Will KCR’s welfare gamble help?

In his desperation to retain power for the third time the Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) founder and Telengana Chief Minister Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) is leaving no stone unturned. He is making promises left, right and centre to appease all and sundry.  More than any vote bank he appears to be more concerned about the minorities, who alone can vote en masse, unlike other communities.

Apart from Rythu Bandhu and Girijan Bandhu, the two weaker sections that form the most vulnerable bloc in the electorate college, the KCR government wanted to grab as many seats as possible in the Muslim-dominant constituencies. Hence, he introduced financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh each to that community’s 10,000 unemployed youth and extended Rs 5000 monthly remuneration to 7000 clerics (Imams or Mozanas) of mosques, besides gifting away 125-acre prime land parcels in the Rangareddy and Malkajgiri districts, for using it as burial grounds. In fact, after minarets, the erstwhile Hyderabad state ruled by Nizams has more such burial grounds even in the heart of the city hampering widening of roads to regulate ever-growing vehicle traffic. These burial grounds and a few Hindu temples, which might come onto the road thereby creating bottlenecks for the civic bodies’ road widening plans!

None should take a partisan view in identifying even Hindu temples which are there in the middle of the road and causing traffic snarls. I will not hesitate to cite the two prominent locations in the city where these temples become big bottlenecks. One is at Ameerpet and the other at Basheerbagh.   And no party government is willing to redress this problem due to their vote bank politics. Hence, citizens should make these structures which creating  bottlenecks – whether belonging Hindus or Muslims – an election issue and vote decisively. Pune solved such issues amicably and successfully removed religious structures for better traffic movement.

Coming back to KCR-type politics, his desperation to return to power left no barriers. In a bid to win the upcoming polls, his party chose to go all out to capture as many seats in those (25-30) Muslim-dominant constituencies. The Muslims form around 12.5 per cent of the total electorate. While 50 per cent of them reside in the old city, where the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), continuously won six to nine  seats, in the rest of the 35-40 assembly segments, which fall under the Rangareddy, Medak, Mahabubnagar, Nizamabad and Adilabad districts, where KCR is working hard to win as many as possible.

TRS to BRS: Will KCR's name-change gamble pay off at 2024 LS polls?

The reason being that the fear of losing is haunting him ever since his party’s intelligence inputs as well as surveys conducted by some hired poll strategist bodies, indicated that BRS may lose half of its sitting seats of 2018. Added to that is strong anti-incumbency although KCR and his son K Tarakarama Rao (KTR) boast that their welfare schemes, covering all and sundry, will ensure them a massive mandate for the third consecutive term. Signs of that desperation is the recent shuffle of the bureaucracy, which came under the scanner of the Election Commission. Maybe once the election schedule is announced; all decisions of KCR may be reviewed if the CEC feels so. But, their rhetoric is hidden with fear as the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have gained considerable ground soon after the 2018 assembly polls. This was evident from the way the ruling party had to surrender as many as seven Lok Sabha seats within a year to the BJP (4) and Congress (3). What does it mean, as it is losing as many as 35 assembly segments in these seven LS constituencies?

That fear forced KCR to shelve even his national ambitions and put his plans on the back burner. He even has taken a U-turn – from an aggressive posture against Prime Minister(PM) Narendra Modi and his government at the Centre to calling the PM his ‘good friend’. Thus, he toned down the attack on the Centre on every issue. None knows whether it was sheer coincidence or indeed some discreet understanding he reached with New Delhi, after that statement even the central agencies, which were closing in on his daughter and MLC Kavitha, in the alleged multi-crore Delhi Excise policy scam seemed to have slowed down the investigation process. Many, who joined the BJP from other parties like Konda Visveshwar Reddy, a former Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) MP from Chevella in Rangareddy district, did not hold back his dismay over the agency’s decision to go slow on Kavitha. Reddy left TRS to join Congress before the 2018 assembly polls. But, when the BJP under Bandi Sanjay Kumar was flourishing, he joined the BJP in 2022. To his further disappointment, even the party’s state president was replaced with Union Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy.

Since then, the BJP appears to have lost its firepower to take on the ruling party.

Contrary to this, the Congress, which was nowhere in the possible fight could regain its lost hopes after their party’s emphatic win in neighbouring Karnataka. It is no secret that the Congress victory was primarily due to the massive support it got from the minority communities, as they voted en masse, even deserting hitherto one or two per cent from Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular). The Congress had promised Muslims in Karnataka to reinstate the four per cent reservation withdrawn by the BJP-led government and to revoke the restrictions on ‘hijab’ in educational institutions, leading them to power. On the other hand, the BJP though could retain its vote share but not seats only due to the minority’s unison voting in favor of the Congress and this were evident from the way the JDS was reduced numerically.

Precisely, that was the reason for KCR to turn tables on the Congress by introducing several schemes to benefit over 12 percent strong Muslim vote bank in the state. This decision hits more the Congress than the BJP as it would help it polarize the Hindu votes. It has also come in handy to the soft-spoken new state party unit Chief Kishen Reddy and hence with the Party leadership appointed Election in-charge was quick to shift their focus to concentrate on SC and ST reserved constituencies, which form around 25. This was in the wake of KCR’s failure to cover all across the state his so-called Dalit Bandhu and Tribal Bandhu schemes, which promise a family member of Rs 10 L financial assistance to set up his/her own business towards their improved lives.

Why Etela Rajendar's Telangana By-Poll Victory Is KCR's Personal Loss

Apart from that, the BJP is also focusing on the BCs and OBC vote banks, which are also said to be quite unhappy with the ruling dispensation as they got a raw deal in sharing political power. Interestingly, the BJP’s big catch is Etela Rajender, once close to KCR, as he belongs to the predominant ‘Mudiraj’ community in the BC category. They form around 15-18 per cent of the majority assembly segments of the total 119 assembly seats. The same community was responsible for the defeat of Kavitha, who lost to that community member D Arvind Kumar, from the Nizamabad constituency in the 2019 LS polls. Although, by getting into active politics through the backdoor as MLC, Kavitha might have expressed her willingness to take on Arvind from Nizamabad, and it is more unlikely to do any good to her, feels those who are familiar with the parliament seat.

Arvind’s father D Srinivas is the tallest leader in the district, as he had served as the APCC President as well as ministries in many cabinets of his Congress party. Although, he later joined the TRS, yet opted to lay low, reasons best known to him!  Added to that, his advanced age also made him inactive in day-to-day body politics.

Against that backdrop, KCR’s fears are genuine over the poll outcome and hence his desperation is palpable in his announcing all sorts of schemes to all and sundry, without any possible budgetary allocations. In the case of a triangular contest, many experts are of the firm view that it is anyone’s guess, which party can win. With the blatant appeasement of minority Muslims, the KCR party may garner their votes among the masses, but at whose expense? Is it not at the cost of the BCs, OBCs, SCs, and STs, especially who are yet to receive the benefits with time running out? The election schedule may be announced sooner than later for the November/December polls. As it is the loss of minority Muslims from their kitty, Congress is bound to be on losing ground. That paved way for the BJP, which phenomenally increased its vote share from 6-8 percent to 18-20 percent in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections is confident of majority Hindus, who suffered the erstwhile Nizam’s atrocities and their forefathers might have taken part in the armed struggle, will certainly vote decisively, to prevent the Kalvakuntla family from bouncing back to power.

The average voter in the districts of Yadadri and Rangareddy, besides Medak, is well aware of how the family amassed huge chunks of properties and established farmhouses, etc.

Added to that, the Prime Minister’s resolve to come down heavily on the corrupt leaders and parties is likely to crack the whip, once the G20 celebrations come to an end in mid-September. That’s the guarantee that the PM has made to the people that all criminals in the political class will be pushed behind bars before the LS polls, in his government’s bid to wipe out corruption from the public place. So, one has to put their fingers crossed, how the poll prospects of all these ambitious parties unfold this year end!