Elections are being held in Telangana this week. The State is five years old but several provisions of the AP Reorganisation Act are still pending implementation owing to the litigation of AP and indifference of the Centre. Thus, the process of State formation is incomplete and there is still miles to go.
Yet, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has successfully crossed these handicaps and governed the State very well in the last four-and-a-half years. It has grounded many social welfare schemes and infrastructural development projects. It spurred the State’s revenue growth and maintained fiscal discipline despite implementing several capital-intensive projects without assistance from the Centre. Its general administration and law and order record are also very good. The performance of the government has earned accolades from many national agencies, States and the Centre. It certainly is a creditable performance for a maiden government in a brand new State.
Till the State consolidates itself across all parameters, its politics cannot be as freewheeling as in other States. But things are not so. For, the opposition did not exhibit the customary altruism required in working with the inaugural government. The Congress went hammer and tongs against the TRS since the beginning.
The State BJP did not evince interest in the problems as its Central government was not well disposed towards Telangana. The TDP was focused on Andhra Pradesh. The TJAC, which is now TJS, assumed the role of opposition for its own reasons. The opposition parties have not responded to the needs of the new State. On the contrary, it became more censorious of the ruling TRS without good enough reasons, leaving it to fend for itself while dealing with hostile AP and indifferent Centre.
Now during this election time, the major political parties except the BJP have come together to form a front to challenge the TRS. The BJP is opposing the TRS on its own. Their common refrain is — the TRS is autocratic, spending too much money on big projects, accruing too much debt and indulging in corruption. After the State’s formation, the hitherto unavailable Telangana surplus revenue is fully available now. The State’s own tax revenue (SOTR) has also increased.
The political freedom and the increase in revenue have enabled the TRS government to invest in capital projects, which were deliberately held back earlier. It was also eligible and expected some assistance from the Centre for infrastructural projects like power, irrigation and drinking water. But it did not get any. It certainly invested big in the last four years to speed up the stagnated development. Yet, the State has kept its spending within the FRBM levels. It has managed to record revenue surplus all the five years. Its GSDP-debt ratio at the end of 2018-19 is pegged at 21.39%. It is not in the red as the opposition brouhaha makes it out. They have not substantiated the corruption charges either.
Telangana has had a checkered political history. The Central government has always treated it condescendingly. After its entry into the union of India in 1948, it was kept under the Central rule for four years, and elected its government only from 1952-56.
Then again it was merged with Andhra forcibly and was subjected to a majoritarian colonialism for 58 years. Its repeated agitations for separation were brutally suppressed. This time too, the declaration of statehood was kept in abeyance for four-and-a-half long years, which caused the death of about 1,200 people. Finally, under political compulsion, the Congress relented. The BJP played its fence-sitting role.
Telangana became a separate State to enjoy its own ethnic identity, political freedom and, more importantly, its own full revenue, for the first time in its history. Like always, again the BJP-ruled Centre has started neglecting Telangana. But in the State elections, they are barging in again to exhibit their suzerainty as in the past.
Chandrababu Naidu, the TDP chief, who opposed Telangana, was used to growing through Hyderabad. He has failed to succeed in AP without it and has now started a new political game called ‘mahakutami’ and is directing it with money, material and strategy. The idea is to establish a proxy government in Hyderabad, where his and the wealth of his associates is stacked. His captive media is whipping up political hysteria. The local Congress, TDP, TJS and the CPI with their political jealousies are falling prey to his predatory politics. The ‘kutami’ and the BJP are now sermonising the people of Telangana against the TRS, as if they are the real champions of Telangana’s welfare.
The people of Telangana have got their statehood after a very arduous struggle, unlike other divided States. They are enjoying their political and monetary freedom for the first time and have made rapid strides in such a short time using them. It needs to be seen if they will allow this unholy alliance to curtail it.
For the people of Telangana, the State is their priority and not the political parties or the people running them. It is better if a regional political entity, be it the TRS or some such alternative, takes care of the interests of the State without dancing to the tunes from Delhi or from the high command across the border. At least, it should be the choice for a considerable future, if not forever.
(The author is a retired government official and Telangana activist)