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Tough road ahead for Congress govt in TS
Congress won just 5 seats above the halfway mark. If 6 MLAs stop supporting Congress, the government collapses.
Congress won just 5 seats above the halfway mark. If 6 MLAs stop supporting Congress, the government collapses. Among several contenders, Revanth Reddy named as the Chief Minister by the Congress high command. So, doubts can creep in on the stability of the government as the leftouts are equally deserving and influential.
The BJP is accused of using various tactics including buying MLAs to bring down elected governments in States. Examples are Arunachal Pradesh (2016), Goa (2017), Karnataka (2019), Madhya Pradesh (2020), Manipur (2017), Puducherry (2021). Also, the defeated BRS cadre is very much hurt and will try to create hurdles in smooth functioning of Reddy’s government. It will be a challenge to Revanth Reddy to keep all his MLAs united to face these situations.
The total Assembly seats in Telangana is 119. Only 15% i.e. 18 MLAs can be appointed as Ministers including the Chief Minister, as per the Article 164(1A) of the Constitution. So, Congress has to satisfy majority of their MLAs by giving attractive assignments such as chairpersons of corporations or boards to keep them contended and the party intact.
Freebies or other cash doles in the guise of welfare schemes are playing a major role in winning elections and maintaining vote banks, Telangana is leading in them. The BRS government was implementing innumerable schemes in education, healthcare, agriculture, housing, marriage, old age pensions, textiles, sheep distribution, fish seedlings, grants to dalits & downtrodden, cheap food canteens, rice distribution, Mission Bhagiratha etc.
No doubt, Congress won the elections based on their six guarantees which include schemes like: Mahalakshmi (Rs 2,500 per month) and LPG cylinder at Rs 500 for women; Yuva Vikasam (Rs 5 lakh for students); Cheyutha (old age pension of Rs 4,000 per month) and Rs 10 lakh health insurance; Rs 15,000 Rythu Bharosa and Rs 12,000 annually to farmers and agricultural workers and Rs 500 incentive above MSP for paddy crop; Indiramma Indlu (allotment of free housing sites and Rs 5 lakh).
The gross fiscal deficit of Telangana for 2022-23 was Rs 52,167 crore, increased from Rs 9,410 crore in 2014-15 when the BRS government began ruling Telangana immediately after the state was formed. The revenue generated in 2022-2023 was Rs 1,33,634 crore which was less than the interest payments and social sector expenditure put together amounting to Rs 1,37,875 crore. The interest payment increased from Rs 5,227 crore to Rs 18,912 crore in the last ten years. Because, the outstanding liabilities and guarantees increased from Rs 90,923 crore to 5,01,588 crore during the same period. The social sector expenditure which comprises freebies and welfare schemes increased almost fivefold from Rs 24,434 crore to Rs 1,18,963 between 2014 & 2023. Capital expenditure was Rs 67,584 crore, 27% of total budget of 2022-23 while it was 49% for freebies and welfare schemes which indicates the emphasis given on them.
Congress has to find resources to continue the ongoing schemes and new ones promised by the BRS government and fulfil its own six guarantees. But the present financial condition of Telangana shows no revenue surplus. So, the Congress government needs to go in for more borrowings to fulfil the above which further increases the interest payments and debt burden. Also, the capital outlay needs to be drastically reduced to accommodate freebies which affects development of infrastructure. Other option can be increasing taxes, feasible to limited extent, due to politico social reasons.
Adequate power and water were provided by BRS government in Telangana, need to be continued at any cost. Under Gruha Jyothi programme, one of the guarantees, Congress promised is, to provide 200 units of free electricity, which coupled with free electricity to farmers, will affect growth of power sector leading to cascading effect on other sectors and return of power cuts.
The expenditure involved in the poll guarantees by Congress in Telangana is much higher than the ones given for Karnataka. The rollout of Gruha Lakshmi scheme in Karnataka which promises a monthly grant of Rs 2,000 to every woman head of the family, is facing obstacles. Also, the Anna Bhagya scheme of providing 10 kg of rice to BPL card holders too is facing problems in procurement. It appears that Karnataka is in a death trap due to poll guarantees as it is contemplating to borrow Rs. 87,000 crore.
Similar situation can arise in Telangana. The guarantees given to both states may not be sustainable in long run which can affect performance of Congress in the General Elections 2024. So, the road ahead for Congress government in Telangana is going to be tough.
(Author served as Scientist, Council of Scientific &