Telangana Chief Minister and TRS president K. Chandrasekhar Rao and his Andhra Pradesh counterpart and TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu have welcomed the proposal of holding simultaneous Assembly and general elections made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi led NDA government at the Centre.
The proposal was mooted through the President’s address to the joint session of Parliament on Monday. The two CMs are convinced that simultaneous polls suit their political and electoral interests.
They were expected to communicate their approval to the Centre in the next few days, during the course of debates on the Union Budget, which would begin on Monday, 5 February. However, sources close to the CMs told this newspaper that the outright rejection of many of their demands for financial allocations in the Budget has raised a question mark on their giving consent for holding simultaneous polls.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have separately submitted long lists of demands for funds for several projects and schemes to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the last two months. However, none of them found place in the Budget presented in Parliament on Thursday. Both KCR and Naidu have refrained from commenting on the Budget in order to conceal their resentment.
In this situation, it is a matter of how, if not whether, the two Telugu CMs will convey their consent to PM Modi. “We have discussed this issue of combined polls to the Lok Sabha and the state Assembly, whenever they are held, and we are not sure when we will convey this to the Centre,” TRS Parliamentary Party leader A.P. Jithender Reddy told The Sunday Guardian.
Reddy along with his MPs called on KCR before the commencement of the budget session last week. A detailed discussion took place between them on the mode and timing of the polls. KCR is understood to have told his MPs to back the proposal but insist on securing funds to the state. The idea is to get enough funds to complete many ongoing projects if elections are advanced by a few months.
A similar opinion emerged at a meeting of TDP MPs held in the presence of CM Naidu at Amaravati last week. According to a TDP Rajya Sabha MP, the CM is ready to go with the Centre’s proposal, but his condition is that sufficient funds should be not only allocated, but also released to complete flagship projects in AP before the polls.
Interestingly, major opposition parties in both states—Congress in Telangna and YSR Congress in AP—are also inclined to go for simultaneous polls. Telangana Congress Committee president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy told this newspaper that his party was ready to face polls whenever they are held and joint polls are good for the country, too.
YSR Congress MLC and spokesman Ummareddy Venkateswarlu said that his party favoured simultaneous polls as it would save a lot of money and time. He said YSR Congress leader Jagan Mohan Reddy was open to the proposal. Venkateswarlu said that the people of AP were eagerly waiting to throw out the TDP government at the earliest.
Unlike several other states in the country, Telangana and AP will go to polls along with the Lok Sabha elections expected in April/May 2019. Hence, it makes little difference for them to go for simultaneous elections with the Centre. Even combined Andhra Pradesh was facing simultaneous polls with Lok Sabha polls since 1999.
Both the CMs are keen on knowing whether elections would be advanced by around six months, to November-December 2018. The Union Cabinet can advance the Lok Sabha elections by six months and the Election Commission can fix the dates. This happened in 1999 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the PM.
AP Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu said in Amaravati on Thursday that the state cannot afford to face polls without fulfilling certain key election promises. “Unless we give tangible results to the people, we cannot go for elections. We need funds to fulfil our election promises,” he said.
The KCR government in Telangana has taken up some flagship programmes like Mission Bhagiratha (supply of drinking water to all households) and distribution of cash to farmers at the rate of Rs 8,000 per acre per year and completing them before polls is important to it. “But we are ready for polls whenever they are held either in December 2018 or April 2019,” said TRS MLC Karne Prabhakar.