For Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), neighbouring Andhra Pradesh’s Chief Minister, N Chandrababu Naidu, has become the favourite whipping boy in the weeks before the polling day, as the party tries to rekindle Telangana sentiment to counter the Congress-Telugu Desam Party (TDP) alliance in the state.
Failing to cut much ice with the people over non-fulfilment of 2014 electoral promises — such as the two-bedroom houses for rural and urban poor, 3 acres land for Dalit households, one government job per family, and piped drinking water supply — TRS leaders have fallen back on Plan B to rouse the anti-TDP feelings that helped it win the elections in 2014, the year Telangana was carved out of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh.
Sources in the TRS said the party had to change tactic as it is facing anti-incumbency at many places. A party insider said, “People are openly questioning candidates – most of them renominated sitting MLAs – why the TRS failed to fulfil its election promises. To deflect that dissent, Chandrababu Naidu has been made the target so that it is back to the Telangana sentiment.”
Claiming that TDP is an “Andhra’’ party, and that Chandrababu Naidu has no business to interfere in Telangana, TRS leaders are thus slamming the `Prajakutami’ — the opposition alliance between the Congress, Telanana TDP, the Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) — calling it Naidu’s “conspiracy” to take control of Telangana. TRS activists and supporters are exhorting crowds to chant “Jai Telangana” more often at public meetings over the last few days than in earlier public meetings.
After a break of nearly 15 days, TRS chief and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao launched the second leg of his campaign from Palakurthy, near Khammam, on Monday and, changing tactics, made Naidu the target of his speech, rather than talk about his government’s achievements.
Slamming Naidu for opposing irrigation projects in Khammam, Rao said, “Chandrababu has no moral right to set foot in Telangana. He has written to the Union government opposing construction of projects in Khammam and must immediately withdraw them. You must reject the TDP – it conspires against the interests of Telangana. Chandrababu is building Polavaram project (on Godavari river in Andhra Pradesh), which will affect seven mandals of Khammam.”
The “gimmicks of Congress-TDP” will not achieve anything, he announced at the rally. Telangana TDP has fielded former MP Nama Nageswara Rao from Khammam.
Alleging that Congress and TDP governments in unified AP, in the past, “turned fertile lands of this district into barren stretches”, Rao said, “They will do the same if they come to power again…. Don’t let the TDP exploit you — if TDP candidates win, they will bow to Chandrababu and do his bidding and all projects (in Telangana) will be obstructed.”
TRS leaders said that if Chandrababu Naidu decides to campaign in Telangana, the party may project the election as a “KCR versus Naidu” contest. “Naidu is the face of the `Prajakutami’, and he is from Andhra. The TDP is an Andhra party and that is what (we) will take to the people,’’ a senior aide of the TRS chief pointed out.
TRS’ election managers are also worried about the apparent lack of enthusiasm among the people at party rallies this time even while listening to Rao take apart his opponents in election speeches. Rao listing out his schemes and assuring people that 2.60 lakh two-bedroom houses for the poor are under construction, or that his government has given jobs to approximately 30,000 people, are not striking the right cord with the crowd always, a TRS official said.
Therefore, party insiders reiterated, the attack on the TDP.
To emphasise that only the TRS can work for public interest Telangana, Rao has renamed public meetings as `Praja Ashirwada Sabhas’, implying that the people should bless the party by voting for it. To show confidence that TRS will win again, Rao has started quoting “internal surveys’’, which he claims indicate a clean sweep by the party.
State IT Minister and the Chief Minister’s son, K T Rama Rao, accused Naidu of trying to run Telangana politics through the Congress. “The TDP was formed as an anti-Congress platform in 1982, but now they (TDP and Congress) have got together. Naidu is behind the move to form an alliance – he wants to interfere in Telangana by pumping in money into the election through the Congress. Naidu will ruin Telangana to further his interests in AP,’’ Rama Rao said.
Even senior TRS leader T Harish Rao, who had refrained from criticising Naidu until recently, now loses no opportunity to attack him. “How can Chandrababu keep Telangana’s best interests when he is against development of our state? Naidu has denied Telangana its share of power as per the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014,” Harish Rao has maintained at public meetings.