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BRS's Decade in Power: Revisiting Electoral Promises and Governance in Telangana

While Chief Minister KCR publicly says his policy is for non-communal secular politics, governance appears tied to feudal legacies.
 Telangana Chief Minister and BRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao addresses a public meeting ahead of the the state Assembly elections, in Bodhan, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023.

Telangana Chief Minister and BRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao addresses a public meeting ahead of the the state Assembly elections, in Bodhan, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. Image Courtesy: PTI

Telangana is gearing up for its highly anticipated third state Assembly election, scheduled for November 30. This pivotal election holds immense significance in reshaping the landscape for the state's political parties, as they strive to challenge the governance of the BRS Party led by Kalvakuntla Chandra Shekar Rao. It stands as a crucial juncture for Telangana and for Mr KCR and his party, which underwent a name change just a year ago from the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) to Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS). Since the formation of Telangana state in 2014, the BRS party has been at the helm, securing re-election in the December 2018 second state assembly election. Now, under the leadership of its Party President Mr. KCR, the BRS is making a strong bid to secure a third term in power.

The BRS party in Telangana has notably abstained from joining the INDIA coalition led by the majority opposition parties in the country for countering the far-right Hindu majoritarian BJP in the upcoming 2024 general election. This decision stems from the strong conviction of the BRS and its leadership, who firmly believe that both the Congress and BJP have failed in significantly improving the country's situation during their tenures in the Union government over the decades. However, Mr. Revanth Reddy, president of the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee, as well as their high command Mr Rahul Gandhi allege that the BRS and KCR are the B team of the BJP.

Setting aside these allegations, KCR has shown ambition in establishing a third front in the country. His initial attempt came right after winning the second state Assembly election in 2018, followed by persistent efforts in 2022. However, his aspiration to emerge as a credible alternative currently appears dim due to insufficient cooperation from non-Delhi-based regional governing political parties. Despite the challenging landscape in national politics, KCR remains fervently dedicated to securing a hat-trick in the third Telangana state Assembly elections.

His party's proactive focus on popular schemes such as Rythu Bandhu, Rythu Bhima, Aasara Pension aiding various segments like the elderly, widows, disabled individuals, and Beedi workers, along with initiatives like providing free power supply to farmers, Kalyan Lakshmi, and Shadi Mubarak, offering financial assistance of ₹1,00,116 for their daughters' marriages to financially disadvantaged families, has drawn considerable attention. Additionally, their efforts in ensuring water supply to every household in the state have further strengthened their appeal. These direct conditional cash transfer schemes haven't just resonated within Telangana but have also extended their influence to neighbouring border districts in states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Chhattisgarh, significantly amplifying their reach.

While these widely popular schemes have been central to the BRS party's narrative for nearly a decade, they've failed to resonate with a significant proportion of the population in the state. This disconnect has stirred significant disappointment and dissatisfaction among the people of Telangana towards KCR and his party, primarily stemming from unfulfilled past promises. Therefore, it is critical to assess the BRS party's delivery on their pool commitments outlined in the 2014 and 2018 election manifestos for the people of Telangana, particularly focusing on crucial areas such as healthcare, education, housing, employment and a few other if not all. These aspects directly align with the broader interests of the masses.

In the 2014 elections, the TRS party pledged to build double bedroom houses with hall, kitchen, and toilet facilities for socio-economically marginalised sections. The Party proposed to construct these with a budget of three lakh rupees, asserting that the poor housing conditions under the previous government had led to oppressed caste communities living without dignity. However, despite these promises, there has been minimal construction in Mandal headquarters, with most of the double-bedroom houses constructed mainly in and around Hyderabad city, raising concerns that these constructions were primarily for publicity to create a larger discourse in the state rather than addressing the widespread housing needs of marginalized communities.

An elderly widow from the Scheduled Tribe Yerukula community in Nalgonda expressed her concern, stating, "We haven't seen any new houses coming up in our village or where my relatives live after 2014. Only the old houses from before Telangana was formed are here.”

In the 2014 election campaign, KCR pledged to introduce KG to PG free education for all in the state. He also promised to regularise corporate and private schools and colleges once his government was formed. However, the efforts towards education regulation received minimal attention. Over the past decade, the overall budget allocation for education in the state has taken a back seat. For instance, in the 2014-15 fiscal year, the budget allocation for education was Rs 10,963 crore, constituting 10.89% of the total budget. In contrast, the recent 2022-23 budget stands at Rs 16,042 crore, but this forms only 6.24% of the total budget.                                 

A doctoral scholar from Osmania University expressed, “I grew up hearing TRS's promises of building multiple universities. However, a decade later, I hardly see any fully functional universities with all departments operational in Telangana today under BRS. It's a dismal state of affairs, especially in the realm of education and higher education.”

The healthcare sector faces similar challenges. In 2014, the KCR pledged to establish 24 super-specialty hospitals in each district, considering the then-proposed 24 districts. Today, Telangana has 33 districts. However, a decade later, not a single new hospital was constructed in the new state. Recently, foundation stones were laid in the Mahaboobnagar and Warangal districts. Additionally, BRS promised the construction of 100-bed area hospitals in each Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) constituency, but little progress has been made in this regard.

The ruling BRS party has failed to fulfil numerous promises outlined in its 2014 manifesto, such as allocating three acres of land to landless active farming Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes families, decentralising governance across urban cities other than Hyderabad, providing internet facilities to every village, offering regular grants to universities, establishing a tribal university, and increasing reservations for Muslim and tribal communities. Despite nearly a decade passing, the promised 12% reservation for Telangana’s  Muslims has remained stagnant, with an increase to only 10% for Scheduled Tribal communities in September 2022. Notably, the fulfilment of these manifesto pledges appears to be below 10%.

In the 2018 Assembly elections, the introduction of Rythu Bandhu and Bhima schemes drew significant attention, especially within the farming community, influencing both state and national policies such as the PM KISAN Samman Nidhi. Despite the ruling party's inability to fulfil the 2014 election manifesto, they secured a significant victory by allocating substantial funds to the small land-owning farmers to large absentee landlord communities. This move notably impacted rural areas, with specific MLAs receiving substantial sums based on large land holdings, for example for more than 50 acres of land. However, it's crucial to note that tenant farmers, who constitute a distressed segment within the farming community, were not eligible for this scheme who majorly belong to the SC-ST-OBC and other marginalised sections.

Further, promises made during the 2018 elections by KCR and his party to provide unemployment allowances aimed to address job scarcity between 2014 and 2018. Regrettably, even after five years, not a single unemployed person has received this allowance, casting doubt on the BRS's commitment to fulfilling promises. Despite a decade in governance, the BRS and Chief KCR are facing unprecedented challenges compared to past elections. KCR's administration struggles to address the long-standing demands of dalit, adivasi, Muslim, and Bahujan communities, constituting a significant majority. Backward caste communities, comprising over half of Telangana's population, still lack adequate representation within the BRS party.

While KCR publicly says his policy is for non-communal secular politics, governance appears tied to feudal legacies. The party's limited representation of diverse communities, especially women and marginalised castes, has been a persistent issue in past elections, showing no signs of improvement in this election's seat allocation as well.

Telangana, formed as a separate state out of student movements and social struggles across the state, hasn't witnessed substantial progress in social welfare despite its statehood. Dissatisfaction among unemployed youth, working classes, students, academic and activist communities and the governance failures over the past decade have disrupted the BRS's previously smooth trajectories. 

The emerging momentum of Congress post the success in the neighbouring Karnataka Assembly elections and the Bahujan Samaj Party's entry, spearheaded by former IPS officer Dr Praveen Kumar, into the upcoming Telangana election, does indeed pose significant challenges for the BRS. Praveen Kumar's notable influence, particularly among the youth, adds an intriguing dynamic to the upcoming political landscape.

Ashok Danavath is a postgraduate scholar from Telangana, India, and was formerly a Government of India National Overseas Scholarship Fellow at the International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague. He currently works as a Senior Researcher for the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR).

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