Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Will Minorities Get Ignored For Assembly & LS Polls In AP?

By Syed Amin Jafri (Guest Writer)

GUEST COLUMN It is the season of elections in Andhra Pradesh. Even as polling in municipal elections was held on Sunday, political parties are in the midst of campaigning for polls to mandal parishad and zilla parishad territorial constituencies (MPTCs/ZPTCs). 

As soon as the semi-finals are over, the parties have to brace up for the finals, i.e. no-holdsbarred simultaneous elections to Assembly and Lok Sabha. The curtains will come down with the counting of votes in the general elections slated for May 16. 
All these elections are taking place when the State is passing through unprecedented times. It is for the first time in AP’s history that elections to Assembly and Lok Sabha are being held under President’s rule.
In 1955, Assembly polls were held under President’s rule in erstwhile Andhra State. The President’s rule in January 1973 in AP had followed the 1972 Assembly elections. This is also the first time that local bodies’ polls are being held just around the time of general elections. In the past, local bodies’ polls followed the general elections, except in 1981 when these were held almost 18 months before the 1983 Assembly polls. 
Also, it is for the first time that Assembly elections are held in a united state, when the AP Reorganisation Act has been enacted and the muhurtham for the birth of Telangana state has been fixed for 2nd June. So, all the political parties are facing unique situation in the two virtual states, with bifurcation impacting them differently in either of the states. Their electoral fortunes differ in the two states. The Congress has virtually conceded defeat and deserted the poll arena in Seemandhra, where it is treated as the villain for dividing the state. However, the Congress is ahead of its rivals in Telangana, claiming credit for delivering on its promise. 
TDP seems to be on a downslide in Telangana, being treated as an also-ran party due to its ambivalent stand in the run-up to passage of AP Reorganisation Bill in Parliament. Yet, in Seemandhra, TDP appears to be regaining lost ground and surging ahead, though it is still trailing behind YSRCP. TRS, as a sub-regional party, is locked in a tough battle with the Congress in Telangana. YSRCP, likewise, has a slight edge over its main rival in Seemandhra. Alliances have proved elusive for all the main players so far, though seat-sharing would bolster up their votes and seats to some extent if it happens. 
In this scenario, distribution of tickets for Assembly and Lok Sabha polls has turned out to be a critical factor. Talk of ‘social re-engineering’ notwithstanding, the parties are indulging in realpolitik so far as choice of candidates is concerned. Caste and winnability are the catchwords in political ‘boardrooms’ these days. So far as SCs and STs are concerned, the parties do not have a choice as they necessarily have to pick up persons from these groups for the reserved constituencies. However, in the non-reserved or open category of seats, the caste factor, as usual, is expected to play a major role. It is the minorities and BCs who seem to be at the mercy of parties for poll tickets. 
In the 2009 Assembly elections, the Congress had given tickets in 147 constituencies to Forward Castes, followed by Maha Kutami (TDP, TRS, CPI & CPI-M alliance) with 145 and the then Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) with 102. For the remaining non-reserved seats, the Congress had given tickets to 69 BC and 11 minority candidates. Maha Kutami handed out tickets to 71 BC and 12 minority nominees. PRP also favoured 104 BC and 15 minority candidates with tickets. Out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the Congress had fielded a minority candidate in just one constituency. Maha Kutami gave tickets to four minority persons and PRP to six minority candidates. 
The results were quite disappointing for the minorities. Only three Muslim candidates were elected to Assembly on Congress ticket and a lone Muslim nominee on TDP banner. The seven other Muslim MLAs elected from Hyderabad city belonged to MIM. None of the 11 minority candidates fielded by Congress, Maha Kutami and PRP in Lok Sabha polls could win. A lone MP from MIM emerged victorious. 
Now, with all the parties-—Congress, TDP, YSRCP, TRS and BJP—engaged in a do-or-die battle, the minorities may get fewer tickets than last time. Caste and winnability factors may spoil the chances of minority candidates once again. Having fielded minority nominees in local bodies’ polls, the big parties are telling them now that they will have only a marginal ‘quota’ for Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. 
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