Will the KCR Charm Work a Second Time?
The elections heat has made its way over to Telangana this time around. The state goes into polling on December 7, and all the leading parties have swarmed the streets with rallies and promises.
Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao, the acting Chief Minister of Telangana is confident that his party would come in for a second consecutive term. However, the march to victory might not turn out to be so smooth, with the opposition in full power and preparations. In the past few days, major leaders from different parties have flocked to the newly-made state, each ready with its own set of agendas and promises.
The question is, who will the people of Telangana listen to?
The past four years of Telangana and KCR
The state of Telangana was officially formed on June 2, 2014, with Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao taking office on the same day. Rao, popularly known as KCR is also the president of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). Forming the first government of the state, especially with the big campaigning promises has been a challenge for KCR, however, it’s a challenge he has taken up well.
One of the chief projects his government undertook is Mission Bhagiratha, aimed at making drinking water available in all state households. So far, the mission is 95% completed, with people giving satisfactory reviews.
Another “top notch” promise made by the TRS government was the 2 BHK scheme, launched in September 2015. Under it, over 5.72 lakh houses were planned to be constructed for the poor. KCR dissolved the state assembly eight months ahead of the scheduled time. In his almost five-year-long tenure, the housing project has come into scrutiny. The dissatisfaction majorly comes from the regions where the houses have not been delivered in time.
Overall, KCR’s rule in the state has been given a mixed reception. The biggest strength is, of course, schemes like Bhagiratha, Amma Odi (provides care to pregnant women), the ambitious infrastructure development, especially in the IT sector. However, as is the case in most states, the grievances of farmers remains a big challenge for TRS. The loan waiver of farmers has also emerged as a big dent on the budget.
What is the Opposition up to?
The Chief Minister of Telangana seems fairly confident about a second term. However, since there is no denying the “less than perfect” road of ruling TRS has had, the opposition is leaving no stone unturned to reap the benefits. It is because of this reason that TDP and Congress, two parties that were contesting against each other in 2014, have now joined hands. The Congress, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Telangana Jana Samithi, along with Communist Party of India (Marxist) will contest in the assembly elections together, forging a big alliance.
The Centre-governing BJP party has also dived enthusiastically into the battlefield. In 2014, the party has formed an alliance with TDP which has sided with Congress this time around. It will be interesting, then, to see how the “lone wolf” BJP performs in these elections. The party leaders are optimistic that it will ascend to at least 15 seats in the state assembly from the previous mark of 5 seats.
Recently, when Rao accused the Andhra Pradesh CM N. Chandrababu Naidu of interfering in Telangana’s development work, the latter hit back strongly. Tweeting in retort, Naidu wrote “Did I stop him from giving three acres land to Dalits as promised? Did I stop him from making a Dalit Chief Minister?”.
Indeed, caste struggles might prove to be a major roadblock in TDR’s “path to success”. This is not to say that all hope is lost, however. In the past four years, KCR has built a strong base in the state, if not a perfect one. CNX-Times poll results stand as a testimony to that.
According to the poll results, TRS will succeed in winning 70 out of the 119 state assembly seats. Aside from the “first mover” advantage to TRS, another challenge for the opposition is to have a strong face for the Chief Ministerial candidate. KCR, if not anything else, has been fairly successful in carving a niche for himself in Telangana, and it will be hard for other parties to put up another person at the same pedestal.
Followers of KCR had declared his decision to dissolve the state assembly “a masterstroke”. However, it is this very decision that many believe might backfire on him. Telangana Rashtra Samithi had a headstart against the other parties for campaigning. On the flip side, this also posed a trouble for the party leaders since it meant having to maintain a smooth flow and structured enthusiasm for longer.
Moreover, cutting short the term by eight months, it also slashed down its own time for playing the “popular governance” game, thereby missing out on a chance to gather more public support.
The Telangana state assembly elections will prove to be a crucial passage through which the parties will enter into the grand game of 2019. If they do not perform well, the chances of gathering public support for the Lok Sabha elections will die down, especially for the big players like BJP. Will the KCR “charm” work again? Possibly. But, it will have to be a pretty impressive “magic trick”.
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