Regardless of anti-incumbency, KCR hopes to bank on his welfare projects, such as the ones initiated under Mission Kakatiya and Mission Bhagiratha.

Telangana elections On comeback trail how will KCR deal with anti-incumbency
news Politics Friday, August 17, 2018 - 11:08

“Sir, as a matter of fact, KCR (as Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao is widely known) is wasting money like water. He is giving cash subsidy of Rs 8,000 per acre of farm land. God only knows who will benefit from the scheme at the ground level,” a home guard attached to the Telangana police academy told this writer in the first week of August.

“See, all these flyovers and roads came up in Hyderabad only during the period of Chandrababu Naidu (Naidu was the CM of undivided Andhra Pradesh for nine years from 1995-2004). Even potholes in the main roads have not been repaired in the last four years,” he muttered while taking me to the police academy in their vehicle through the Chilkur road.

In fact, he and his wife, both home guards, are the beneficiaries of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government’s policy decision to double the salaries of home guards. Yet, KCR’s largesse appears to hardly cheer this particular home guard. He sums up the average mood of Telangana people, suggesting the groundswell against the four-year rule of the TRS.

Paying heed to the ground reality, the TRS president seems to be believing in making hay while the sun shines, hence his call for an early election.

Well over eight months before his five-year term ends, KCR has sounded the poll bugle in the backdrop of battle cries by Congress President Rahul Gandhi. Even while Rahul was in the thick of his two-day whirlwind visit to Telangana, KCR called for a TRS executive meeting to express his desire to go for early elections.

If it happens, Telangana in all likelihood will go to polls simultaneously with Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh by the end of the current year. The forecasts over anti-incumbency that may rock the BJP’s boat in those states hardly seems to deter KCR. Then what prompts the ruling TRS to seek a fresh mandate much earlier than the stipulated time? The prospects of the Congress aligning with the TDP and the mood swings of Andhra settlers and Muslim minorities will determine the fate of the TRS at the end of the day.

Anti-incumbency vs populism

KCR, who rode to power in 2014 as an invincible man behind the realisation of the long-cherished dream of separate statehood for Telangana, is on a mission to douse the anti-incumbency flames with a slew of freebies.

The family rule – revolving around the TRS chief, his nephew T Harish Rao, who is the Irrigation minister, son KT Rama Rao, who holds the IT and Urban Development portfolio, and his daughter and firebrand MP Kalvakuntla Kavitha – reduces the other Cabinet ministers to just figureheads. Besides family rule, the alleged failure of the TRS in fulfilling its election promises of 2BHK flats for the poor, farm lands for all Dalit families and jobs for the unemployed, corruption plaguing the administration and public antipathy towards sitting MLAs of the ruling party – all contribute to the undercurrents of anti-incumbency.

Regardless of anti-incumbency, KCR, on his comeback trail, hopes to ride the crest of his welfare and development projects. Of his government’s triple flagship programme – jal, jungle and jameen – it’s the drinking and irrigation projects initiated under Mission Kakatiya and Mission Bhagiratha that are doing miracles in Telangana, according to Suresh Dharur, a senior journalist based in Hyderabad.

“I swam merrily in the village tank at Dharur, my native place in Mahabubnagar district, during my recent visit. The tank with breaches to its bunds was dry almost since my childhood. Now, it is full to the brim with water, much to my delight,” he told TNM.

When all is said and done, the question remains whether KCR can weather the tide of anti-incumbency with the strength of his populism.

Possible Cong-TDP tie-up worries KCR?

In 2014, the Telangana sentiment and KCR’s image as the harbinger of new statehood helped his party secure only 63 out of 119 Assembly segments. The TDP, in spite of having been projected as a party suppressing the regional identity of Telangana, got 15, while its then ally, the BJP, secured another five, speaking of the TDP’s underlying strength in the state.

Congress leaders like Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president N Uttamkumar Reddy hope to repeat the Karnataka experiment in league with the TDP by labelling KCR as a blue-eyed boy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. By doing so, they are also trying to deprive KCR of support from Muslim minorities, who constitute 12% of the state’s electorate. KCR is placating them with a dole of 12% quota and by keeping the MIM in good humour.

The sentiments revolving around the fate of the successor state of Andhra Pradesh and the cold shoulder given by the BJP-led NDA government in healing the wounds inflicted during bifurcation obviously influences the settler population of Andhra origin, predominantly present in Hyderabad, Nalgonda, Mahabubnagar and Khammam, and partly in Nizamabad and Medak districts.

Considering these key factors, Rahul Gandhi was at his best wooing Andhra settlers and throwing broad hints in favour of a tie-up with the TDP.

“TRS is our main enemy. But the issue of alliances will be decided by our leader (AP CM Chandrababu Naidu),” TDP spokesman Ravula Chandrasekhar Reddy said.

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