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HindustanTimes Sun,24 Aug 2014

In Telangana heartland, people losing faith in mover and shaker of newest state

Prasad Nichenametla, Hindustan Times  Gajwel, April 23, 2014
First Published: 19:54 IST(23/4/2014) | Last Updated: 19:59 IST(23/4/2014)
Telangana Rasthra Samithi (TRS) chief K Chandrasekhara Rao is cherishing ambitions of becoming the first chief minister when the newest state comes into being.
 
And his ambitions are taking shape in this non-descript town, 60 km from Hyderabad from where he is seeking entry to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly.
 
Assembly polls are being held simultaneously in the state along with the Lok Sabha polls on April 30 and May 7. The first phase will see the constituencies in Telangana going the polls.
 
It's action time for KCR, who is no stranger to the public in Gajwel in Medak district.
 
His village Chintamadaka, in the same district, is 50 km away.  But his recently-acquired farmhouse of 60 acres, some 10 km away within the constituency, is closer. He was also an MLA for a long time from neighbouring Siddipet.
 
But the people here not too impressed.
 
"But we'd be strangers to him as he never bothered to meet us. And what does he care, he is a very big leader," said Md Ahmed (65), a car driver.
 
Given the face of Telangana movement he became nationally, one would expect KCR to be worshipped or at least given respect here. But on ground, the picture is different.
 
Locals read about him in newspapers, watch him on TV but a very few could claim to have actually met or even seen him.
 
At Narsannapeta, a tiny village close to KCR's farm-house, villagers cringe when asked about him.
 
"His fleet of cars passed through our village many times but not even once did he lower his windows to ask how we are. Look at the road, he could have at least got this repaired for his convenience. That would have helped us too," lamented Bal Reddy, an elderly farmer.
 
Filmstar-turned-politician Vijaya Shanti, who had won the last Lok Sabha polls on a TRS ticket, recently switched sides and is contesting the assembly polls from Medak as a Congress candidate.
 
KCR's talk of earning crores of rupees from his high-end farming of tomatoes and capsicum further irritates the small and marginal farmers who with semi-arid, unirrigated fields could reap only meagre returns.
 
People dub Gajwel's sitting MLA from Congress Narsa Reddy as no good either as he did not work on their problems – shortage of drinking water being the most pressing. Voters see TDP candidate Prathap Reddy as a better choice over KCR, "if one thinks rationally".
 
Reddy is popular in the vicinity with his charity deeds and for being responsive to people's troubles all the time.
 
Reddy, who lost the previous election, is staking all his resources against the formidable opponent. He nevertheless is aware of the Telangana sentiment, swaying the region. His party TDP had flip-flopped on the separate state demand that eroded its once strong base in Telangana.
 
Though the Congress got the Telangana bill passed, voters here appear more inclined to credit KCR and the TRS for leading the separatist agitation for over 10 years.
 
"Personally, I think Reddy is good but I might still vote for KCR to show respect to the Telangana sentiment and the new state we have achieved," said G Narasimhulu, an auto-driver.
 
KCR, wanting a role in national politics in case he doesn't get the coveted post, is also contesting to the Medak Lok Sabha under which Gajwel, Siddipet and five other assembly segments fall. But in segments close to Hyderabad like Patancheru the Telangana sentiment is not strong.
 
The BJP-TDP's Narendranath and Congress' Shravan Kumar Reddy are posing a tough challenge.
 
For these reasons, KCR has deployed his trusted lieutenant, nephew and Siddipet MLA Harish Rao to see him sail through to the assembly and Lok Sabha.
 
Rao, who is campaigning on KCR's behalf, is assuring people he would be here to take care of them even if the state and national affairs keep KCR busy.
That scenario would not be new to Gajwel or Rao.
 
The plaque at the base of the mighty statue of Mother Telangana lording over the main thoroughfare of Gajwel says it was inaugurated by KCR in 2011. However, locals said that it was Rao who unveiled it as KCR was busy somewhere else that day too.

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