Several issues were discussed by political parties during the Telangana Assembly election campaign to win hearts and minds of voters. While Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao tried to ride on Telangana sentiments and his Government’s numerous welfare schemes for various sections, the Opposition People’s Front highlighted issues like the family rule, corruption, farmers’ distress and failure of the Government in keeping its promises on the job front.
The BJP, which is the third corner of the electoral fight, was falling back on its tried and tested formula of trying to polarise the voters by raising issues like alleged minority appeasement by the major parties and reservation dangle for Muslims.
Telangana sentiment: No election speech of caretaker Chief Minister and Telangana Rashtra Samiti supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao was without reference to the role he and his party played in more than a decade-long movement for separate Telangana State.
He continued to contrast this with the dillydallying by then ruling Congress and antagonistic role of the TDP. He was also trying to use the sentiments to quest the right of the Chief Minister of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu to interfere in Telangana politics.
“Will you allow a man to come here who tried every trick to obstruct Telangana State,” he asked creating apprehensions that if the Opposition alliance “Praja Kutami” or People’s Front wins it will be remote controlled by Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi and Chandrababu in Amarvati at the cost of Telangana pride.
While the TRS was seeking support from the farmers, the dominant force in rural Telangana, citing 24 hours free power supply and schemes like investment support and free insurance for farmers as its major success, the Congress-TDP alliance was trying to run down the claims of the TRS. KCR also pointed out in every meeting that his Government had fulfilled the promise of waiving Rs 2 lakh loans of every farmer. KCR has promised another loan waiver of Rs 1 lakh on returning to power benefiting 4.2 million farmers.
Congress president Rahul made frequent references to suicide by 4,500 farmers during the TRS rule for not getting the minimum support price.
While the KCR and his Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao had gone to town with their claims of realising the dream of Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project on river Godavari, the Congress countered saying the TRS regime only redesigned an old project, inflating the cost from Rs 40,000 crore to Rs 90,000 crore to benefit his family.
In this context Rahul used a new name for KCR as “Khao Commission Rao” (East the Commission Rao). The Congress also charged corruption in projects like Mission Bhagiratha of drinking water supply and Mission Kakatiya of irrigation tanks.
Though separate State was expected to bring economic benefits to the locals, many pointed out most of TRS contracts were awarded to same contractors from Andhra who ruled the roost in the past.
Jobs were one of the three pillars of movement for separate Telangana but KCR failed to keep it turning the youth against his Government so much so that he could not dare visit Osmania university, once the hub of the movement.
Now he has promised monthly unemployment allowance of Rs 3016 if he returns to power.
While Congress leaders were questioning TRS performance on job front, K Taraka Rama Rao, son of KCR and the second most powerful man in the Government said the Government created 200,000 jobs in private sector every year.
For Opposition leaders, one of the major talking points was the domination of KCR family in the Government and the party. “While Telangana youth remain unemployed only KCR family benefited from Telangana State,” said Rahul. He also questioned how assets of KCR’s son jumped by 400 per cent in last four years.
While the wide range of welfare schemes and sops of KCR had something for every section of society, grouses remained. It was a mixed bag. Aarogyasri or scheme of free medical treatment for the poor introduced by YS Rajasekhar Reddy was in the news recently as the private hospital stopped attending the patient because the government had failed to clear their dues of Rs 1,200 crore.
While minorities were happy with setting up of more than hundred residential schools for boys and girls, they were bitter that KCR could not deliver on promise of increasing quota from 4 to 12 per cent for them. KCR blamed the Central Government led by Narendar Modi for it.
Biggest complaint of women was not getting due representation in political process as KCR did not include a single woman in his Cabinet. In the rural areas the grouse was that once power women’s self help groups were completely ignored and were not given any financial assistance.
But KCR projected relatively less crime against women, safe and secure environment as one of his biggest achievements. Constitution of She Teams of police in Hyderabad and other major cities to deal with the issues like eve teasing and sexual harassment was referred to as big success.
Similar ensuring better law and order, modernising of police force with better weapons, mobility and communication systems, no communal riots and curfew free atmosphere were also highlighted as Government’s achievement.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, a major Muslim political force in the State cited it as the reason for its direct and active support to TRS in this election.
Congress-TDP countered it by saying that KCR was hand in glove with Modi as he supported every major decision of the BJP Government at the Center. They warned that KCR would not hesitate to support the BJP in the next Parliamentary elections or after that.
For the BJP the major issue in the State was the clout of MIM over the ruling TRS. All the big wigs of the BJP including Modi asked the people whether they want a Chief Minister who was a puppet in the hand of MIM.
However it was seen more as an exaggeration of MIM’s influence to create a fear in the minds.
The other issue through which BJP president Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath tried to polarise the voters was the issue of 12 per cent reservations for Muslims. Even Modi tried to create a scare saying it will be a treachery with the nation and will be at the cost of Dalits, backward classes and scheduled tribes (read Hindus).
Yogi also tried to import the idea of renaming of historic places and cities in his own state to Telangana by promising to rename Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar. Issue of cow protection also figured in BJP manifesto. Party promised to distribute 10,0000 cows and set up cow shed in every mandal.