Riding on welfare
Telangana Rashtra Samithi sweeps the elections with a slew of welfare measures and a clever strategy designed by its leader
K. Chandrasekhar Rao.
THE TELANGANA RASHTRA SAMITHI’S (TRS) strategy of advancing the Assembly elections has paid off, and K. Chandrasekhar Rao has got a second consecutive stint as the Chief Minister of India’s newest State. The ruling party bagged an impressive tally of 88 seats in the 119-member Assembly, leaving the Congress-led “mahakutami” (People’s Front) a distant second with 21 seats. The TRS juggernaut dashed the Congress party’s hopes of a revival of its fortunes in a State it was responsible for creating five years ago.
Telangana voters emphatically rejected the Congress’ opportunistic alliance with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), a regional party founded by N.T. Rama Rao in 1982 with the primary aim of dislodging the grand old party from power in Andhra Pradesh. TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu had largely stuck to this line and lost no opportunity to attack the Congress for bifurcating Andhra Pradesh.
In the absence of a popular leader and an alternative agenda to Chandrasekhar Rao’s bouquet of welfare schemes, the mahakutami’s expectations of trumping the TRS leader were misplaced. The TDP polled barely 3.5 per cent of the votes and lost heavily even in Hyderabad while the remaining two partners, Prof. M. Kodandaram’s Telangana Jana Samithi and the Communist Party of India, remained non-starters.
Chandrasekhar Rao turned the tables on the mahakutami by stoking fears that Chandrababu Naidu was hurting the self-respect of the people by once again trying to dominate Telangana. The success of this strategy has raised questions now whether the Congress should have dumped the TDP and contested alone. A deeper analysis may prove this to be true, but the question is rather facile since the two parties had buried the hatchet after Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Chandrababu Naidu shook hands at H.D. Kumaraswamy’s oath-taking function in Bengaluru in May 2018.
COST OF WELFARE
Chandrasekhar Rao built the party edifice with the Telangana sentiment as the foundation and welfare schemes as the superstructure. His campaign theme was that the previous regimes had exploited the people of Telangana and pauperised them. As he offered sops to all sections of people—girls, pregnant women, widows, the aged, the infirm, weavers, toddy tappers and Muslims—the voters found no reason to usher in the Congress.
The Rythu Bandhu scheme of giving an input subsidy of Rs.8,000 each to 58 lakh farmers fetched him votes. It did so partly by glossing over the agrarian distress in the State, which is marked by a high rate of suicide by farmers and the government’s failure to provide relief to tenant farmers who worked on land not registered in their names.
Chandrasekhar Rao and his party remained in denial mode over two other failures—the inability to provide the promised jobs to youths and the implementation of the TRS’ flagship programme of giving double bedroom houses, each costing Rs.7.5 lakh, to the poor.
Such failures paled before the effective and targeted delivery of other welfare schemes. The Telangana government deserves its due for hitting the bull’s eye on this