A tale of two States: Same problems, same approach

TALKING POINT

Madhusudhana Rao S

When Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao and Nara Chandrababu Naidu became chief ministers of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh respectively in 2014, people and politicians saw one thing in common between the two: ‘Chandra,’ means moon, in their names. At that time admirers of both leaders were punning that it was moonshine moment for the two Telugu States after bifurcation.  

Two years later, the same admirers and detractors see more things in common to both than a part of the name as far as their approach to problems is concerned. Besides the usual rough and tumble of politics, both chief ministers have been facing piquant situations that have arisen out of the promises made during their respective State Assembly elections.

There is nothing unusual in poll promises. Every political party and leader, including the prime minister and top party bosses, make dozens of promises to people to win their votes. But after coming to power, how many political leaders have honoured the pledges is anybody’s guess. In fact, these promises would be made on the spur of the moment. There were instances where regional leaders laid foundation stones for so many projects that stood the test of time and political change without ever seeing any project coming up.

Voters know that what leaders say during the heat of the poll moment are nothing but empty promises and pin little hope on them. But for opposition leaders, the poll promises are potent weapons to target the ruling party and the government. The strategy helps rivals regain their lost support and remind the people how the elected government is failing them with a clear message how the ruling party had made promises without committing itself to fulfill them later. In other words, endearing assurances given during electioneering can become a millstone around the leader’s neck when he comes to power.

The ongoing agitation in Telangana for jobs is an example. Spearheaded by Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC) chairman Prof Kodandaram, it has been campaigning for jobs to lakhs of youths in the State. In fact, the very basis of the movement for separate Telangana was to correct the bias in providing jobs to local youths. Having achieved separate statehood, if Telangana’s youth population remains jobless, the spirit of the movement was defeated. That’s TJAC’s refrain.  Clearly, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) that came to power on the promise of removing unemployment is unable to fulfill it and its response to opposition demand and that of Kodandaram is either evasive or lukewarm.

Pointing out the failure of TRS government on the job front, Kodandaram has said: “We are not pressing for any new demands but implement what theTelangana State government had promised in 2014. They said 1.07 lakh posts were vacant in various departments and we are demanding them only. But till now, the government recruited candidates for only 5000 posts and filling of 15,000 posts was in the process. We are demanding that the State Government release employment notification for unemployed youth below Intermediate and create self-employment programmes. Provide reservations in private sector, encourage small scale industries which can create employment for Intermediate, ITI, Polytechnic students.”

The proposed February 22 rally for jobs –which was foiled by Hyderabad police by detaining hundreds of volunteers and TJAC leaders in pre-dawn swoops citing law and order problem and permission was not granted to hold it near Indira Park – was aimed at galvanizing the public opinion about a serious problem. By creating hurdles to hold such a meeting or a rally, the KCR government has suppressed the democratic right of people to express their opinion. When Kodandaram had assured that the rally would be peaceful and organized in a democratic manner, the authorities have to give a try with adequate security arrangements. Telling him to hold the meet on the outskirts of the city, ostensibly not to inconvenience the public, on the eve of the rally was to debilitate the movement. The authorities could have succeeded in stopping the rally for the time being but they can’t push the issue under the carpet and heave a sigh of relief.

In the other Telugu State, Chandrababu Naidu has two totally different issues with roots in poll promises. One is, reservations for the Kapu community and Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh. The latter was, of course, BJP’s assurance but repeated ad nauseam to strengthen the TDP-BJP position in AP. While Chandrababu takes umbrage under a special fund set up for Kapu welfare and a special package in lieu of special status, both are hot potatoes for the ruling party and the government to handle. In the 2019 State Assembly elections, both the issues may blow up in TDP face. But, for the time being, both the agitations were suppressed by force by police.

Ironically, taking a cue from TJAC’s stir, the TDP government has announced that it is planning to give allowance to unemployed youth in AP. The ‘dole for jobless’ scheme is likely to be made public during the budget session in March. It is expected to set aside a Rs1000 crore corpus fund to dole out Rs2000 a month to those without a job for 5 years and registered with an Employment Exchange. In a way, the AP Government seems to have pre-empted an agitation similar to that of TJAC’s. Incidentally, providing jobs to the burgeoning educated youth population was one of TDP’s poll promises.

There lies a lesson for political parties of all hues: Don’t take people for granted and make empty promises to win votes. Hyperactive social media and ever increasing vigilantism and a power-hungry opposition can frustrate the ruling party’s efforts to mollify sections of people. The current unrest/agitations in the Telugu States prove that point.

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