs 2 more MLAs. And here’s where the TDP miscalculated so badly, that all hell has broken lose in the past one week.
Voting was scheduled for June 2nd. On the evening of June 1st, we were shown the explosive video of deputy leader of TDP in the Assembly, Revanth Reddy, offering 50 lakhs in cash to Mr. Stephenson, nominated MLA (from the Anglo-Indian quota) and further promising an additional 4.5 crores once voting is completed on the 2nd. Revanth Reddy is a very popular TDP MLA – a loud mouth many a time, but has the gift of oratory and therefore is a big hit in public meetings. This came as a huge shocker to everyone. One couldn’t imagine that he would be so stupid as to go and deliver the cash himself!
2 videos have been leaked – one recorded on May 31st – in which Revanth and Stephenson discuss the details of the offer – 5 crores cash, and if TRS government decides to curtail the term of Stephenson, then he will get MLA seat from the AP quota of Anglo Indians (which as far I know, doesn’t even exist). Revanth Reddy also mentions that he will talk to his boss and clear up all things. He also mentions that he will get the boss to talk to Stephenson, should he have any doubts about the deal. The second video, and more incriminating video, is of the evening of June 1st – where Revanth Reddy gives Stephenson a bag of cash amounting to 50 lakhs and promises the additional 4.5 crores the next day.
A couple of days later, the Home Minister of Telangana says that they even have tapes of Chandrababu Naidu talking to Stephenson. And finally on the evening of June 7th, this (alleged) tape was also leaked. The discussion is a short one – Chandrababu Naidu says – “Our people have briefed me. I am with you. What all they spoke, we will honor. Freely you can decide, no problem. That is our commitment.”
And whatever remaining hell had to break lose, broke lose! The AP government and the TDP party have come out and said that the voice does not belong to Chandrababu Naidu at all. They have now made this into a TS vs AP battle! Some random tapes of a conversation between a DSP and a MLA were released by the AP government on a TV channel. These tapes were supposed to “incriminate” KCR’s son, but they do nothing.
Chandrababu Naidu’s USP has been that he and his party are epitomes of honesty. One of their strongest campaign points last year was to choose between a “thief” (referring to Jagan Mohan Reddy) and a leader. By getting caught while trying to buy the vote of an MLA – that impression officially lies in tatters now. This was a wrong battle the TDP chose to fight. It was very clear from the beginning that the TDP did not have the numbers to win, instead of staking so much prestige, it would have been good if they lost gracefully and then went to town claiming how a party that won 65 seats was able to gather 85 votes in the Assembly.
Instead, Revanth Reddy’s ambition coupled with a bad call by Chandrababu Naidu has landed the party in a soup (and perhaps one of their biggest crisis too). Revanth Reddy claims in one of the videos that Naidu agreed to put up a candidate in this election only because he convinced him to do so. Given how the failing was evident, did ego get to Revanth Reddy? Did he want to win at any cost and please the party supremo? On what basis did they count the support of 17 MLAs, when the writing on the wall was so clear!
Whatever happened in the last one week is quite unbelievable. The stock of TDP is anyway very low in Telangana currently. The events of the last week only add one more nail to their coffin. There might be a minor setback in Andhra Pradesh too, however, elections are 4 years away, the only thing that will matter to the people of AP are execution of TDP promises. The choice the people of AP have is Chandrababu Naidu and Jagan Mohan Reddy (unless Pawan Kalyan decides to contest in 2019 separately). Jagan is accused number 1 in 11 cases. Just yesterday, former APCC chief, Botsa Satyanarayana has joined YSRCP. The image of Botsa is also quite bad when it comes to corruption. Given this choice and the fact that elections are 4 years away, it is unclear how the tapes will impact.
Chandrababu Naidu is legally safe – even if the conversation is true – it doesn’t reveal anything. He doesn’t take names and numbers, so no charge can be framed against him, no arrests will be made. KCR has scored over the TDP in this round. But we haven’t seen the end of this unfortunate saga yet.