Opposition sees political plan behind reorganization of districts
Hyderabad: After a major administrative reform of reorganization of districts in Telangana State was launched on Dasara Day, 11 October 2016, amidst fanfare and festivities, a debate has started on the plus and minus points. While Harish Rao, Minister for Major Irrigation and an MLA from Siddipet, described his uncle and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR) as a personification of reforms, opponents like TTDP working president Revant Reddy threatened to challenge the measures in a court of law. The whole exercise reeks of political opportunism and skullduggery, Revant commented on Wednesday.
In the inaugural function to declare Siddipet as a district, KCR was at his vociferous best saying that he is the son of the soil paying back to the land which gave him political life. Harish Rao gave a new definition to KCR saying ‘K’ stands for knowledge, ‘C’ for commitment and ‘R’ for reconstruction. Both uncle and nephew consider this year’s Dasara Day, as a day of great joy and fulfillment since they brought their place, Siddipet, into limelight besides creating 20 other new districts.
Let us first examine the positive aspects of the reorganization exercise: It will surely help decentralized growth, devolution of powers, creation of more jobs and better infrastructure. The collector can concentrate on a small unit in a better way and achieve greater results. The Superintendent of Police also will have smaller area to monitor law and order situation. The people will not have to travel for more than a hundred miles to go to the Collectorate or Zilla Parishad.
Harming political rivals
Now, the negative points which appear to outnumber positives: Major criticism has come from the Congress and the TDP leaders while the BJP leaders also joined the chorus. One, the government had violated the Constitution by disturbing the boundaries of zones and by not reorganizing the Zilla Parishads simultaneously. Two, the wage bill will go up increasing burden on the State’s exchequer. It might force the government to levy more taxes on the people. This is avoidable. Three, reservation of constituencies for SCs and STs would be adversely affected. Four, political advantage for the ruling party was the sole purpose of the elaborate process.
While TPCC President Uttam Kumar Reddy and Working President Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka were outright in condemning the ‘unscientific way’ in which the reorganization of districts took place, Revant Reddy threatened to continue his battle by writing to the Election Commission, Central government and other agencies besides going to court. All the opposition leaders say KCR had done it purely for political reasons in order to jeopardize the electoral prospects of his vocal opponents. For example, the reserved constituency, Madhira, being represented by Bhatti Vikramarka will be de-reserved if the reservation policy has to be implemented in 2019 based on the new districts. The TPCC working president will lose the constituency he had assiduously cultivated and served in his term and will be forced to seek ticket from a new pasture where he has no foothold.
Revant Reddy, on the other hand, might see his constituency being reserved forcing him to migrate to a new constituency where he could be a stranger. Former minister Dr Gita Reddy may also be put in a tight spot in the course of reservation of constituencies. KCR’s opponents are forthcoming with many such examples.
North versus South?
KCR reportedly had a blueprint of the future Assembly constituencies post-delimitation. Although delimitation of Parliament and Assembly constituencies has been frozen till 2025, it was promised in the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014.
KCR hopes the NDA government would oblige since AP Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has been vigorously pursuing the delimitation idea. KCR was trying to have majority of the constituencies which favour TRS in 2019 elections while finalizing the plan for reorganization of the districts. As Harish Rao rightly said, KCR has the knowledge of the area, the people and their political preferences.
Revant Reddy insists that KCR has given a lot of importance to North Telangana at the cost of South Telangana and this divide might increase in future because of the Chief Minister’s obsession with the former. He cites the example of Warangal district which was divided into five districts. While Shamshabad district in South Telangana will have 25 lakh population, Rajanna district in North Telangana will have 5.5 lakh population.
The idea is supposed to have less number of voters and more constituencies in areas where the TRS has got proven popularity. In contrast, we find the constituencies in South Telangana where the opposition parties have votes, like Nalgonda or Mahaboobnagar, the new districts will have more population and new constituencies, after delimitation, would have more voters than the constituencies in North Telangana. Jitender Reddy, MP from Mahaboobnagar, will have to attend some eight Zilla Parishad meetings since his Lok Sabha constituency has voters in so many districts.
The rivals of TRS say the constitutional provisions have been violated by erasing the boundaries of the zones. The zonal system, which is very important for administration, has been given a go-by, they say. Even in case of formation of new mandals, some have just 20,000 population while the proposals for new mandals with 40,000 population were rejected, alleged Revant Reddy.
The distribution of Mandals was done in a way to benefit the ruling party. There are some emotional feelings also connected to the reorganization of the district. For instance, Prof Hargopal, a well known academic and civil rights activist, says he has been emotionally attached to Mahaboobnagar district and has been participating in various campaigns aimed at developing the backward district. But to his utter dismay, he now finds his native village in Ranga Reddy district with which he has no emotional attachment. This debate will go on for months and years. The government is advised to keep a tab on the criticism and try to correct mistakes, if any. Since the reorganization took place after a gap of 38 years, the new arrangement would be more or less permanent and hence any lacunae have to be rectified in time.