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Municipal poll fever grips Telangana; parties on toes

Municipal poll fever grips Telangana; parties on toes
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Political heat in the districts is slowly picking up. All parties are working out their strategies for the municipal elections to be held on January...

Political heat in the districts is slowly picking up. All parties are working out their strategies for the municipal elections to be held on January 22.

The municipal elections assume importance since they are known as mini Assembly elections. Nearly 40 per cent of voters in every Assembly segment live in municipalities.

Though it is a forgone conclusion that the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) will sweep the elections since 95 percent of the MLAs belong to the ruling party, the race is on between the Congress and the BJP for the second position.

In a strategic move, the TRS working president K T Rama Rao said the main fight would be between the TRS and the Congress and that the BJP remained at a position where it was during his student days.

The TRS does not want to recognise nor give any credence to the claims of the BJP that it is emerging as an alternative to the TRS and that it would come to power in the next general elections.

The statement of Rama Rao might have given some hope to the Congress party which had failed to regain its lost glory in the last six years, but the ground reports indicate that they have an uphill task before them.

The party refuses to change with times and its leaders are not united. Internal differences are at its peak. Even at the central level, the party does not have a strong leadership to guide them.

The BJP of course is making a huge noise, but the fact remains that it is not in a position to really challenge the pink party. The saffron party has a chance to win some municipalities in North Telangana districts like Nizamabad, Adilabad and Karimnagar.

Nizamabad would be a litmus test case for the BJP. The ruling party has taken up the campaign saying that in the Parliament elections, BJP leader Dharmapuri Arvind made all kinds of "false promises," and claimed that he would get turmeric board and ensure that MSP for various crops would be announced by the Centre.

This united all the farmers and the TRS lost the seat but now the situation is different, the party leaders claim.

The Chief Minister, in a strategic move, announced that neither he nor his son and IT Minister K T Rama Rao would go for campaign and it would be the responsibility of the respective MLAs to ensure the victory of the party candidates.

While K Chandrashekar Rao must have felt that this would ensure that the MLAs would be on their toes, many senior leaders feel that this was a good opportunity for them to promote their spouses or children depending upon the reservation of the wards.

They are now busy preparing ground for ensuring that their kith and kin become the chairpersons, deputy chairpersons, mayors and deputy mayors in urban local bodies.

There are 130 urban local bodies including 120 municipalities and 10 corporations going for polls and the post for first citizen of urban local body is up for grabs. It remains to be seen how the TRS high command would handle this situation.

The MLAs feel that the welfare and developmental activities taken up by the government would work as their "Brahmastra." The TRS is unlikely to talk about the Citizen Amendment Act. It would leave that part to the AIMIM.

But then what matters more in these elections would be the development of wards and pace of implementation of various welfare schemes.

Though there has been some development in the last six years, barring a few districts like Siddipet, one cannot say that the development has been phenomenal. Still there are many basic issues like drinking water problems, bad roads, lack of sanitation etc.

There are also complaints that sanction of pensions is getting unduly delayed. The government has not been able to allot double bedroom houses as promised so far.

Some cosmetic touches to the main roads in many districts have been done but poor inflow of funds has affected the developmental works in all the districts. Whatever little works have been taken up was under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (Amrut) project by the Centre.

This project was launched for 'urban renaissance for rejuvenating and transforming Indian cities' through a number of initiatives including infusion of more than Rs 6,85,758 crore for ensuring citizen-friendly urban areas.

The transformation has been undertaken by way of implementing key urban reforms, projects for urban rejuvenation, provision of water, sewerage and sanitation under the Mission AMRUT by sanctioning projects worth Rs 77,640 crore.

Against the backdrop of this scenario, these elections gain importance and would be keenly watched by analysts. It will also show where which party stands. It will be an indication of whether the BJP is really growing as an alternative or not.

The fact which even the BJP leaders admit is that as of now they have a long way to go to emerge as a real alternative to the ruling party. The BJP admits that the entire process of municipal elections such as the dates and schedule have been worked out in a manner that would benefit the TRS.

The Opposition parties also feel that soon after the municipal polls, the TRS would also go in for GHMC elections to prove that it continues to be an unchallenged party in the State.

This however does not mean that the Congress is strong. The BJP at least can claim that it had won four out of 17 Lok Sabha seats. Though the Congress also won three seats, it has not been able to consolidate its position and take advantage of winning three seats in Lok Sabha elections.

These two Opposition parties should also keep in mind that the TRS had reasserted its dominance in the elections to the Zilla Parishad Territorial Constituencies (ZPTC) held after general elections by winning a staggering 83% (449 out of 588) of the ZPTCs.

The Congress won 75 ZPTCs. However, all parties despite their strengths, are leaving no stone unturned to bag as many seats as possible in the ensuing elections to the civic bodies.

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