The social and election engineering of the north and BJP’s religious ideology are unlikely to work in Telangana
The scraping win in Dubbak is making the BJP and other dissident elements in the State go into frenetic thinking of BJP barging into the State in a big way. Actually, in a 119-seat Assembly, this is only the second BJP MLA, and that too the seat was won with a slender margin of about 1,000 votes.
It is not that a political party cannot aspire to increase its tally in a State. It can do so. But the circumstances and credentials matter. Here it seems a clutch of minor local factors endemic to the constituency caused the upset. It does not look it will have any larger implication, if we go by the ground realities in the State.
The BJP winning more seats upstaging its partner JD(U) to form its proxy government in Bihar seems to have given them this improbable idea. The two States are too far between and have a different political situation and culture.
Telangana is not prone to the kind of peculiar social and political convolutions as in Bihar. Telangana is a progressive State. Its new-found political freedom, political stability and a forward-looking administration make the situation completely different. Telangana in its 6th year figures amongst the top 5-6 States in the country on most economic indicators. This is despite the State getting a low central devolution (2.4%) and no special financial help from the BJP-led Centre.
Bihar gets the second largest (9.1%) central devolution every year. In addition, Narendra Modi announced a big financial package of Rs 1,25,000 crore for it in 2015. Yet Bihar has stagnated at the bottom of all States and UTs on the economic front. Its per capita income has always remained the lowest in the country, despite the social engineering of Nitish Kumar for the last 15 years and election engineering of Modi during the last six years.
As for the performance of the BJP at the national level, it is very much wide open for all to see. The country’s GDP growth had slumped from 8% to 3.9% by March 2019 even before Covid. Now it has contracted to -10.6%. So what is the need for Telangana to embrace the BJP?
In the matter of Telangana’s formation too, the BJP’s role was at best lukewarm. Except Sushma Swaraj, the BJP senior leadership did not fully support the Telangana statehood demand after 2009. Advani wanted the Telangana Bill to be stayed in the crucial last session of Parliament in 2014, when Telangana State formation was in its throes.
Modi and his man Friday Amit Shah never liked Telangana’s formation. During the inauguration of Amaravati, Modi disparagingly said that mother AP was killed and TS, the child, was saved. Both Modi and Shah, inside Parliament and outside of it, hectored the Telangana State Bill and the State formation more than once, belittling Telangana State.
Even after the formation of the State, the Modi government was not friendly with Telangana. Seven mandals of Bhadrachalam division of Khammam district were annexed to AP without even informing Telangana by an undemocratic ordinance, violating the AP Reorganisation Act. It was done just to make the tribals in the 200-plus villages to be drowned in the Polavaram project and AP happy.
Even when Telangana wanted to be friendly with the Centre for the sake of the State, the BJP government cold-shouldered it. Though Niti Aayog recommended financial assistance for TS schemes, the BJP government did not clear it. The gap widened between the two governments, towards the end of Modi 1.0.
In Modi 2.0, the Centre started treating Telangana with more disdain for obvious political reasons. Leave alone any special assistance, even the regular statutory funds were released sparingly. In the release of GST gap funds and other Finance Commission grants, there was an inordinate delay even before the advent of the coronavirus. Once the virus entered, the Centre’s economy went into a tizzy and its management of funds has become unwieldy.
Telangana was left to fend for itself for funds amidst Covid. Not helping a wee bit in mega infrastructural projects is one thing and not responding with any financial assistance during unprecedented floods that caused an estimated damage of Rs 5,000 crore in Hyderabad city is another. There are statutory funds available for disaster management with the Centre. It is simply pointless political discrimination, compared to the flood relief given to the BJP-ruled States.
Telangana is not a BIMARU or an SCS State. It is one of the 6-8 States that contribute more to Central taxes and get very less back as devolution. As a new State, it needs help from the Centre, especially for fast development
of infrastructural projects, which were badly neglected in the united State.
During the lockdown, a lot of Biharis lost their jobs and had to trek back to their native places weathering untold miseries. Neither Modi nor Nitish governments helped them. Yet, they voted for the NDA, even giving more seats to the BJP. They voted for the government, which did not help them in distress and started trekking back again for jobs outside Bihar.
Without doing anything, not even providing the funds due to the State properly or encouraging real development, just depending on certain local political disgruntlement and its votaries to win elections, will not yield results. Assembly elections are three years away and the political situation at that time is difficult to foresee now.
Dreaming to win the GHMC elections based on the Dubbak cliff-hanging result is not enough. No Telanganite will like to stop the momentum of the State’s development and bring in a menace to disrupt the existing religious amity in the city.
The opposition in Telangana needs to find some positive alternative political narrative, instead of denigrating the TRS on personal aspects or playing religious politics. The BJP government at the Centre needs to treat Telangana with respect and recognise the needs of the growing new State and respond suitably to create some positive political mileage to make inroads into the State. The social and election engineering of the north and BJP’s religious ideology are unlikely to work in Telangana.
(The author is a freelance journalist)
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