Rid­ing on wel­fare

FrontLine - - COVER STORY - BY S. NAGESH KU­MAR

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

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