Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said not much has changed for the people of Telangana in the past nine years as the concentration of wealth and power only transferred from a “narrow group” alleged by then TRS chief K. Chandrashekhar to Chief Minister KCR’s family once he came to power. That is one of the reasons why he should be voted out, he said in an interview with The Hindu.
Why should people vote against Mr. KCR?
The reasons are numerous and [connected to] how a democratic Telangana has turned into an autocratic State under a Chief Minister who has not visited the Secretariat in the past nine years, thus destroying the governance structure and to power remaining in one man and his family. There has not been a single Group-I notification in nine years and the announced one is in legal issues with paper leaks.
The road to jobs was closed to youngsters, who saw a big dream in a separate Telangana. The concentration of wealth remained in and around Hyderabad, thus cutting off the districts from development despite the resources available. In fact, 90% of investments were in Hyderabad alone. The per capita income of 30 districts is much lower than the State average, indicating that only Hyderabad and surrounding areas benefitted. There was no effort to spread and scatter the wealth to rural areas.
The inaccessibility and arrogance of the Chief Minister will not be taken easily by those whose pride is hurt. All the channels of communication were closed for people, as if this was an autocratic State. People will respond with their votes.
Congress did not look so strong till last year. What has contributed to its sudden growth?
I agree that 14 months ago, the situation was different with confidence quite low and the House too looked divided and the BJP was perceived as strong enough to take on the ruling BRS. In fact, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who was working for the BRS, suggested to Mr. KCR to tie up with Congress to counter the BJP’s growth.
But the Bharat Jodo Yatra of Rahul Gandhi planted the seeds of change. The 400 km of yatra in eight districts boosted the confidence of the local leaders. It helped the party leaders stay back with hope while those who left wanted to come back. The flag-hoisting at Charminar by Rahul Gandhi was an event to remember.
Of course, Karnataka results made the BJP balloon bust. The Bharat Jodo Yatra in Karnataka showed us the results and we knew it would pay similar dividends in Telangana.
Your party is promising the Karnataka model of six guarantees while the BRS and BJP say poll promises there are a failure?
KCR should first explain why he skipped his 2018 promise of the unemployment dole of ₹3,016 to every unemployed graduate. What happened to the double-bedroom houses? In Karnataka, all the guarantees have been rolled out. We are just six months into power and KCR being in power for nine and a half years is questioning the Karnataka promises.
Since your focus is on farmers welfare, what are your promises to the agriculture sector?
Our strength is Rythu Bharosa where not only the farmers but also the tenants would get monetary support. In Telangana, 36% of the land is under tenant farmers and we need to take care of them. The landless agriculture labourers too will get ₹12,000 per annum. Agriculture loans would be written off. The agriculture crisis has to be tackled and that is why these schemes will be helpful.
Will the absence of a Chief Ministerial face or name hit the Congress’s chances since BRS is talking about it?
Congress style is consensual and there is some value to it. Even Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddy was not the CM face in 2004. It happens in every State. The only exception was Amrinder Singh in Punjab in 2017. Remember, in India people elect parties and not faces.
Will ‘Congress gave Telangana’ slogan help the party?
People understand how outstandingly tough the decision was to bifurcate a State, with the toughest decision being Hyderabad, which was sought [after] by both regions. Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh graciously managed an extreme crisis to ensure Hyderabad was with Telangana. The biggest success that went unnoticed was the division of Krishna water, which was extremely contentious. We did it with aplomb and avoided the water battles.