Sunny Side Down
Can KCR realise his cherished dream of Bangaru Telangana?
It is not all about gold reserves, K Chandrasekhara Rao also wants to light up the faces of residents with smiles and happiness.
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At 14, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi founded by K Chandrasekhara Rao, is still to complete its first year in office. Yet, he is optimistic about, not just chasing, but fulfilling his dream - Bangaru (Golden) Telangana. KCR emphasises Bangaru Telangana does not imply increasing gold reserves and that it is about lighting up the faces of Telangana residents with smiles and happiness. For this he is not wanting in support going by the massive turnout for what was billed as the "Vijaya Garjana" (Roar of Victory) rally at the Parade Grounds in Secunderabad to mark the 15th formation day of the TRS on April 27.
To enjoy such widespread support, KCR has made tall promises far beyond achieving statehood for the region. The most ambitious to ensure that safe potable water reaches all homes in the state, an elaborate Telangana Drinking Water Grid providing piped water supply is being developed with early 2018 as the deadline. At the same time, Mission Kakatiya, that gets its name from the dynasty that ruled the Deccan and contiguous areas between 1175 and 1324 and who developed and nurtured water sources, is to revive lake based irrigation by dredging the silted sources and scooping up the earth to store water beginning with the 2015 monsoon. This is to achieve the greening of Telangana with irrigation supported farming in the next four years.
What is more to ensure that both pet projects, which can change the face of the state, are monitored closely, the Telangana chief minister has assigned the onerous tasks to his son and Panchayat Raj Minister KT Rama Rao, who collected what is the first national award for the Drinking Water Grid plan, from the union minister for housing and urban poverty alleviation M Venkaiah Naidu, in Delhi hours earlier and rushed back in time for the Vijaya Garjana, and KCR’s nephew and Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao.
True to his grit and dramatic flourish, KCR has declared that if he cannot keep the major promises, made in the run up to the elections last year, before the 2019 polls, then the TRS will opt out of the electoral race. This includes several irrigation and power projects, that will ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity, including nine hours for farmers, and two pre – poll sops – a two bedroom house for the poor and free education from KG to PG with food and uniforms for poor children. For these sops, being launched with fanfare from May, the biggest concern is to find funds. At the moment, it does not appear to worry KCR. Extending these benefits as a welfare state is his credo though it is far from being a pragmatic approach considering the availability of funds.
KCR is, however, insistent that it can be done as Telangana is already spending Rs 28,000 crore through different welfare schemes like pensions, other doles and subsidies in supply of essential commodities to the poor. He points out that no other state in the country has provided such huge allocations in the annual budget for the benefit of the poor. But he is unclear as to where the funds will come.
His Bangaru Telangana dream, at best, will be fulfilled partially before the 2019 polls. As that alone cannot be a clincher, KCR is also steadily building the TRS as a cadre based party like the Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu. He has ensured a comprehensive membership enrolment campaign, with an insurance cover thrown in as an incentive, to bolster the party’s strength. He wants members to be watchdogs on the implementation of the government programmes.
The KCR game plan is to build staunch loyalists by encouraging members to keep vigil on the various development schemes even as he cracks the whip on inefficient officials. The manner in which the party rank and file is being developed leaves little room for political rivals, particularly the TDP, and will also make it difficult for the Congress to retain its space. Attempts by the YSR Congress to gain ground have failed while the BJP and the two communist parties are unable to expand beyond their traditional pockets of support.
The TRS which began governance with just 63 MLAs in a 119 seat Telangana legislative assembly – just three more than the half way mark – has in less than a year wooed legislators from the TDP, Congress, YSR Congress and the BSP to raise its strength to 75 with more likely to join soon. He is banking on a teaser. KCR wants to induct one more MLA from the TDP each time that party chief and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu visits Telangana. Four from the TDP have switched loyalties till now and the remaining six are to be inducted in a staggered manner. That with the earlier defections from the Bahujan Samaj Party, YSR Congress and the Congress will give the TRS a two thirds majority in the assembly before end of 2015.
What was begun as a well knit campaign for statehood is evolving steadily into a dominant political force. If it fails to reinvent Telangana by keeping the promises of KCR, unfulfilled dreams and unmet aspirations in greening the state may well make the TRS come a cropper.