KCR losing sheen but still the one to beat

Congress President Rahul Gandhi with TDP President N Chandrababu Naidu and other leaders during a public meeting, in Hyderabad. PTI

As December 7, the day of voting, nears, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief and care-taker chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao is increasingly on the defensive, a major shift from his nonchalant attitude in early September when he moved to dissolve the state assembly and call for early elections. The consolidation of the opposition under the grand alliance ‘Praja Kutami’ and his own unfulfilled promises have put Rao under immense pressure. Unlike in the 2014 elections, Rao now faces anti-incumbency.

His gamble of opting for early elections has failed to yield the groundswell of support he expected. Worse, by announcing the party’s candidates for the elections on the very day he dissolved the assembly, he denied himself room to manoeuvre and withdraw some of them later as public anger against them became visible. In many constituencies, voters refused to meet the TRS candidates; in some, KCR’s candidates were even chased away. Voters are angry that most of the party MLAs they elected in 2014 never came back to see if any development had taken place in their constituencies. Instead, the MLAs seem to have decided that Rao’s charisma and his flagship state-level projects such as Mission Bhagiratha, Mission Kakatiya and the mega Kaleshwaram Project would ensure their return to power.

“In the 2014 elections, KCR was considered a revolutionary leader and he had no prior record to judge him by. Victory was a cake walk then. This time, he will be judged based on his progress card and nothing else,” political analyst Telakapalli Ravi told DH.

KCR and TRS also failed to build an organisational structure for the party down to the grassroots in these four years. This is haunting the TRS now. In contrast, Congress has 30,000 booth-level committees and the party has touched base with almost every one of them through video conferencing.

Unkept promises

In 2014, KCR had promised that his government would concentrate on three important issues “Neellu Nidhulu Niyamakalu” (Water, Funds and Employment) – the very things that he alleged had been denied the region under the rule of Andhra politicians. The opposition is now attacking him on these very issues.



No doubt, some efforts have been made to provide tap water to every household. As on today, pipelines have been laid and tanks have been built in some places, but there is no water. In many places, the government resorted to painting blue old tanks built during Congress and claimed that Mission Bhagiratha has been a success. The promise that Godavari water would be brought to Hyderabad through the re-designed Kaleshwaram Project by the end of this year was also not fulfilled as KCR opted for early elections. He now faces the allegation that he merely tweaked projects envisaged by the previous Congress government for the sake of receiving commissions.

On the funds front, Telangana, which was endowed with a revenue surplus of Rs 16,000 crore and the revenue-generating Hyderabad as capital at the time of bifurcation, has now sunk into a  debt trap to the tune of Rs 2.5 lakh crore. However, state IT minister and KCR’s son K T Rama Rao says that that’s because huge investments were needed to complete projects. These will yield high returns in time, he insists.

Osmania University, the epicentre of the Telangana agitation, which KCR led, is dying a slow death, thanks to his failure to fulfil the poll time promise of filling all job vacancies as well as providing one lakh jobs for its students. On the campus, the anger is now directed at KCR and his party.  

The gulf between KCR and the students further widened after he stayed away from the university’s centenary celebrations, which even the President of India attended. Now, the opposition is promising one lakh jobs in both private and public sectors within the first month if they come to power and a Rs 3,000 unemployment dole. The promise has made a huge impact on the unemployed. KCR’s promise to coal-miners that he would provide employment to eligible children on compassionate grounds has remained a pipedream, too.

Cornered

“See how many people are trying to corner this lean man,” KCR observed on the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in Nizamabad. The TRS, which refused to ally with the TDP, has only itself to blame for its predicament. While the Congress-led grand alliance suspects that TRS has a secret understanding with the BJP, the All-India Majlis E Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) will be ready to offer a helping hand to KCR, in exchange for a deputy CM post. “No party will be able to form government in Telangana without our help,” AIMIM’s Akbaruddin Owaisi said recently.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi having already addressed two public meetings and returning to the state on December 3, and Sonia Gandhi addressing one, Chandrababu Naidu and Rahul Gandhi completing roadshows both jointly and separately, and even balladeer Gaddar singing for the alliance for the first time, a new and hitherto unseen political front seems to have engulfed KCR from all sides. While the party refuses to accept that the leader is under duress, sources close to KCR say that these elections won’t be a cake walk. That’s an understatement.

Last-ditch Effort

The caretaker chief minister is putting on a superhuman act in campaigning for the party. He is addressing six to eight public meetings every day, attracting huge crowds. His speeches spin around Chandrababu Naidu and how the Congress is trying to bring him back into Telangana politics. To an extent, he has succeeded in creating the fear that if the TDP returns to the state cabinet, Naidu and Andhra politicians will once again begin to have a say in the affairs of Telangana. However, two other Andhra parties, YSR Congress and Pawan Kalyan’s Janasena, have stayed away from Telangana elections.

Roadshows of the ‘Praja Kutami’ by Rahul Gandhi and Naidu were big successes in the Greater Municipal Corporation area of Hyderabad. KCR’s son K T Rama Rao tried to repair the ruffled feathers of people from Andhra, called settlers here, after his father’s vitriolic attack on Naidu. But the big question is whether the alliance is strong enough to beat KCR, who aims to win 100 of the 119 seats in the Telangana Assembly. In his own constituency, at least, KCR is still king. “KCR is like our father. I may not like a few things he did, but I still love him. He got us Telangana,” a resident of Gajwel said. But is that enough to ensure that KCR and TRS return to power?

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