It was last month that Telangana caretaker Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao took the stage in Ibrahimpur, a small village bordering Siddipet and Sircilla constituencies, and had an emotional outburst. Ibrahimpur is the village that Harish had adopted three years ago. Moved by the unanimous resolution of the villagers to vote only for him, Harish said, “I feel like quitting politics now when I am enjoying enormous love and tremendous support. I will continue to serve you irrespective of whether I will be in politics or not.”
This emotional speech had become a topic of discussion on several television news channels in the state for days together as it came amid allegations that the TRS was blacking out his events and attempting to sideline him. However, what was lost in the debates was perhaps the ‘love’ from the locals of Ibrahimpur that he was referring to.
A visit to the village, ahead of the election, clearly shows why the locals made the decision. One can clearly tell where the jurisdiction of Ibrahimpur, a model village certified by the state and central government, begins. The roads are as clean as they come and both sides are lined with trees. Solar panels line many tiled roofs in the village as well.
Locals say that their fate has turned around since Harish Rao adopted the village.
“It was a remote border village at the end of the constituency and district, with Rajanna Sircilla on the other side. Earlier, all letters addressed to us would find their way to Ibrahimnagar village some 30 km away. Today, everyone locally knows where we are situated and it's all because of him (Harish Rao),” says Raju, a local youth.
Ibrahimpur’s tryst with Harish Rao
It was in August 2015, during a Grama Jyothi programme at Ibrahimpur, that Harish Rao decided to adopt the village, shortly after he was impressed with the community banding together and implementing the ‘Inkudu gunta’ or a water conservation soak pit technique.
“This is how it works,” says Raju, explaining, “Each house has its own pit and we divert all the water generated from household into the pit, to naturally evaporate. This means that there are much fewer mosquitoes and no pungent smell is emitted, for instance, when the drains of several houses are linked together.”
According to locals, there are no more open drains in the village, which resulted in a massive dip in mosquitoes and water-borne diseases. As a result, the number of Rural Medical Practitioners (RMPs) in the village has reduced from four to one; the remaining RMO now only treats long-term illnesses, locals claim.
When asked about the abundance of trees in the village, Nagesh Reddy, the son of the sarpanch K Lakshmi Devi, says, “We received 1 lakh saplings from the Forest Department as part of the Haritha Haram scheme. We initially thought that we would plant it over a period of several days, but Harish Rao insisted that we should plant them in a single day, and we did. It was a complete group effort.”
In fact, even the open drains that existed earlier were dumped with mud and lined with trees.
The village also boasts of an ‘Any Time Water’ machine, which allows locals to fill up 20-litre cans at least two to three times a day after they swipe a card that can be recharged. Ibrahimpur was also the first village to go 'cashless' in Telangana after demonetisation in 2016.
The school has also been refurbished recently in bright colours and the locals say that their children have no complaints about the mid-day meals. The panchayat is powered by 3 KiloWatts solar energy and over 50 houses in the village, who have applied for one solar panel set that generates 1 KW, enjoy the same.
“We only pay the token amount for an electricity connection. We can run everything else for free at no extra cost,” says a woman, as she sees this reporter clicking a picture of the solar panel atop her house.
The village, with a population of 1,230 predominantly consists of people from the Madiga community, which is considered a Schedule Caste, followed by the sheep-rearing Yadav community. There is also a significant population of the Reddy community.
Another unique initiative in the village is a massive ‘community shed’ for all sheep in the village, owned by Yadav families.
Each family in the village is allotted a shed to keep their sheep and there is a bulb powered by solar energy. They come in the morning to take them out for grazing and return in the evening after the day’s work and put them in the shed.
“Usually, the sheep are kept in cramped spaces in a shed attached to the house itself. Because of a separate shed, both the sheep and the owners are less likely to fall prey to diseases. Additionally, trade becomes easier because everyone in the village knows that they can find us here,” a shepherd remarks as he gets ready to take his sheep out of the compound.
‘A sure win for Harish’
Locals insist that the Siddipet constituency is a ‘sure win’ for Harish Rao that they are unanimous in their decision to vote for him.
“The candidates for opposition parties are welcome to come here and campaign, but we would advise them to spend their time and resources in another village because they have no chance here. They will only end up addressing an empty venue,” says Nagesh Reddy, as those listening nod in unison.
“The problem with opposition parties like the Congress is that they have a feudal mindset. Once the leader takes a decision, no one can question it; but we are different. While TRS leaders clearly have more influence and power, there is a lot of decision-making left to the local level, which ensures that we discuss ideas and implement them successfully with the consent of the entire community,” he adds.
Siddipet constituency is perhaps the most important one in the namesake district, 84,142 total voters as per the latest electoral rolls released by the Election Commission. It has been the bastion of the TRS and incumbent Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s family since 1985.
While KCR won continuously from the seat from his first victory, in 2004, he handed over the seat to his trusted confidant and nephew, Harish Rao, who has only been increasing his vote share and the majority over opposition candidates with each passing election.
Throughout his entire political career, Harish has only contested from Siddipet and never lost an election, winning three bye-polls and two general elections to the Legislative Assembly. He has also built an image of a man among the masses as he gets ready and seeks votes to serve his sixth term.
“There is no other MLA as approachable as him and that’s a fact. He always listens to the grievances of the people and takes action. The opposition lacks that and has created an image of being distant when in power, which is centralised in Hyderabad. This is why everyone votes for him,” one local of Ibrahimpur notes.