On March 1, 2014, then President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the Andhra Pradesh State Reorganisation Act, thus making way for the formation of two states Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. This was immediately followed by 2014 elections, and K Chandrasekhar Rao, popularly known as KCR, kept aside his own words – “a Dalit candidate will be the first Chief Minister of Telangana” – and announced that he is the CM candidate of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). TRS won people’s mandate winning 63 out of 119 seats, and KCR, belonging to Velama caste sworn in as the first CM.
With KCR’s abrupt dissolution of state assembly in September this year, nearly eight months before the completion of its tenure, the state is going for assembly polls on December 7, and KCR is again being projected as the CM candidate of TRS. But, is Telangana ready to bring back TRS to power? Several student activists from the state argue that the TRS government has miserably failed, and especially KCR has lost his charisma for his rigorous authoritarian regime.
In fact, the first authoritarian thing that KCR did after coming into power was that two Telugu television news channels – TV9 and ABN Andhra Jyothi – were banned from broadcasting when they aired satirical programmes on TRS on their channel. KCR was then termed as Niyanta, meaning dictator by political analysts and opposition parties.
Superstitions and unfulfilled promises
KCR is known for his elaborate rituals and his staunch belief in vasthu (Hindu system of architecture). Recently, before launching TRS party’s last round of campaign for the upcoming elections, he held yagnas (sacrifice rituals) like 'Raja Syamala Yagam', 'Chandi Yagam' at his farm house. In 2015, claiming that Telangana is facing drought-like situation, KCR performed ‘Ayutha Chandi Maha Yagnam’ along with his family. While the design for a new secretariat is ready, apparently, the only reason for abandoning the existing one is that some vasthu specialist told KCR that the secretariat's vasthu is not appropriate. KCR also got a new route made inside secretariat following his vasthu beliefs.
Addressing a Campaign meeting in Khanapur constituency on November 22, KCR said: “Rashtram techindi nenu. Chala chala udyamalu chesi, 14 yellu kastapadi, chavu notla tala petti, Telangana nu Sampadincha. Naku telusu Rashtranni ela teerchididdalo.” This means: “I’m responsible for the formation of the state. With many many movements, facing difficulties for 14 years, without even fearing death, I earned Telangana.” He added that the region was ruled by Congress and TDP for 58 years, who are responsible for worsening the living conditions of the people, and that he would require more time to repair the state.
Consider this: "If I make any promise, I'll ensure it turns into reality even if my head is cut off," said Rao, while addressing a recent election campaign meeting in Medak district. The reality is that the major criticism of the TRS government from all the contesting parties and mass organisations has been that the government has miserably failed to fulfil TRS party's 2014 election manifesto promises. the party promised to provide three acres of agricultural land to each Dalit family, construction of 22 lakh double bedroom houses for Below Poverty Line families, one lakh government jobs and free education from primary level to post graduation among others. None of these took shape.
However, there are numerous reports suggesting that the recent speeches of KCR are not impressing the youth, unlike in 2014.
Read more: Telangana Polls: TRS Set to Face Ire of Unemployed Youth
KCR’s Family Assets
KCR's family members’ assets have grown by a considerable percentage in the last four years, reveal the affidavits filed with the election commission. As per these affidavits, KCR is richer by nearly Rs 5.5 crore, and has acquired 16 acres of agricultural land during the past four years. KCR's son K Taraka Rama Rao, who held state's key portfolios – including Ministry of Information Technology, Municipal Administration and Urban Development, Industries & Commerce, Mines & Geology – has registered a whopping 423.6 per cent increase in his assets in the last four years. Rama Rao's total assets increased from Rs 5.11 lakh in 2014 to 2.8 crore in 2018. KCR's nephew, Thanneeru Harish Rao, who was state minister for irrigation, marketing and legislative affairs, claimed that his total assets are worth Rs 1 crore, compared to Rs 90.8 lakh in 2014, while his wife's movable assets were Rs 3.8 crore, compared to 1.6 crore in 2014.
KCR’s image projection through government ads
It should be noted that KCR is one of the owners of Telangana Broadcasting Pvt Ltd (which runs T News) and of Telangana Publication Private Limited (which runs Telangana Today). Unsurprisingly, these media houses boast of every activity of TRS, and particularly of KCR's family.
As per a research study – Telangana Government Communication – done by this author, the state government's advertisements in various media outlets between 2014 to 2016 reveal that the state government's ads were more likely to promote the interests of TRS party and particularly KCR, rather than the public interest – governance and administration. KCR's possible motive of ''image trapping” is obvious in almost every government advertisement.
An RTI query filed with state's department of information and public relations, by an activist Padmaja Shaw, revealed that between April 2016 to February 2018, TRS government spent Rs 43.04 crore for advertisements in various newspapers.
Just like chief ministers of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, KCR continued to neglect the upliftment of Dalits and Tribals, says Bolle Kartheek, human rights activist and journalist based in Telangana. Speaking to Newsclick, Kartheek said: “Despite his own promise, KCR has not done anything regarding the distribution of three acres of land to landless Dalit families in the state. In his own party, while all the sitting MLAs got tickets this time, only three MLAs were rejected, and all of them are Dalits. “Nor his promise of 12 per cent reservations to STs in the state has been fulfilled,” he said.
As per CAG revelations, TRS government failed to utilise massive portions of funds allocated under crucial schemes. During 2016-17, about 60 per cent funds of the SC sub-plan and 57 per cent funds of the ST sub-plan were left unutilised. Nonetheless, this has been the case with the sub-plans across states.
KCR has also recorded several achievements in his name – such as 24-hour water supply to agricultural lands in the state, Rythu Bandhu and Rythu Bheema Schemes (former is an investment support scheme to farmers and latter an insurance scheme), Kalyana Lakshmi scheme. But, KCR has failed to finish any of his irrigation projects such as Mission Bhagiratha and Mission Kakatiya.
One has to wait till December 11 (election result date) to witness how KCR’s image trap worked with respect to the people of Telangana.
Read more: The Gloomy Picture of Telangana’s Finances