Strategy or Fear?
         Date: 18-Sep-2018
While sources in TRS claim that Rao wanted to cash in on what he believes was a “positive atmosphere” in favour of his Government by going for the early polls, the various performance indices do not substantiate the claim
K Surender
 
Confirming the month-long rumours, K Chandrashekar Rao, the Chief Minister of Telangana, announced the dissolution of first State Assembly on September 6 and it was immediately approved by the Governor ESL Narasimhan. The next day, the decision was intimated to Central Election Commission, who in response, is planning to schedule a visit after September 11 to assess the poll preparedness of State election commission. These fast-paced developments have entirely changed the political atmosphere in the state.
 
In view of the increasing corruption and political interventions, good construction vendors have stopped working with PWD 
 
As soon as the Governor approved, KCR became TRS party president in full capacity rather than the caretaker Chief Minister. His content and tone in the immediate press conference were in full-fledged attacking mode on the opposition, particularly targeting and accusing Congress party as number one villain of Telangana people and calling its President Rahul Gandhi as ‘biggest buffoon’ of the country, is a loud and clear message about the elections and TRS party strategy.
 

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao
 
He reiterated that there is no official pre-poll alliance with any political party but called Owaisi led All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) as a friendly party with decent relations.
 
Rather than listing the TRS achievements obtained in the last four years, and status of elections promises made in 2014, KCR cleverly answered the press with his oratory skills and avoided tough questions. He also expressed confidence of re-winning Assembly elections with a win of over 100 seats out of 119 Assembly seats. KCR predicted the new state Assembly might form in December 2018, which was later brushed aside by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) O. P. Rawat who said that his team would assess the poll preparedness before taking the final call.
All the flagship programmes of TRS government are currently either work-in-progress or incomplete. Many of them are yet to start
The five year term of the TRS Govt was to end by June 19, 2019, but the enthusiastic KCR has blown the poll bugle over nine months earlier. In the normal course, these state elections were likely to be scheduled together with Lok Sabha polls in and around April-May 2019. In the run-up to the elections, TRS has also released the 105 members’ list of probable MLA contestants and planned to hold 50 public meetings across the state to reach out to the voters.
 
The strength of TRS party
The likely strategy of KCR is to have full control on state elections focusing only on local issues and to campaign extensively on the TRS govt’s schemes that are visible and palpable to the voter at his doorstep in his day-to-day life.
 
Their flagship programmes like revamping of 46,500 lakes under Mission Kakatiya, major and minor irrigation projects particularly Kaleshwaram, Rythu Bandhu scheme which gives financial assistance to farm landowners and programs focused on minorities and SC/STs like Kalyana Lakshmi/Shadi Mubarak schemes are expected to feature in their campaign prominently.
 
In the political context, unlike 2014, the current TRS party has the full-fledged presence of its cadre in every village and corner of the state. From 63 officially elected TRS MLA’s in 2014, KCR managed to attract another 27 MLAs from other parties to TRS, and many of them were well accommodated in key cabinet positions or govt administration. Encouraging to switch parties was justified by KCR as strengthening the govt. KCR was successful in branding TDP as Andhra based party and pushing Chandrababu Naidu to operate from Amaravathi rather than sitting in Hyderabad. In addition to this, the lack of strong opposition leadership against TRS is the biggest political advantage KCR has in upcoming Assembly elections. The TDP has no more presence in Telangana political space, and no lifeline to re-emerge.
 
Congress: Fighting for existence
The Congress party has cadre spread across the state and tall leaders and is projecting itself as the alternative to TRS in the state. But thanks to infighting and fading leadership, it is certainly not in a position to make some really big change as being sought. The party released a list of probable 60 MLA candidates for upcoming Assembly elections. TPCC president Uttam Kumar Reddy and other Congress leaders’ shallow, silly, biased allegations against TRS party do not carry any weight in influencing the voter. Some big names like Suresh Reddy, former Andhra Pradesh Assembly speaker, switched to TRS party and many more are in the pipeline as per local media.
 
The probable pre-poll alliance with Chandrababu Naidu lead Telugu Desam Party (TDP) for Telangana elections will be a political blunder as it may cost Congress heavily. This alliance is bound to become a playing tool for TRS to humiliate them because the foundations of TDP under NTR were laid against Congress in 1983.
 
Modi rules here too!
The BJP as a party has decent influence in some pockets of the state and mostly in an independent capacity. Since 2014, the party leadership has various activities to reach started out to rural and urban voters. The pace of activities has increased by forming the constituency wise booth committees working with full-time workers and movement of leaders to districts have benefited to a large extent. The allegation of being Hyderabad based leadership and activism is gradually fading due to increasing support base in rural areas.
 
The success stories of Narendra Modi led Government, and some of its schemes have become topics of discussion among the public. The official breakup with TDP in April 2018 brought a sigh of relief to the party cadre and its support base. Now, the biggest challenge to BJP leadership is to convert this positive talk on NDA and fans of Narendra Modi into votes for the BJP in Assembly elections. If the BJP succeeds in addressing the lack of charismatic leadership, low content to counter and expose the TRS arguments, it can play a much bigger role and possibly become the kingmaker.
 
While the supporters of TRS call dissolving the Assembly a strategy, the opposition calls it fear of losing voter’s confidence as several poll promises were unaddressed or incomplete and could have never been fulfilled in the next one year or so. It also seems that TRS leadership does not want BJP’s Parliamentary elections campaign to mix or conflict with state issues. The fear is not to let the central schemes and their talk influence the voter in Assembly elections. The positive wave of Narendra Modi led NDA government performance could lead to cross-voting.
 
Failures of TRS Government
 On several fronts, people were unhappy with the KCR government’s policies and its way of functioning and this is TRS’s “the biggest challenge. Defeating KCR is not an easy task, but there are ways to do the job with precision and expertise. The emotional issue of separating Telangana from a united Andhra is not an issue that will influence the voter. The list of failed poll promises will matter on the ground, but all have to be carefully packaged to influence the voter to go against TRS.
The biggest poll promise of TRS in 2014 elections was to appoint a person from the SC/ST category as the first Chief Minister of Telangana. But after taking a complete U-turn, it was KCR who became the CM. Almost all the flagship programmes of TRS government are currently either ‘work-in-progress or incomplete. Many of them are yet to start. To counter the TRS, the BJP needs to have subject matter experts who can dig the statistics of irrigation projects, heavy corruption in Mission Kakaitiya, bill payments with partial or no work to the tune of thousands of crores.
 
There are several incomplete poll promises in the state like the construction of 24 super speciality hospitals across the state, 30-bed hospitals in every manual, double bedroom houses for the poor in every constituency, reservation of 12% to STs, etc. While it had promised to offer 33% reservation to women in Assembly, there is not a single woman in the TRS cabinet! Re-opening the closed industries, KG to PG Free education are other poll promises which are yet to see the light of day. The residential schools based on caste are bound to have a long-term impact on the society and may pose a serious threat if they are hijacked by breaking India forces. The country is already witnessing how the fault lines of society are being exploited under the banner of minority / SC / OBC empowerment in educational institutions. KCR had also promised in 2014, that he would never seek the votes without providing the piped water supply to all the homes across the state within his first tenure. But the incomplete Mission Bhagirta project is far from being completed.
 
Ignoring all these, the Deputy Chief Minister Mahmood Ali himself went to inaugurate the shelter homes specifically built for them in Hyderabad. The government failed to control the rise of Islamic Jihadi elements and global terrorist supporters in Hyderabad. A person from Khammam district was killed in an encounter in Jammu & Kashmir while fighting alongside the Pakistani terrorists. The state police were clueless about him. Failures include soft corner in promoting foreign Christian evangelists in the state and promoting illegal Church constructions bypassing the existing laws, bowing to the demands Muslims separatists, and allowing Arabic classes in Government run minority residential schools. Other measures included separate industrial corridor for Muslims, categorising the converted Christians and offering them reservations as Dalit Christians which are in complete contravention of the laws of the land are some of the biggest failures of the KCR Government.
 
Though KCR portrays himself as respecting all religions, his actions narrate a different story. The state has witnessed how Hindu seers like Swami Paripoornananda were arrested on baseless allegations, and their movements restricted curtailing their rights as a citizen. KCR has also offered free land and construction of building as per the demand of caste leaders.
(The writer is a convenor of VSK, Telangana)