Family rule, alleged corruption and discrimination by the Centre are among the key issues that are likely to dominate the Assembly elections in Telangana scheduled next year.
The opposition parties may also try to rake up the issues of mounting public debt and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) failing to deliver on some of its promises.
Being in power since the formation of the state in 2014, the TRS is likely to face anti-incumbency but the party is gearing up to seek a fresh mandate based on its performance during the last eight years.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has become aggressive and is projecting itself as the only viable alternative to the TRS, is likely to step up its attacks on the family rule by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, popularly known as KCR.
Family rule and corruption are the two common key issues that both the BJP and the Congress have been raising for a long time.
Both the opposition parties have been saying that only KCR, his son K.T. Rama Rao, daughter K. Kavitha and nephew Harish Rao were running the state.
They have been targeting the TRS leader for lack of internal democracy in the ruling party and his alleged autocratic style of functioning. They ridicule KCR for not visiting the state secretariat and running the government from his farmhouse.
The BJP, which claims to be the only party free from dynasty politics, has vowed to free Telangana from family rule.
Addressing BJP leaders and workers during his day-long visit to Hyderabad on May 26, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had targeted KCR. Terming dynastic politics and family-centric parties the biggest enemy of democracy and youth of the country, he had called for liberating Telangana from family rule.
The saffron party leaders have also been harping on the need for a double-engine government in Telangana. Prime Minister Modi and other BJP leaders repeatedly stated this during the public meetings. They said the BJP governments both at the Centre and in Telangana can fast-track the state’s development.
Both the BJP and the Congress have been targeting KCR for pushing the state into a debt trap. They say a state with a surplus budget in 2014 now has an outstanding public debt of Rs. 3.5 lakh crore.
The opposition parties have also been accusing KCR of corruption in government schemes. BJP president J. P. Nadda, union minister Amit Shah and other leaders termed the TRS government as the most corrupt government in the country. They alleged that the Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project became an ‘ATM’ for KCR.
At a BJP public meeting in Hyderabad on July 3 which was addressed by Prime Minister Modi, both Shah and Nadda lashed out at KCR for corruption and diversion of Central funds.
The BJP president accused the chief minister of inflating the cost of the Kaleshwaram project from Rs. 32,000 crore to Rs. 1.32 lakh crore.
Going a step further, state BJP president Bandi Sanjay stated that if voted to power, the BJP will send KCR to jail.
Sanjay recently said that KCR will have to face the Enforcement Directorate (ED) sooner or later. He had said earlier that the central agencies have kept a tab on KCR’s corruption and very soon they would begin inquiries into the properties amassed by him.
Given the communally sensitive nature of politics in Hyderabad and some other urban pockets, the BJP will also be banking on polarization of votes to bolster its prospects.
Political analysts say the saffron party will make appeasement politics a key issue while targeting TRS for its friendship with the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), headed by Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi.
The BJP’s state leadership as well as the central leaders visiting the state have missed no opportunity to target the KCR-led government for pursuing what they call appeasement politics. They have been accusing KCR of handing over the car steering(election symbol of TRS) to Owaisi.
They cite the ongoing implementation of four per cent reservation for minorities in education and employment and the proposal to increase the quota to 12 per cent.
It was in 2017 that the Telangana Legislature passed a Bill to increase the quota to 12 per cent and sent the same to the Centre. However, the Centre has still not given its nod to enhance the quota for Muslims to 12 per cent and also for Scheduled Tribes from 6 per cent to 10 per cent.
Addressing a public meeting in May this year, Amit Shah promised that if voted to power in Telangana, the BJP would scrap the reservation for minorities.
Recalling that ‘water, funds and jobs’ were the major issues during the movement for statehood to Telangana, Shah alleged that the TRS failed to fulfil its promises and promised that if voted to power the BJP would fulfil them.
At every public meeting that Shah and other BJP leaders address in Telangana, they slam the TRS and KCR for not celebrating Telangana Liberation Day officially. They claim that during the Telangana movement the TRS chief had promised to officially celebrate the day but after coming to power he went back on the promise as he was scared of Owaisi.
The BJP has long been demanding that Telangana Liberation Day (September 17) be celebrated officially in Telangana and it points out that the day is celebrated officially in those districts of Maharashtra and Karnataka which were part of Hyderabad State.
It was on September 17, 1948 that Hyderabad State was merged with the Indian Union following Police Action or the operation by the Indian Army against the forces of the Nizam of Hyderabad.
AIMIM and other Muslim parties have been opposing any celebrations as they say Muslims were massacred during the Police Action. They also argue that there is only one Independence Day for the entire country.
“Two terms of TRS rule, welfarism, and unkept promises will be the most prominent factors in the run up to the next Assembly elections. Aspirations of youth are likely to be one big factor in Telangana, which might decide the outcome of elections,” says political analyst P. Raghavendra Reddy.
The TRS will be seeking a fresh mandate on the basis of its performance during the last eight years. The party claims that Telangana has already become a model state for the entire country both in terms of welfare and development.
The ruling party leaders are confident that KCR will create history as the first chief minister in south India to win a third consecutive term in power.
The developments of the last few months indicate that during the poll campaign TRS will be going all out to target the Centre for creating hurdles in the path of Telangana’s progress.
KCR, who has already declared his plans to play a key role in national politics, has been hitting out at the Centre for imposing restrictions on mobilization of resources by the state.
Last week, KCR boycotted the NITI Ayog meeting as a mark of protest against the Central government’s discriminatory attitude towards the states.
The lack of any assistance from the Centre for various welfare schemes and development projects in Telangana and the communally divisive agenda of the BJP are the key issues the TRS will use in countering the saffron party.