Discontent begins, awaits political expression
All eyes are on Warangal after Bihar polls, especially in the wake of BJP’s drubbing. Who will fire crackers in the land of Kakatiyas? Political circles are fond of answering this Diwali’s political question as per their convenience. But, certain things seem to be clear on the ground by now itself.
Excitement to garland the ruling TRS party with yet another victory in Warangal LS bypoll seems to be missing as discontent has already started setting in among different sections of society. But, there seems to be no particular political wave to teach the ruling party a lesson as the discontent is still to present itself as a political and electoral expression. The opposition has not yet gained to galvanise the discontent into a disenchantment and then into a political current against the people in power. It still has to gain credibility and energy to challenge the government
All eyes are on Warangal after Bihar polls, especially in the wake of BJP’s drubbing. Who will fire crackers in the land of Kakatiyas? Political circles are fond of answering this Diwali’s political question as per their convenience. But, certain things seem to be clear on the ground by now itself. The voting tally is likely to come down as compared to that in the 2014 elections, precisely because there is no worthwhile cause for this by-election.
There is nothing that should enthuse voters to storm polling booths. Excitement to garland the ruling party with yet another victory seems to be missing as discontent has already started setting in among different sections of society. But, there seems to be no particular political wave to teach the ruling party a lesson as the discontent is still to present itself as a political and electoral expression. The opposition has not yet gained to galvanise the discontent into a disenchantment and then into a political current against people in power. All this makes Warangal elections lackluster.
The deepening agrarian crisis manifest in the form of falling prices of agricultural commodities is the prime source of discontent in the rural areas. Even urban areas also reflect the social and economic impact of drought. The prolonged dry spell and the cumulative impact of agricultural policies pursued in the past by the then Congress and TDP governments also contributed to the agrarian distress.
In fact, the TRS is repeatedly presenting this argument. The merit in this argument cannot altogether be dismissed. But, the TRS government’s attempts to disown the fact that drought exists cannot be condoned. Effective contingency plan was not put in place. Somehow, the State government feels it to be inauspicious to accept that drought prevails in the rich state of Telangana.
Meanwhile, the implementation of loan waiver scheme in installments has also invited the farmer’s disappointment. The united opposition in the last session of the State Assembly could effectively put forth the idea of one time loan waiver.
The prices of agricultural commodities are falling in the market place. Inadequate intervention by State agencies is adding fuel to the fury. The plight of cotton farmer is a classic illustration of the phenomena. Well, no one can approve such uncivilised acts alike throwing a chappal.
But, the incident does not just represent a lunatic act but an underlying frustration among the farming community. The State government cannot be totally blamed for the failure to stabilise the prices. The Centre has fixed the Minimum Support Price (MSP) much below the cost of production. Even this unremunerative price fixed by the government itself is a mirage in the market. Cotton and rice are just a few examples.
The MSP of cotton was fixed at Rs 4,100 which is over 20 per cent below the officially estimated cost of production. The farmers are getting much lesser price. The State government has made a request to the Centre to increase the MSP, but it should have announced bonus on its part as was done in neighbouring States.
The ruling party is campaigning on its much publicised schemes like Mission Kakatiya. Notwithstanding the actual performance of this scheme on the ground, the unfulfilled promise is to irrigate at least one lakh acres in every Assembly constituency is a point in question. Even one year after it assumed office, the government machinery is bogged down in redesigning of projects and initiating new projects with huge estimates, raising apprehensions over their fiscal viability . The focus should have been on filling critical gaps in the ongoing incomplete projects. That would yield immediate results at a lower cost.
The Telangana State where groundwater exploitation has reached unsustainable levels urgently requires not just a major thrust on irrigation but a strategy that would yield immediate deliverables.
The land for Dalits scheme is more or less a non-starter. The full implementation of this ambitious scheme requires a minimum outlay of Rs 50,000 crore, while the budgetary outlay so far is around Rs 2,000 crore only, indicating a yawning gap between the promise and the reality. Besides, the land availability itself is a big challenge even if the State government marshals enough resources to implement this flagship scheme.
The much publicised new housing scheme is resulting in fresh worries for the ruling party. The number of houses to be sanctioned would be much less compared to the huge demand in every constituency. Even the ruling party legislators are expressing worry over the possibility of antagonising more people than being favoured by a few beneficiaries.
Thousands of houses sanctioned during the previous government remain incomplete. They are at different stages of construction. The bills are pending. The investigation into alleged large-scale misappropriation of funds and irregularities is yet to reach its logical conclusion. This has landed many in the villages in an uncertainty. The guilty should be punished. But, the poor beneficiaries should not be put to inconvenience.
The State government has substantially increased the amount paid under social pensions. But unlike in the past, the beneficiaries are selected through a strict screening so that numbers would not be unbearable. As a result, though the amount was much less earlier, the beneficiaries were higher in number. Even ineligible persons also availed of the scheme. But, after all in a democracy even the ineligible beneficiaries are also voters.
The employees and the teachers are perhaps the most satisfied section under the TRS dispensation. The State government rewarded them with fairly better pay hike. But, lakhs of contract and outsourcing employees are outside the purview of this pay hike. The promise of regularisation still eludes them.
The demands of poorer sections of the State apparatus like the contract, outsourcing, municipal sanitation, ASHA workers etc., are still to be met. The government is not only intransigent to their demands but even responds with repressive action to suppress their agitations. Even teachers are complaining over non-payment of arrears, non-implementation of uniform service rules. Also, many other service matters still remain unresolved.
Tribals and Muslims constitute over one-fifth of new State’s population. But, the promise of 12 per cent reservations to them remains locked in legal and administrative perusal. Many thorny legal issues rock their implementation.
Issues of employment are at the heart of youth discontent over the government. The educated youth were promised lakhs of jobs, if the new State was carved out. But, large-scale public recruitment is still awaited, though the service commission has begun its work. Even the Chief Minister has recently acknowledged that the KG-to-PG scheme is a non-starter.
However, Mission Kakatiya, Water Grid, a slew of welfare schemes, loan waiver, pay revision, etc., did create an impression of hope, too. The feel good factor on the ground that the TRS could make a long cherished dream a reality still favours the party. The argument that the government needs time to fulfil the promises certainly holds water to an extent. But, the discontent is over the lack of direction towards fulfillment of many promises.
The opposition still has to gain credibility and energy to challenge the government on these questions. In all likelihood, the Warangal poll may not be TRS’ waterloo. But, decline in voting and much less victory margin seems to be imminent, if the present political situation continues to remain so till the Election Day. But, politics, especially elections, have a tendency to spring surprises in any direction.