- Opposition considering a joint candidate for President
- BJP and allies short by about 25,000 votes
- Telangana ruling party has 22,000, undecided on who to back
The term of President Pranab Mukherjee, who was elected in 2012, expires in July. The Congress, led by Mrs Gandhi, feels that if parties opposed to the BJP rally around one candidate, they will be able to try on for size what a large alliance could accomplish - and then evolve that into a formidable front for the next general election in 2019.
Assuming all the BJP's allies support its choice for President, its candidate will be about 25,000 votes short. The TRS has nearly 22,000 votes. So it has the chance to serve as a decision-maker.
Digvijaya Singh, who handles Telangana for the Congress, has done his party no favours. He said this week that the Telangana police runs a fake ISIS website to trap young Muslim men, which has actuated fierce criticism from the Telangana government, and a police case against the Congressman.
"Our leader will take the call at the appropriate time,'' was the diplomatic offering of P Rajeshwar Reddy, a senior leader. He did not rule out support to the BJP coalition's candidate.
For now, what the TRS and BJP have in common is blaming each other for the distress of farmers, particularly those that produce chillies, a crop whose price has crashed by four times from last year to now. The market bottomed out because of an over-supply caused by the high rates chillis commanded last year.
Yesterday, union agriculture minister Radhamohan Singh announced the government will buy red chillies for Rs 5,000 a quintal, instead of the Rs 3,000 currently on offer. BJP leaders said the bail out was needed because the TRS has done nothing for farmers in crisis.
The TRS says the new rate would not have been announced without it aggressively and persistently holding the centre accountable. It also says the centre is offering to buy just a tiny portion of the total produce.
What the TRS is privately irked by is that the Congress and the regional TDP are largely ineffectual as the opposition; it is the BJP that is emerging as the main opposition party in India's youngest state.
Elections for Telangana are to be held along with the general election in 2019. In preparation, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao or KCR recently announced a new allocation of government jobs and college seats to Muslims, and dispatched his proposal to the centre for approval, asking that the reservation policy be cleared on the basis of economic backwardness, and not religion, to help circumvent restrictions on affirmative action policies levied by the Supreme Court.
If the centre does not concede the Muslim "quota", KCR can blame the BJP. If it goes through, he will take the credit.