Polls 2019: Doling Out Sops & Seeking Divine Intervention
Chief Ministers of both Telugu states are doling out the sops and performing grand pujas in a fervent bid to gain the upper ground in 2019
By GS Radhakrishna
Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) chief and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao has begun a five-day Ayusha Chandi Yagam, performed by priests from the Sharada Peetham of Sringeri. Governor ESL Narasimhan also participated in the five day event held at KCR’s village near Gajwel in Medak District. And for this reason, he has even put off the formation of his Cabinet until February 10.
Not to be outdone, his counterpart in the sister Telugu state Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu also performed Padua seva at Sri Venu Dattatreya temple at Sangam in Kurnool District. Special rituals and pujas were performed at Srivari temple in Tirumala and Kanakadurga temple in Vijayawada as well as the Rahu Ketu temple in Ravulapalem on the eve of Sankranthi.
Soon after the debacle of Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) at the Telangana Assembly polls, the official chambers of Naidu was cleansed with special rituals by two dozen vaidiks (priests) from Tirumala.
Divine intervention apart, practical avenues too are being explored by the TRS government in Telangana. It issued a special GO reducing BC (Backward Classes) quota to 23.6% from the earlier 34% in order to provide representation to more OBCs in the gram panchayat polls held on January 20.
As a result TRS won over 60% of panchayats with the money power of the OBCs – the Reddys and the Velamas.
Chandrababu Naidu though braces for higher stakes since he faces both Assembly and Parliament polls in 2019. And hence his latest masterstroke of Kapu community appeasement – 5% quota in jobs and education. This reservation will come under the 10% economic quota for the general category announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Kapus are a dominant caste in five districts of Andhra Pradesh – East and West Godavari, Guntur, Krishna and Chittoor districts.
Immediately after the new year dawned, Naidu doubled the pensions for government staff – titled NTR Bharosa – to around 54 lakh beneficiaries. For differently abled pensioners, it was increased five times from Rs 2000 to Rs 10,000.
Following the bumper success of the TRS in the recent Telangana Assembly polls with the Rythu Bandhu sop, both Chandrababu Naidu and PM Narendra Modi are vying with each other to roll out similar schemes and own them. The Rythu Bandhu (Farmer Friend) scheme was launched to provide investment support to farmers at rate of Rs 4000 per acre per crop to prevent farmers from borrowing from private loan sharks who charged huge interests. The Rythu Bandhu loans are for expenses over and above crop loans.
The Chandrababu Naidu cabinet on Monday announced a whopping Rs 6000 per acre investment support to farmers in pre-poll one upmanship. Following reports that the Modi government too was considering such a sop, Naidu has approved Rs 2000 per acre higher than KCR’s offer of Rs 4000 per acre. The Andhra Cabinet also waived life tax on auto rickshaws and tractors.
Naidu’s discounts come in the wake of soaring fiscal deficits (3.48% of GSDP in 2017-18) and revenue crunch (revenue deficit of Rs 17,194 crore in 2016-17) on the back of the BJP-led Centre not supporting and funding its development drive. “Besides giving two Rajya Sabha sears, two Cabinet berths in the state, TDP supported all of Modi’s actions like GST and denomination, but got nothing in return,” Naidu lamented at a recent Dharma poratam meeting at Amaravati.
In yet another relief to his supporters, particularly in the East and West Godavari districts, the TDP government has relaxed regulations for conducting the “kodi-pandyalu” (cock fights) held during Sankranthi festival. This year there were no arrests of players, seizures the birds or banning of betting. “We are told to keep our eyes, mouth shut and look the other way.” said a senior police official at Rajahmundry. Nearly Rs 125 crore worth of bets took place.
TDP and rival YSR Congress legislators also participated in the revelries. This was in stark contrast to the past two years when the ban on cock fights was strictly implemented and thousands of gamblers and birds were produced in courts.
For a week before and a week after the festival, the coastal villages and towns became virtual centres of all popular vices – cock fights, liquor, a variety of banned sea food items like turtles and octopus and prostitution.
Congress Calls TRS Bluff In Telangana
Meanwhile he Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) spokesperson Syed Nizamuddin says the KCR government assumed power through a bluff. “The piped drinking water project, Mission Bhagiratha, is touted to be already 70% complete in cities, district and towns. What is covered now is only 30% in reality for which such there is such high publicity and fund release of Rs 45,000 crore,” he said.
He added that the TRS came to power on promises of enhancing Aasra pension amount from Rs 1000 to Rs 2016, Rythu Bandhu amount from the present Rs 8000 to Rs 10,000 per acre per annum and unemployment allowance of Rs 3016 to jobless youth.
“It is easy now to make assurances. All governments take an optimistic account in view of April polls. Hence if they win or lose, they are free to make impossible poll promises,” said YSRC spokeswoman Ambati Rambabu.
“For example TDP won 2014 Assembly elections of waiver of all farm loans which amounted to Rs 87,500 crore. But after coming to power they offered to pay only Rs 1.5 lakhs per family totalling to Rs 43,000 crore only,” he said.
From Sankranthi to the Telugu New Year Ugadi (April 06) in 2019, it is a season of sops, politically motivated yatras to Tirupati and Sabarimala, grand Srinivasa Kalyanams, Vana Bhojanams, garden parties and biryani festivals in the two Telugu states.