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Telangana assembly elections 2018: In KCR’S stronghold of Gajwel, voters divided over his performance

Gajwel changed rapidly after 2014 when Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao won election from the constituency, say some local people. But people in the more interior, rural regions of the constituency say Gajwel’s development has been limited to the urban areas.

Telangana elections 2018 Updated: Nov 11, 2018 17:40 IST
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Srinivasa Rao Apparasu
Hindustan Times, Gajwel (Telangana)
telangana assembly elections 2018,KCR,KCR constituency
TRS Supremo and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao with party leaders at a public meeting in Nizamabad, Wednesday, Oct 3, 2018. KCR is seeking re-election from Gajwel constituency in the December 7 assembly elections. (PTI File )

As one turns right at Pragnapur village, off the state highway around 65 kilometres from Hyderabad, the small town of Gajwel looms into view.

Wide four-laned roads lined with trees and a central median equipped with LED street lighting and colourful plantations greet the visitor. A short distance away is a 100-bed government hospital with state-of-the-art facilities that are hard to find even in bigger institutions across the state.

Then, there is an air-conditioned integrated market yard, a virtual supermarket for farmers to directly sell their produce without involving middlemen, and a massive integrated government office complex, a near-replica of the state secretariat in Hyderabad. Down the road is a big educational hub comprising schools, colleges, hostels and a 1,200-seater auditorium. Next to it is a plush cultural centre.

Gajwel, a town of 70,000 people in Siddipet district, was not always like this but has changed rapidly after 2014 when chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao won election from the constituency, say some local people. “About a decade ago, it was grossly neglected area and a hotbed of Naxalites. There was hardly any proper road into the town and its surrounding villages,” recalls B Kishan, a shopkeeper.

Many locals say they have reaped the benefits of living in a VIP constituency because officials have focused on welfare programmes, especially on housing, pensions and drinking water.

“My pension has gone up from Rs 200 to Rs 1,000 per month in the last four years and it is being credited to my account every month regularly,” said 68-year old Narasanna.

KCR, as the CM is popularly known, has many supporters in the town who insist the December 7 election will see a thumping win for the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) leader. The TRS is looking to come back to power in the state’s second assembly election.

But people in the more interior, rural regions of the constituency say Gajwel’s development has been limited to the urban areas and that agricultural distress, in particular, is a problem. “”The actual problems still remain – unemployment, farmers’ suicides due to crop loss and lack of remunerative prices and above all, the plight of people who are going to be displaced due to construction of Mallannasagar and Konda Pochamma reservoir,” says Lakshma Reddy, a young man. Mallannasagar and Konda Pochamma reservoirs are part of the Rs 80,000 crore Kaleshwaram lift irrigation scheme on the Godavari river that is projected to displace nearly 7,000 people.

Asks Kanakaiah of Erravelli village, which is going to be submerged under the Mallannasagar reservoir of the Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project, “Should we still vote for KCR? He has deprived us of our livelihood.”

The government says it has paid Rs 6 lakh per acre as compensation and is planning to shift them to Mutrajpalli near Gajwel. “But the market value of the land in Mutrajpalli is more than Rs 1.5 crore per acre. How do we survive?” asked Kanakaiah.

Another complaint some people have is that KCR has grown less accessible. “He hardly interacts with us. He constructed a camp office in Gajwel town but he never came there,” said Lakshma Reddy.

Some locals point out that KCR has not even campaigned in the constituency and that his nephew, irrigation minister T Harish Rao, has been entrusted with the task of campaigning task in Gajwel. “There is no need for KCR to campaign for himself. The development is there for all to experience and people will vote for him with thumping majority,” said Harish.

In 2014, KCR defeated the Telugu Desam Party candidate Vanteru Pratap Reddy by a margin of 19,366 votes while Congress candidate T Narsa Reddy ended up in the third position. Gajwel has 227,000 voters. Now, Pratap Reddy is contesting on a Congress ticket with the backing of Narsa Reddy.

“Gajwel was traditionally a Congress stronghold till TRS won it in 2014. The people are familiar with the hand symbol. At the same time, Pratap Reddy has been a local leader who has been in close acquaintance with all sections of people. On the other hand, KCR remained inaccessible to the people. That is the advantage the Congress candidate has over KCR,” said senior Congress leader R Chandrasekhar, who has been overseeing Reddy’s campaign.

An assembly seat in the erstwhile undivided Andhra Pradesh as well, Gajwel has never elected the same candidate twice. If KCR wins this time, it will break this local record too, add locals.

First Published: Nov 09, 2018 10:21 IST