Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) made a surprise announcement recently, declaring that the state would enhance the reservation of the Scheduled Tribes communities in government jobs from the existing 6% to 10%. He also announced a welfare scheme Girijana Bandhu, similar to the existing Dalita Bandhu, where a capital of Rs 10 lakh would be provided for the marginalised community for their upliftment. The decision of the CM who is known for outfoxing the Opposition, did not go down well with them. The Opposition alleged that KCR was making empty promises.
The BJP alleged that the Girijana Bandhu scheme was announced keeping the Munugode bye-election in mind and questioned its timing. BJP state chief Bandi Sanjay sought to know the reason for the delay in providing welfare to the STs. The BJP’s criticism was valid, considering the state is scheduled to go for elections in December 2023. The scheme was not the only announcement by KCR to woo the Dalits and STs. On September 17, on the occasion of National Integration Day, he inaugurated the Adivasi Bhavan and Sevalal Banjara Bhavan in Hyderabad, which were constructed at a cost of Rs 21.5 crore each.
The CM’s outreach to the Dalits and Adivasis ahead of the Assembly election is viewed by political observers as a move to counter the BJP, which has been mobilising the Backward Classes (BC) towards them. The BJP as part of their electoral strategy to infiltrate Telangana, has been focussing on bringing the BC’s into their fold, who constitute the majority – with 50% population in the state.
As part of this strategy, the BJP had accommodated former BJP Telangana president K Laxman by inducting him as the national president of BJP’s OBC Morcha. He was even nominated as the Rajya Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh. They further elevated him as a member of the parliamentary board in the BJP and also as a member of the central election committee.
While the Girijana Bandhu scheme and the reservation enhancement certainly seem to be a part of the political strategy of TRS, analysts foresee that the strategy might turn out to be counter-productive to the TRS. “If the CM focuses only on Dalits and STs, there will be concerns from the BC community and other forward castes, who will question the policies of the TRS government. These communities are the ones who shape opinions. Unless KCR has another plan in mind, this strategy of antagonising the BCs would prove costly in the coming election,” said Hyderabad-based political analyst Palwai Raghavender Reddy.
As per the 2011 caste census, the population of Dalits in Telangana is estimated to be around 16%, the ST population is projected at 6% and the Muslims are around 18%. Raghavender Reddy’s analysis has merit as the BJP has already provoked the BCs, asking why they have not been included in a scheme similar to the Dalita Bandhu. Reddy views this approach by the KCR government as a short-sighted one. “Not all Dalits and STs will get the Rs 10 lakh benefit. Many Dalits have already complained that they have not received the Dalita Bandhu benefit. So, it is unwise to introduce such a scheme which will benefit only a few,” Reddy said.
According to B Sudharshan, another political observer, the aim of TRS behind this strategy was to annihilate the Congress in the state. “Dalits and Adivasis are the primary and traditional vote bank of the Congress party. By targeting them, the TRS intends to finish off the Congress,” Sudharshan said. He observed that the BJP was in no position to form the government in Telangana in the coming election, so TRS had been primarily targeting the Congress. As the TRS did not feel any immediate threat from the BJP, they wanted to appeal to the Congress vote bank constituting Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims. “In Telangana, Congress is a Reddy party. If they come to power, KCR’s political career will come to an end. That is why he is focusing on these sections,” Sudharshan noted. He added, “Congress is a strong contender and in case the TRS and Congress do not get a majority, there is always a possibility of BJP and TRS forming an alliance.”