As he nurses national ambitions, K Chandrashekar Rao is now positioning himself as a leader of the farmers. Over the weekend, the Telangana Chief Minister held discussions with nearly 100 farmers invited from over 20 states, at his office-cum-residence, Pragathi Bhavan.
The farmers will be taken on field trips by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government to showcase the ‘Telangana Model’ of development in the farm sector and, party leaders said, to debunk the ‘Gujarat Model’ talked about by the BJP. The CM, better known as KCR, is likely to accompany them on some of the field trips.
Sources said that during the discussions with them, KCR made a direct pitch for the 2024 general elections, urging farmers to play a more active role in politics to resolve the woes in the agriculture sector and for the creation of a national farmer union to fight against the Centre’s “anti-farmer politics”. “Why should the farmers who feed the country not be part of legislature bodies?” the CM asked.
Sources said that among the concerns raised by farmers when it came to the Centre was imposition of new laws without discussion, and issues like installation of meters for electric motors, increase in transport charges, changes in grain purchases, and inconsistent import and export policies.
The meetings ended with a resolution seeking that KCR take the lead in uniting farmers of the country, up from the village level.
Agriculture Minister S Niranjan Reddy said they want to tell the farmers about the “development and prosperity in the farm sector that Telangana has achieved since its formation”. “The TRS’s schemes like Rythu Bandu, Rythu Bima, supply of 24×7 high-quality, free power, and procurement of crops like paddy by the state have revolutionised agriculture in the state. Farmers of other states need to see this,’’ Reddy said.
During his meeting with the farmers, KCR said the ‘Gujarat Model’ the BJP boasts about is a “failed model”.
The BJP dismissed the TRS’s push for the farmer vote as a “PR stunt”, saying it was wary of the BJP’s growing strength in the state ahead of next year’s Assembly elections. The party and the Congress also accused KCR of showcasing “selective development”.
Among those present at the meetings with KCR was the president of the Rythu Bandhu Samiti, Palla Rajeshwar Reddy. He backed the CM’s call for farmers to coordinate their struggles.
KCR told farmers that “a great power” lies within farmers and needs to be drawn out. “We have to find solutions to our problems ourselves. The Telangana Movement, which I started, proved that everything can be achieved through united efforts. Before me, there had been many other struggles for Telangana, but due to the lack of a specific action plan, they could not achieve the objective of statehood.”
He also alleged a conspiracy to destroy agriculture, obliterate the small farmers and hand over the country’s agriculture sector to the corporate sector.
Earlier, KCR and the Centre had locked horns over procurement of paddy. With a bumper crop in Telangana resulting in a glut of paddy, the state had wanted the Centre to procure more, which it refused. The TRS government had to face protests over the issue.
Congress leader and former minister Mohammed Ali Shabbir said the meetings with the farmers were “completely stage-managed”. “KCR never held a meeting with leaders of any farmer associations of Telangana in the last eight years. But to highlight himself as ‘pro-farmer’, he has facilitated a meeting with representatives from 25 states.”
Shabbir said the visit and meeting were organised by political strategist Prashant Kishor’s team. “CM KCR should clarify how and why the farmers leaders from different states came together to visit Telangana, and whether or not the expenses of their visit were sponsored by the state government,” he said, accusing the TRS government of “misusing official machinery” for self-promotion.
The Congress leader linked it to the Telangana government refusing permission to Opposition leaders in the state to visit Mallanna Sagar and Kaleshwaram projects, but officials taking representatives of other states there.
Congress leaders had wanted to visit Mallana Sagar after some project oustees were allegedly beaten up by police during a protest against delay in payment of compensation for their land. They wanted to visit the Kaleshwaram Project over allegations of corruption.
BJP state president Bandi Sanjay Kumar said KCR was afraid of facing the party in the elections, and hence trying all this. “He is just misleading those farm leaders like he is misleading the people of Telangana. It is all a stunt,” Kumar said.