Telangana’s Super Friday

By T S Sudhir

The people of Telangana have filled full tank petrol in Chandrasekhar Rao’s ambassador car. On what was a super Friday, KCR’s Telangana Rashtra Samiti’s latest resignation drama was declared a superhit at the electoral box-office. This even though the `resign and recontest’ formula has been used by KCR several times in his decade-long career with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti.

In the past, the ploy of `losing to win’, by way of `sacrifice’ to attain more strength didn’t click, with the people of the region seeing through KCR’s game. But this time, KCR had brewed the T just right.

Coming just months after Andhra Pradesh was polarised on regional lines and the formation of the Srikrishna committee to study the contentious issue, nearly 65 per cent voters in 12 assembly constituencies in five districts turned up to say `We want Telangana’. With the TRS and the BJP the only two parties to have taken an unequivocal stand on statehood to Telangana, the endangered pink panther species was roaring once again. And pink slips were handed by the dozen to Congress and Telugu Desam candidates.

Contrary to the May 2009 results, when the TRS won just 10 of the 45 assembly seats it contested, forcing KCR to take moral responsibility and resign and allow himself to be persuaded, this time KCR’s hard work ahead of the 27th July exam paid off. What makes this whitewash noteworthy is that this came despite the TRS having a truck with the BJP in Nizamabad and their leaders campaigning together in several other constituencies. The lotus didn’t scare the minorities away.

Does this mean that the TRS can repeat this feat in the remaining 107 constituencies in the Telangana region, if elections were held tomorrow? Yes and No, depending on KCR’s assessment of his own steering skills.

While this victory will give a fillip to the TRS cadre and the party is also likely to gain from migratory birds from the TDP and the Congress, it will do well not to overestimate its own strength. A 100 per cent result plus picking up the Vemulawada seat is fantastic but KCR, the astute politician he is, will recognise that much of the verdict is an emotional vote for Telangana and not entirely for the TRS.

At the moment, jubiliant TRS workers point to the Congress and the TDP and joke, `For who the bell tolls’. No doubt, alarm bells are ringing for both the parties. The aam aadmi in Telangana did not extend his hand to the Congress nor did he trust Chandrababu Naidu, to hitch a ride on his bicycle. For both these parties, most dominant on the political landscape of Andhra Pradesh, the time has come to shed their wishy-washy attitude on bifurcation and come clean.

TDP leaders on Friday behaved like an ostrich with its head in the sand. As if the bypolls did not matter. Naidu himself muttered something like “we were all very busy with Babhli and couldn’t campaign”. It sounded like a `marriage at home so can’t come to work’ kind of excuse. And after Jaganmohan Reddy’s Sakshi TV put a `x’ mark over Naidu’s right eye (wickedly indicating that his Telangana eye had lost sight), the fencesitter TDP supremo changed the screenplay to a father and his two sons, implying as a father, he wouldn’t choose between Telangana and Seemandhra.

Contrary to TDP hope that Babhli would work some magic, it only poured cold Godavari water. None of the voters had an appetite for listening to Naidu’s tales of horror, likening the Maharashtra police to the Britishers. End result was the TDP even lost its deposit in many constituencies, a matter of shame for a party whose cadre strength in Telangana used to be a matter of envy.

The Congress got a zor ka jhatka, zor se lage, when its chief, Dharmapuri Srinivas bit the dust in Nizamabad. Here was a political heavyweight whose supporters initially tomtomed about how DS could be CM if he won. Realising Nizamabad has 12000 Vysya votes (the community to which K Rosaiah belongs) who wouldn’t relish the prospect, CM-aspirant was brought a notch down to DCM (deputy chief minister). But none of his efforts `paid’ off and DS lost to his BJP rival by 11981 votes. I wonder if they were all Vysya votes !

But no one is shedding tears for DS’s second downfall in 15 months. Everyone knows, it is just a matter of time, before the APCC chief is shown the door and the next few weeks will witness an ugly race to succeed him.

The real target in fact, will be Rosaiah. While the chief minister can smile now that the man from Nizamabad is no longer building castles in Hyderabad air, the Jagan camp is already loading its ammunition and asking why Rosaiah shouldn’t answer for why, as the commander-in-chief of his army, he did not even campaign in the byelections. The CM obviously calculated that staying away would absolve him of the disaster that almost everyone knew was waiting to happen.

But Jagan, though the thorn in Rosaiah’s throne, is also a red rag to many Congressmen from Telangana. One of them being bete noire Madhu Goud, MP from Nizamabad. To Jagan groupies who claim that not allowing YSR’s son into Warangal for his Odarpu yatra was a mistake, Goud counters that if Jagan had stepped into Telangana, all Congress candidates would have lost their deposit.

Polemics aside, the fact remains that post-YSR, the Congress does face serious questions on who its real leader with a pan-Andhra Pradesh appeal is. The answer is no one. The ruling party can ill-afford to continue batting with a night watchman, who doesn’t have the complete support of his team. Especially when the situation post 31st December 2010, irrespective of what the Srikrishna committee recommends, could throw Andhra Pradesh into chaos. The state needs a leader, whoever it is, who can control and more importantly, perceived to be able to control. It is for the Congress to launch a talent hunt within its ranks and soon.

The million dollar question is whether this 12/12 result will hasten the process of formation of Telangana. There will be now pressure from the Telangana Congressmen on the leadership in Delhi, to recognise and respect the verdict. For the sake of the party’s own political future, if not out of love for the people of Telangana. But don’t rule out an equal and opposite reaction from the Seemandhra Congressmen, Chiranjeevi and TDP’s yellow brigade.

Two, the Congress decision will depend largely on whether it is able to blunt KCR’s image. It will not want to be seen as granting statehood under pressure and definitely not allow anyone else to walk away with the credit. And it knows KCR is ready with his acceptance speech, when he receives the `Father of Telangana’ award.

Either way, Telangana’s super Friday has set the tone for churning in Andhra Pradesh’s political theatre. Picture abhi baaki hai, mere dost !

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DS ka number aayega?

By T S Sudhir

We drove directly to the polling station in Nizamabad town, where Dharmapuri Srinivas was to vote. It was a health centre on which was written `Be Bold’.

Srinivas has been bold indeed. Some call him desperate. Those more critical dub him power-hungry. A few charitable souls feel sorry for the way he is having to sweat it out.

The president of the Congress in Andhra Pradesh is in the fray for the second time in just a little over a year, as the party’s candidate in Nizamabad urban constituency. He lost by over 11000 votes last May to the BJP’s Y Lakshminarayana, whose resignation over the Telangana issue caused this byelection.

A defeat will virtually seal Srinivas’s political career. Atleast for sometime. But it is the temptation of the immense possibilities a win could provide that lured DS into this tough battle. `Kal ka MLA, DS’ could become `Kal ka CM, DS’. The challenge for DS is to convert that `could’ into a `will’.

DS has been a CM aspirant since 2004. He fancied his chances even when YSR was the face of the Congress campaign against Chandrababu Naidu six years ago. But he had to give up meekly.

In the changed political landscape of Andhra Pradesh since 2nd September 2009, and the Telangana agitation that followed, DS is building castles. His supporters tomtom his credentials. A tall BC leader from Telangana. Administrative experience. PCC president both in 2004 and 2009 when the Congress won in Andhra Pradesh. Yes, a more charismatic YSR ran away with the credit, but now DS wants his due.

Problems and challenges have kept their foot firmly on the accelerator all through Rosaiah’s tenure as CM and his `Dial M for Madam’ for just about everything hasn’t inspired confidence. Srinivas’s calculation is that a Telangana man as CM will endear the party to the people of Telangana who have always looked at the Congress with suspicion on the statehood issue.

Two, it will also rob KCR of his status as the sole spokesperson of the region.

Three, in the event of the Srikrishna committee not giving a favourable verdict on Telangana, DS as CM could prove a better bet than coastal Andhra’s Rosaiah in the hot seat. But DS cannot do an Usain Bolt to the CM’s chair just on the basis of these arguments, however solid they may sound on paper. He is up against a mountain of opposition, both within the Congress and outside.

In fact, security personnel had to clear the area of slogan shouting pro-Telangana activists in front of the voting booth, before DS could make his entry a little after noon. His image as someone who displayed little enthusiasm for Telangana state, works against him. His T-talk during the campaign, is seen as opportunistic and a bit too late in the day.

Ramkumar, who runs a chemist shop in Nizamabad says Telangana is the only issue in these elections. “It is not as if Nizamabad is in love with the BJP and the TRS. But then the BJP MLA resigned from his seat for the cause of statehood to Telangana. Whereas DS is fighting this bypoll only to further his own political career.”

A significant votebank of Vysyas, the community to which Rosaiah belongs, also wouldn’t fancy DS to win and make a bid to replace their man as CM. So DS in fact, started with a minus of 12000 votes that he got in 2009.

Nizamabad district, one of the smallest in size in Andhra Pradesh, has thrown up a plethora of Congress leaders. And their animosity to DS is Nizamabad’s worst kept secret. Madhu Goud, MP from Nizamabad who is also DS’s campaign manager, admits several senior leaders indulged in bickering and tried to `backstab’ DS. If DS loses this bypoll, be rest assured a lot of dirty linen will be washed in public on the streets of Nizamabad.

Much of the anger against DS is actually being credited into his account courtesy, DS Junior. DS’s son, D Sanjay was mayor of Nizamabad and it is difficult to find someone saying something nice about him. No wonder, DS kept Sanjay out of Nizamabad during most part of his campaign, hoping it will be a case of `out of sight, out of mind’ for the Nizamabad voter.

If DS is to come up trumps on Friday, a lot will depend on the number of minority votes he has gathered. Fortunately for him, the voting percentage has gone up significantly this time and with it, the minority vote. Also there is open talk of the TDP cadre voting for DS, in the hope that DS will upset Rosaiah’s applecart in Hyderabad and any trouble in the Congress camp can only be music to Chandrababu Naidu’s ears.

Both DS and Laxminarayana being Munnuru Kapus, a BC group in Andhra Pradesh, the community vote will be split. DS is likely to lose most of the pro-Telangana vote to the BJP and that makes this bypoll too close to call. Intelligence agencies tracking this prestige contest, say it will go to the wire.

DS has spared no effort in winning this election. In fact, with the stakes very high, the Nizamabad voter has had a party everyday in the last one month. So much so that Chandrababu Naidu’s high-decibel level Maha sangram across the border to ensure Godavari water supply to Sriramasagar project in Nizamabad had no impact on the ground here. Because Nizamabad was high on Bacchus.

When DS was speaking to the media after casting his vote, a cellphone company’s hoarding on the other side of the road caught my eye. I thought it summed up DS’s emotion better than anything else : `Ab mera number hai’.

Paradise Lost

By Uma Sudhir

“I wish we were not connected by the National Highway, we did not have a rail link and we were not so close to the sea.”

This was our local escort Ramu thinking aloud as we drove on the fantastic road connecting Visakhapatnam towards the Ichchapuram lagoon area in Andhra Pradesh’s north coastal Srikakulam district. With visible pride, he added, “You see madam, how breathtakingly beautiful this place is. All your so-called development linkages are proving to be a curse for us.”

Much as it may sound way too dramatic, it is a sentiment echoed by many, many more people in this coastal belt in Srikakulam. Within a 90-kilometre stretch between the Naupada swamps and the Ichchapuram lagoon, six thermal projects to generate upto 10,000 MW are to come up. Add to that a nuclear project at Kovvada to which locals are thankful, environment clearance has just been rejected. What the villagers have understood is that it will destroy livelihoods and life as they have known it so far.

“Our lives may not be luxuriously rich. But then like Gandhiji envisioned, we are self-sufficient. We live in harmony with nature and get enough to eat,“ 70-year-old Raghavulu says. “As long as they don’t take away what we have, we are happy in our little paradise.”

Paradise this place is. Some call it a mini-Kerala. Coconut groves, jackfruit hanging from the trees, cashew nut, mangroves by the sea. The open areas are green as far as you can see.

“Don’t think even Kashmir may have this kind of bounty and they have called this a wasteland just to set up a thermal plant here.” Raghavulu just can’t fathom how the district officials gave such a report and how despite their repeated protests and appeals to anyone and everyone, right up to the Centre, no one asked any questions.

It was in fact the visuals of lush fields turned into a battleground, of villagers running helter-skelter, battling an army of policemen, that had brought me to Srikakulam. I had spoken to the district collector N Srikanth and the district incharge minister Vatti Vasant Kumar. Both of them insisted it was `wasteland’ that had been allotted to Nagarjuna Construction Company for a 2×660 MW power project coming up in Sompeta. But the visual backdrop looks so green, I asked, amazed. But it is identified as `wasteland’ in the revenue records. And that is how about 1000 acres of it was allotted to the company. “You show me any record that it is a wetland and I will get this cancelled,” the minister offered.

Locals explain that in Sompeta the project will take away 1000 acres of a 1500-acre wetland, locally called Beela, that is a lifeline for at least 32 villages around the area. (The accompanying picture you see is of us on a hilltop overlooking the Beela. The green cover hides the water underneath, Raghavulu tells me)

Kishore explains that even when it doesn’t rain, there is always water in the Beela, round-the-year, 365 days. At least a couple of feet of water. Two paddy crops on some 5000 acres around directly benefit. There are three government-approved lift-irrigation schemes using the water. Cattle, fisherfolk communities all thriving on what nature has given them.

“What God has given, who are these people to take away? Unlike every other district, there has never been any hunger deaths or suicide here. There are some three lakh people dependent on this and enough to eat for everyone. Where will we all go? Why should we go? They have killed two people in police firing. Let them kill all of us and take over this place. We won’t go anywhere,” says an emotional Raghavulu.

People in Gollagandi village, where the project is to be physically located, are angry that despite 90 per cent of those at the public hearing held here in August, 2009, opposing the project, the reports said about 10-15 per cent opposed and the rest welcomed the project.

“We have lost trust in everyone. MPs, MLAs, ministers, even officials. We had told so many officials and politicians so many times that we don’t want this. We want our greenery, our life. We have lost all trust on political leaders, Congress and Telugu Desam. It is a people’s struggle, our struggle. When Nagarjuna company officials came to construct, we decided it will be a do or die battle for us,” says the area school teacher.

Locals feel vindicated that just a day after the firing incident, the National Environment Appellate Authority withdrew environment clearance for the project, saying facts were grossly misrepresented. That it was a wetland and not a dryland. No industry is to be located in wetlands under the Envrionment Protection Act. India is also a signatory to the International Ramsar Treaty for protection of wetlands that are known to influence the water table of a region, act as water purifiers that prevent flooding and erosion.

“Whoever gave the wrong reports, shouldn’t they be made answerable, madam?” asks Basker.

Reacting to NDTV’s report, Union minister of environment and forests Jairam Ramesh has asked for a fresh report on whether it is a wetland or not from the regional chief conservator of forests. But the battle is far from over.

The company is planning to appeal against the judgment of the National Environment Appellate Authority and state revenue minister Dharmanna Prasad Rao seems to indicate that whatever the hiccups, the thermal plant will come up right where it was planned. His statement in the state assembly that his home district of Srikakulam happens to be backward, that women don’t have adequate clothing to cover themselves and so, he would ensure that industry and development come to the industry, has fuelled the anger of the people.

“Even we were fools to believe when we were first told this,” says Raju, a young man on crutches. “They want to break our legs and offer us charity. They will take away livelihoods, our homes, our villages and say we are creating jobs. For how many? A few hundred at the most and what they take away is thousands and thousands of livelihoods. Is this what is development? They will burn coal and make money and fill ash in our lives, in our land, in our ponds.”

Villagers admit upto 500 acres was sold by them to the company. They were told if they didn’t voluntarily give up their land, the government would anyway, eventually, take over and then compensation would be minimal. When they understood what was in store, they appealed to everyone possible against the project. When that fell on deaf ears, the villagers sat on a relay hunder-strike that had entered its 225th day when we went. It was only when Gandhian, democratic methods failed that the villagers decided it was time now to make visible protests that would get noticed.

What struck me as amazing and awe-inspiring was the clarity and awareness with which almost everyone here spoke. The socalled `uneducated, even illiterate’ villagers had understood the value of the environment in their lives. Credit for providing them with the tools to talk in this language should go to dedicated environment, social and humanrights activists.

Among them Dr Krishnamurthy, a softspoken medical doctor, who said he was living his quiet life when a speech by late human rights activist Balagopal inspired him. Balagopal had said right-thinking people with their hearts in the right place need to come out to the public domain and speak out and that’s what Dr Krishnamurthy and a few other intellectuals did. They gave leadership to the movement from Sompeta and elsewhere. And that’s what has now brought his name into the police records, suspected for `inciting trouble’.

And as if to compensate for most people not being able to articulate and speak out in english, the language of the ruling elite, walls everywhere around the village are painted with slogans that say “Go back NCC”, “We don’t want thermal plants” “Save our wetlands”. Children may not be able to recite nursery rhymes but `Beela maaku muddu, thermal plant voddu‘ (Beela is our precious darling, please, we don’t want any thermal plant) is on their lips as well.

For the villagers, those killed in the police firing on 14th July are martyrs.

“My children can be proud that their father sacrificed his life for the present and future of lakhs of families like ours,” says Jogaram’s widow. He was a devoted family man, she says. He wanted his two children to be educated and have a better life than him. Her priority now is not to let her husband’s death go waste. The thermal plant should not come. Otherwise what is the meaning in his death, she asks me. She doesn’t talk to me about who is going to earn for the family and what will happen to the future of her two schoolgoing children.

Jogaram’s brother Ramachandramurthy is a weapon’s instructor in a defence establishment in Pune. He says it is technically not possible that the bullet in his brother’s scalp was fired from a distance. He is demanding an inquiry into how it happened.

“They have shot him dead as though he was a terrorist. He has died for a cause. Will the government still not understand what the locals want and stop this?”

Just a few kilometers away from Sompeta, work is on at the 10,000 crore rupees 2640 MW East Coast Energy thermal power project site in Andhra Pradesh’s Srikakulam district. This is coming up right next to Naupada swamps, the last of the marshlands on the east coast that supports rich biodiversity and thousands of families. When objections were raised by the environment ministry, the company gave up 500 acres and locals say, it was re-acquired in the name of another company, to set up a 500 MW project at Meghavaram.

Local farmer Mandapaka Narsinga Rao admits that till a couple of years ago, he and everyone else here was blissfully ignorant of what thermal plants were and how they would destroy the environment here. That’s how East Coast Energy managed to get clearances, he says, without facing too much local protest. Some other village sarpanches in the area, whose signatures were taken on documents, say they were not even told it is going to be a thermal plant.

“The company officials said they wanted to make electricity out of water available here. They never told us about burning coal. They said industry will bring jobs. We will start schools. Your village and life will improve. We all got convinced and cheated and signed.”

“In and around, there is a population of 50000 people dependent on agriculture and fisheries, that will be destroyed with the projects. The company pamphlets mention they will create 700 jobs. We are not against industry. But why should we only be cursed with such polluting industries?” Narsinga Rao asks.

Locals explain that bunds erected on the swamp as part of the land-filling exercise divert fresh water away and fishing is badly affected. When it rains, 30,000 acres of paddy-growing land will be flooded. Fishermen say even before the plant has come up, the building of the bunds has put a deathknell to their livelihood. For almost three years now, the fish have disappeared.

“After the building of bunds, there is no fish and no food for us. Many have migrated. Some have been forced to resort to begging. We have appealed to everyone, MLAs, MPs , ministers, Telugu Desam and Congress. No one listens to us. What should we do?” says Anantadhananjayulu, a fisherman.

Vaddi thanda sarpanch Ananta Dushtavarjanum says they are waiting for the rains. When it is full, they will go and physically break the bunds. If that doesn’t work? “We are all prepared to go in a line with pesticide in hand and consume it in front of the company’s gates. Will the government wake up at least then?”

Less than five kilometres away is the Telineelapuram bird sanctuary where several migratory birds come visiting. Some 123 species of birds are reported to have been spotted here. It is recognised as an Important Bird Site Area, critical for nesting and feeding of birds. We were visiting in July when the bird season had not yet begun and yet we spotted a few exotic species. But in submissions to the government, there are blatant lies. That within a 15-km radius, there is no such wildlife.

“The birds come visiting every season and we are told they occupy the same nest every time. Even they seem to have ethics that humans don’t. We want to go and occupy other’s lands,” philosophises Sanjeeva Rao.

Former Energy Secretary E A S Sarma who has been pointing out many of these irregularities, says its a failure of the government.

“At every stage, there is a suppression of facts. Doesn’t the state department of environment and forests have a duty to inform their counterpart in the Central government. Afterall the Union cabinet has decided to protect wetlands and has even issued notifications for that. They failed, I would say they suppressed this fact. As a department of environment and forests, if they don’t report to the Government of India that this is a wetland with a lot of biodiversity, it is a shame on the government. They are failing in their constitutional duty.”

Locals say they went in busloads and visited villages like Pittavanipalem near the National Thermal Power Corporation, near Visakhapatnam. What they saw there, they also captured on camera and brought it back to show those back home in the villages. Sights of villages filled with ash, where agriculture and livestock suffer, health problems abound.

Add to that testimonies on tape of people who had become unsuspecting victims. That’s how the awareness and protest gained a passionate edge.

Scientist activists like Dr Babu Rao have also told them about how the developed world has given up on thermal power plants calling them `death factories’. He has also told them about the huge ash that comes as waste, about the sulphur and nitrous oxides ane mercury that pollute the air and cause agricultural productivity to fall drastically, besides causing health problems. So the people have learnt to ask questions on why the companies should profit while pushing the burden of pollution on the people and the environment.

Narsing Rao says they were asked by the authorities that when there is such an expanse of land, why should locals object to a few hundred acres being taken away by the company.

“We said that in the entire body, a bullet takes up only a few milimetres of space, but it kills the entire body, doesn’t it?”

Those who support thermal plants argue that development always has a price. Who reaps the benefit and who pays that price is the question. There are a reported 384 thermal power projects planned mostly along India’s coastline, 73 in Andhra Pradesh alone, 36 of them between East Godavari and Srikakulam districts.

So it is not just about a Srikakulam. Is it fair that we make a choice on development and push the environment and people into hellholes?

Out of the box

By T S Sudhir

A once-upon-a-time familiar sight in Indian elections will make a reappearance this Tuesday in five assembly constituencies in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh.

The ballot box.

That’s because K Chandrasekhar Rao, the TRS chief, does not trust EVMs. He thinks the hi-tech machines could be manipulated to show his party’s ambassador car the red light in these bypolls. So KCR came up with the idea of fielding dummy candidates to swell the number beyond 64, the maximum an EVM can handle.

Unfortunately in their enthusiasm on the last day of filing nominations, many of the dummy candidates did not submit proper documents which meant a good number of them were rejected. But in five constituencies, they succeeded with this out of the box idea. So Sircilla (78 candidates), Yellareddy (75), Warangal West (74), Huzurabad (69) and Koratla (67) will mark the return of the good ol’ ballot box inside the polling booth.

On the 27th, voters will get to see a newspaper-sized ballot paper. But to reduce confusion as well as the time they spend inside the polling booth, the Election Commission has decided to give up the standard practice of alphabatical order of printing names of candidates on the ballot paper. Instead, the names of the four prominent parties, the TRS, TDP, Congress and BJP will be mentioned at the top so that the candidates need not have to run through the huge ballot paper searching for the candidates of their choice. This, of course, could spoil the chances of some of the serious independent candidates.

Resigning and recontesting elections is nothing new to the TRS. It has patented this tactic as a way to continuously put pressure on the UPA government to grant statehood to Telangana. It hasn’t worked too well though. Two byelections in 2006 and 2008 saw their seat tally and vote percentage dip with each poll.

But unlike previous occasions, the texture of this election is different. The vociferous Telangana movement in December and January has meant the T-sentiment is not just a storm in a tea cup any more. For a change, no one is finding fault with the TRS for forcing an election within a year. Nor are issues of development an election issue. Telangana is the only buzzword.

The TRS is seen as the frontrunner to retain all its ten seats plus Vemulawada, where last time’s TDP winner is now with the TRS. So a 10 per cent increase in its tally, the TRS would interpret as a strong message from the people of Telangana that they want the Srikrishna Committee to recommend bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.

TDP and Congress leaders in Hyderabad agree the TRS confidence is not misplaced.

“That is because in the Telangana region, even our cadres want a typical pro-Telangana party to win. Both the Congress and the TDP are wishy-washy in their approach to statehood. So the cadres are not working for their candidates seriously,” said a Rayalaseema TDP leader.

Despite the lack of enthusiastic opposition, KCR is running his campaign in top gear in these bypolls. In contrast, the Congress leadership, save its state unit chief D Srinivas who himself is the candidate in Nizamabad-urban, has kept away from campaigning. Chief minister Rosaiah, limping from one crisis to another, has not even bothered to make a special appearance. Perhaps an admission that it will not make a difference to the box-office verdict on Friday, 30th July.

Ditto with the Babhli-obsessed TDP. Its agitation from across the border in Dharmabad along with visuals of its `retired hurt’ MLAs, it would hope will give its candidates some fillip in these polls.

However, the most interesting contest is taking place in a constituency where the TRS is not contesting. All eyes are on Nizamabad Urban, where D Srinivas is fighting a do-or-die battle against the BJP candidate, fighting with TRS support. Last year, he lost to him after communal remarks cost him the Hindu vote. Now a victory could pitchfork him straight to either the top job or atleast make him deputy chief minister.

When his nomination was filed, his supporters pushed for the slogan that a vote for DS would be a vote for their future CM, a man from Telangana. Only a little later, realisation dawned that there are roughly 12000 Vysya voters in the constituency, who wouldn’t take kindly to their man Rosaiah losing the chair.

So DCM, as in deputy CM it would be for DS at the moment. And he is receiving support from rather unexpected quarters, the TDP.

A TDP leader confided that the cadre is likely to vote for DS. Not because it loves him but because a victorious DS will then certainly lobby to be made CM, pointing to his credentials. BC leader, PCC chief in both 2004 and 2009, experience as a senior minister in YSR cabinet and above all, a Telangana bidda. And what can give more glee to the TDP than trouble in the Congress house.

But DS isn’t banking on the TDP arithematic alone. He knows for every selfish TDP supporter, there will be 10 Congress knives out to scuttle his chances.

Most politicial observers believe the results will only be of academic interest. How the politics within the Congress shapes after that to tackle a belligerent TRS will be the next episode to watch out for in the rivetting political soap opera running 24×7 on every TV channel. Watch this space.