HYDERABAD: Telangana will celebrate twin anniversaries on June 2: two years of the state’s creation by bifurcating united Andhra Pradesh and a similar milestone for its first chief minister. Two years is not the optimal timeframe to judge a new state, a new government or a new chief minister. But K Chandrashekar Rao, KCR to his followers, must and will be judged — the long shadow of history falls upon him.
The destinies of Telangana and KCR have been entwined. He spearheaded the agitation for a separate state. Once created, KCR rules it with little dissent.
The opposition lies in tatters. KCR’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has won a majority of polls held since then.. It has also emaciated his rivals by large-scale poaching of opposition lawmakers.
In the halls of power in Telangana’s official buildings in Hyderabad, two names echo for everyone – KCR’s and his son KT Rama Rao’s (KTR). They are the epicentre of all power and decision-making in Telangana. In all state political forums, father and son are hailed as the creators of ‘Bangaru Telangana’ (golden Telangana).
KTR is an US-educated, mediasavvy, middle-aged politician and seen as a worthy successor and subsequent CM. Upon winning the Hyderabad civic polls, KCR gave the municipal administration and urban development portfolio to his son.
KCR’s legendary battles with his Andhra Pradesh counterpart, Chandrababu Naidu, over power-sharing and river watersharing, are legendary. So are KCR’s personal quirks and his affinity for the divine.
A firm believer in Vaastu philosophy, KCR appointed his personal consultant Suddala Sudhakar Teja as official advisor to the Telangana government for a remuneration of Rs 75,000 per month.
Teja is supposed to ensure that all government buildings are constructed in a ‘dosha-free’ (without spiritual faults) manner. He is now consulted even on ‘architectural issues’ and structural designs of all public buildings, including irrigation projects.
His is also the brain behind the redesigning of KCR’s camp office at Begumpet, the CM’s official residence.
KCR is not as media savvy like Naidu but the Telangana CM has also made placatory moves to win journalists over. A scheme for a health insurance fund for journalists and a new building for the press club have been doled out. More importantly, on coming to power KCR bought over television channel T News and the Telugu newspaper Namaste Telangana.
In KCR’s scheme of things, the theme of ‘invaders’ – natives of the fertile Andhra region who ‘ruled’ over the poorer, parched areas of Telangana – is one that has recurred over the past six decades. KCR has chosen not only to retain this divisive theme but to perpetuate it to consolidate his political position.
Political hawks predict that as KCR and his party take this xenophobic rhetoric forward, the coming years will see an intensification of water wars, not only between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh but also with Maharashtra and Karnataka.
KCR is unafraid to use terms like “third class” and “illegal” to describe Andhra Pradesh’s government staff, asking them to leave the new state. This is a continuation of his frontal attack on Andhra natives, which he launched in August 2013 as soon as bifurcation was announced.
But the CM knows well that xenophobia alone will not be enough for him to retain his tight grip on power. Thus he has combined a strategy of fear with promises of free doles. Public welfare has been on the top of his political agenda, with Rs 35,000 crore being spent annually on such schemes in the last two years.
“Nidhulu, nillu and niyamalu” (river water, resources and jobs) was KCR’s poll promise to voters. He is willing to splurge in order to keep his core vote bank – the farmers – happy.
KCR, who once lobbied hard against the information technology lobby, is now looking at the sector for job and wealth creation.
About 500 companies, including the likes of Google, Amazon and Apple, are now doing business in the state. Government data show that software exports have increased manifold to Rs 75,000 crore in 2015-16.
The state registered a growth of 11.7% against the national average of 8.6%. In the current fiscal, growth is expected to increase to 14.9%.
(By arrangement with GRIST Media)