'TRS' win in Dubbaka by-poll a foregone conclusion'
Finance Minister T Harish Rao says BJP, Cong in race for 2nd position; Cong will lose deposit, in an exclusive interview with The Hans India
Describing Thanneeru Harish Rao as the master political strategist is an understatement. This senior Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leader, who also plays a key role in the TRS government as Finance Minister, is an experienced trouble shooter for his party and among the most accessible politicians. Rao is now leading the TRS from the front in the Dubbak by-election necessitated by the death of Solipeta Ramalinga Reddy whose wife, Solipeta Sujatha, is in fray on behalf of the pink party now.
"Our victory in Dubbak is a foregone conclusion thanks to innovative welfare schemes like Rythu Bandhu and pensions. We will score an emphatic win with a comfortable majority," Harish Rao tells The Hans India in an exclusive interview while on the way Thoguta mandal of Dubbak constituency for campaigning. Excerpts:
How are the prospects of TRS in Dubbak by-election? Do you expect a cakewalk?
TRS will win in Dubbak with a comfortable majority. Firstly, we have a strong base here. Secondly, this constituency is dependent on agriculture. Ours is the farmers' friendly government and KCR earned national fame as the farmers' friendly Chief Minister. Dubbak is home to 78,000 farmers who are enjoying schemes initiated by the TRS government such as Rythu Bandhu scheme, Rythu Bhima. When Congress was in power, getting electricity was a big problem for farmers. We are now providing 24-hour free, quality power. No other State government in the country is doing that.
What kind of majority you expect?
TRS will get a larger majority than what our party secured in 2018 (62,500 votes majority then). TRS has always won by-elections on welfare schemes and developmental plank. After the Telangana formation, the State witnessed three by-elections so far and we won all. We scored victories in Narayankhed and Palair against the sympathy wave. That clearly shows that the welfare schemes are helping our party in elections. However, in Dubbak, sympathy is an additional factor that will benefit us.
We had a tradition of electing family members of deceased legislators unopposed. But TRS broke that tradition. Any regrets?
That practice has been discontinued long back. We don't have any regrets now.
Opposition parties allege that Dubbak is a neglected constituency. How do you respond?
I don't think they understand the meaning of the development. We set up 18 new power sub-stations and a large number of electricity poles. There are more agricultural power connections in Dubbak than in Siddipet and Gajwel. More irrigation water from Kaleshwaram project will flow to Dubbak than to Siddipet. Over 1.35 lakh acres will be irrigated with this water in the constituency. Our government sanctioned Rs 280 crore for road infrastructure. We are giving pensions to 20,000 beedi workers in Dubbak, which is much higher than Siddipet. If all these are not developmental works, what are they? Lots of development took place in the constituency. As the Opposition parties have no issues to raise, they are resorting to false propaganda.
Is TRS making any new promises during this election?
My promise to Dubbak people now is that I will take full responsibility for developing the constituency. As the Minister from the district (Siddipet), I will support and guide Sujatha, wife of my late colleague Ramalinga Reddy, in developing the constituency.
Between BJP and Congress, which party do you think is the main rival for TRS in this election?
Both the parties are fighting for the second place. The contest is between kalipoye motorlu (burned motors) represented by Congress, bavikada meterlu (electricity metres for agriculture pump sets) represented by BJP and 24-hour free quality power that TRS stands for. So, we are asking farmers to decide as to which way to go. Anyway, people will decide.
Recently, the Election Commission appointed an IPS officer of Tamil Nadu as police observer...
We welcome the appointment. We have no issues as TRS stands for free and fair elections. Similar tactics were used during Palair by-polls also and the Khammam Collector was transferred. We won that election with a 45,000 majority. Unlike Congress and BJP, we never rely on money power, liquor and false propaganda for winning elections. We rely on our performance and the development we carry out.
As a seasoned politician, how do you see politics shaping up in Telangana in next three years?
BJP and Congress have lost faith among people. Further, they don't have a leader and their cadres are a demoralized lot. TRS has a very good leader in KCR. In addition, we have a very good cadre base. We implemented very good welfare programmes on which we could bank on.
But what's your reading as to which party will emerge as the main rival to TRS in future?
It's too early to say anything. We have three more years to go before the State heads to polls. The real political picture will emerge one year or six months before the elections. Opposition parties are looking for GHMC elections. Whichever Opposition party secures second position in this Dubbak election, it will claim itself as an alternative to TRS and thus try to gain in GHMC elections. That's the reason why top leaders of Congress are camping here. TPCC president, all MPs, MLAs are here. Entire Telangana Congress is in Dubbak. But Congress will lose its deposit in this election.
Congress leader Revanth Reddy alleged that there is a tacit understanding between TRS and BJP in this election. What is your take on it?
It's a baseless allegation. What BJP is saying against TRS and heated exchange of words between us and complaints lodged by it against us, are a clear indication of what is happening here. People know what the ground reality is. Who will believe such false statements?
It seems BJP is trying to gain strength in Telangana. What do you have to say about it?
BJP leaders made similar claims in Huzurnagar.The outcome is there for all to see. It secured fourth place and got just 1,600 votes whereas an independent secured 1,900 votes.
But BJP made significant gains in 2019 Lok Sabha polls by winning 4 MP seats…
But after the parliamentary elections, BJP lost municipal elections in Nizamabad and Karimnagar corporations. They made false promises and won in Lok Sabha polls. Dharmapuri Arvind (Nizamabad BJP MP) circulated bond papers, promising farmers that he would get Turmeric Board. People understood their tactics. That's why they lost in municipal polls.
Will the Modi factor have any influence in the elections?
I think (Prime Minister) Modi's popularity is on the decline now. Besides,BJP has weakened considerably after new legislation has been enacted for the agriculture sector. Farmers and other sections of society are slowly turning against BJP. Moreover, the Modi factor will not work in Telangana as BJP lacks local leadership here. Added to that, there is a growing anger against BJP across the country.