As Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhara Rao, popularly called KCR, completes three years as Chief Minister of Telangana on 2 June, his Telangana Rashtra Samiti, in the forefront of the 15-year struggle to obtain separation from Andhra Pradesh and achieve statehood, is on test. Amit Shah, president of the BJP, has made Telangana the portal for his party’s “southern victory march.” Winning 63 seats in the 119-member Legislative Assembly in 2014, KCR has taken the tally of his party to 90 and ensured that no other party has grown except under his pleasure. The Congress which had an uninterrupted innings in composite AP till 1980 and the Telugu Desam Party which dominated the political scene since, have wilted in the droughtprone Telangana soil after KCR became the Chief Minister. Only the Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (MIM), an ally of the TRS, has been allowed some elbow room. The section that benefited most from the TRS government is the legislators themselves. Salary of MLAs has been raised from Rs 95,000 a month to Rs 2.5 lakh and of ministers from Rs 2.42 lakh to Rs 4 lakh a month. Telangana is reeling under extreme drought for the third consecutive year pushing farmers into distress. The mounting agrarian crisis has led to more than 2,300 farmers committing suicide. Waiver of Rs 19,000 crore agricultural loans has not mitigated the suffering of farmers. Protestors are dealt with an iron hand. Dharna Chowk in Indira Park in the heart of Hyderabad City, the officially designated place for public demonstrations since 2005, has been declared out of bounds for demonstrators by KCR, much to the chagrin of the public. The growing unpopularity of Rao has encouraged Amit Shah to pick on Telangana as his party’s gateway to the south.
The BJP has at least held on to its five MLAs so far. Touring the state extensively, Amit Shah found no toilets in houses in the rural areas. He blamed KCR for not taking up the Prime Minister’s Swachch Bharat Abhiyan scheme under which 4.5 crore toilets are being constructed. Although the TRS government has been cozying up to the Modi government at the Centre by backing it on policies like demonetisation and GST, Shah did not hesitate to take pot-shots at Rao to win over the people’s support to the BJP. To checkmate the growth of the BJP in the state, the TRS government brought forward the Telangana Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and of Appointments or Posts in the Services under the State) Bill, 2017, and had it passed in a hurriedly convened special session of both Houses of the legislature on a Sunday. Under the Bill, reservation for the backward sections among the Muslim community will go up from the existing four per cent to 12 per cent and the total reservation in the state will go up to 62 per cent from the existing 50 per cent. Except the BJP, all parties supported the Bill. It needs the President’s assent to become law.