Telugu CMs in stock-taking mode

Telugu CMs in stock-taking mode

A deliberate effort to whip up poll frenzy, much ahead of the schedule of the next general elections, is on in the Telugu States and the ruling...

A deliberate effort to whip up poll frenzy, much ahead of the schedule of the next general elections, is on in the Telugu States and the ruling parties seem to be in a stock-taking mode already.

Both K Chandrashekar Rao and N Chandrababu Naidu have sent signals that they are getting into poll mode and they are also seen drawing their political strategies. The two have to contend with the ground realities in doing so as the next challenge is by no means an insignificant one. Having spent three years in power, both the Chief Ministers do realise that the public, the voters especially, are not to be taken for granted in the run-up to the elections.

Rao has already declared that the NDA would be advancing the elections to 2018 itself instead of 2019, as some of the BJP-ruled States will be facing their Assembly elections next year, and there is no way it would risk any loss ahead of the general elections. Hence, he concludes that it is likely that the elections are advanced.

So, apart from digging up the manifesto promises to attempt at speedy delivery of the same, Rao has also directed his Parliamentary Party to take the Centre head-on over the delay in implementing the promises like the bifurcation of the High Court and delimitation of the Assembly segments, both of which had been incorporated in the AP Reorganization Act, 2014.

The party's MP, B Vinod Kumar, had recently written to the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, raising the two issues and demanding their immediate implementation. Later, he went ahead and declared to the media that his party would not hesitate to stall the upcoming winter session's business of the Parliament over Centre's inaction unlike in the past. Telangana has suffered a lot and would not tolerate any further injustices to it, he added.

A strident demand by the TRS MPs in the Parliament on this count will help the party in getting into the poll mode fully and also set the tone and tenor of the campaign pushing the BJP into defence. KCR is also said to be planning to dig up the Bhadrachalam Mandals issue to claim that Telangana was meted out a raw deal here too. He had not protested the same in 2014 when the Ordinance was being passed to transfer seven mandals to AP because his priority was separate Statehood.

Other promises made in the AP Reorganization Act of 2014 like establishing AIIMS and Tribal University in Telangana that have not seen the light of the day even after three years will also be tagged to these. Sources in the party add that KCR is planning to contrast the 'handholding' extended to AP with the neglect of Telangana by focusing on the alacrity shown in the allocation of funds to AP and the alleged step-motherly treatment being meted to Telangana State. The impact of the GST and demonetisation will also be its campaign points, notwithstanding its support to it, as it had suggested several amendments to the Act.

While this is the broad strategy that is being drawn up now, the toughest challenge the party will face is explaining the delay in meeting the targets of two promises made – double bed room houses and three acres of land to each of the dalit families. The lackadaisical progress in these two areas could be partly attributed to the reluctance of the bureaucracy in coordinating with the politicians.

None can question the political will here but the absence of zeal and dedication among the officers has placed the TRS in a tight spot making it difficult for it to defend the delay. Three precious years have passed by and the progress is abysmal.

TRS leadership is frustrated over it. Has KCR been too lenient towards his officials? "He trusts the officials and expects them to deliver. But they have failed him and the party. If the two promises were taken seriously by the officialdom, we would have been in a happier position" a senior TRS leader admits.

So far, KCR has been able to sustain the "Telangana Shining" feeling, but he would be tested now as politics overtake performance. He knows better, anyway, how thankless the voters could be.

In the case of Chandrababu Naidu, despite all his skills in manipulating media reports, two glaring failures of his will get magnified – Amaravati and Polavaram. He had projected these two as his two eyes and said the two mighty projects would transform Andhra Pradesh. Naidu is a worried man today over the delay in accomplishing the same as the damage potential of this delay is immense. Hence, he has begun troubleshooting by personally visiting Norman Foster at their headquarters in London to finalize the designs.

It is incomprehensible as to why Naidu dreamt of Amaravati as something celestial and allowed himself the luxury of dilly-dallying with it, unmindful of the consequences. His cinematic enthusiasm in inviting film director, Rajamouli, to design the future capital of Andhras has become a butt of jokes leading to a conclusion that there is "something else" behind the delay. Politics is all about perception. Cities do not fall in place overnight and the work must begin somewhere, sometime. The rest will be evolved over a period. Naidu ignored the basics and Amaravati would never happen any sooner despite all his delayed efforts now.

A second challenge to him is the completion of Polavaram project and he is in a Catch-22 situation here. There is no way the project will be completed by its deadline as the contract has been placed in inefficient hands out of political and extraneous considerations. His efforts to place the ball in the Centre's court may not lead to fruition as the latter is firm that the project be completed by the State government as he had fought for and taken control of the same. No one hands over such a mega project to a contractor like Transstroy whose track record is said to be one of the worst, only to crib later, as Naidu is repenting now.

The Opposition is gleefully watching the developments now from the sidelines as it would come handy to it immensely in confronting the TDP in the run-up to the elections. In combination with the denial of Special Category Status to AP, these two issues would trouble Naidu a lot despite his success in securing several high-end projects for the State.

AP CM does not have the luxury of blaming the Centre on the promises made in the Reorganization Act as KCR is entitled to. The BJP is seeking to occupy as much political space as possible and increase its vote share in AP and that would deny Naidu the comfort of getting aggressive against the BJP which will be preening in its 'handholding' extended to the State.

Naidu must be banking more on the outcome of the CBI cases against Y S Jaganmohan Reddy ahead of the elections, hoping that the latter would be convicted, so that the principal opposition party would be in a complete mess.

Whether there is a possibility or not, of this development, no wise politician would ever plan his future on the basis of preconceived notions. Naidu has to continue under the shadow of Narendra Modi as he faces a Hobson's choice.

It would be interesting to watch how the two Chief Ministers rise to the occasion in dealing with the two elephants each in their rooms as they prepare to work their strategies!

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