Hyderabad: About a fortnight ago, when he was on a padayatra in Adilabad district to console families of farmers who committed suicide, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi called Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao a ‘chhota Narendra Modi’. Given the striking similarities in their style of functioning and the approach of Modi and KCR towards farmers, Rahul was perhaps not wide of the mark.
Both have been panned by the Opposition for running their governments as one-man shows in which ministers have little say on important matters or, in some cases, seem just for show. In their attitude towards farmers, goes the Opposition’s narrative, the ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’ in Delhi and KCR’s government are identical, the former for trying to bulldoze the Land Acquisition Bill through repeated ordinances and Chandrasekhar Rao for remaining in denial mode about the extent of farmers’ suicides. NGOs put the number of suicides at 1,000 while the TRS government claims it is no more 100.
Whatever the opposition may say, however, KCR remains popular. His track record as Chief Minister of Telangana,the new state which which celebrates its first birthday on June 2, has been captured in a survey conducted recently by the Hyderabad-based Telugu news channel, Express TV. The ‘365 days report card’ shows 71% of the respondents feel KCR’s working is satisfactory while only 29 per cent believe it to be unsatisfactory. The survey with eleven questions has been made available to The Wire.
Rao’s ministers are no patch on him when it comes to performance. A bare 14% of them have been rated as good, 46 % as average and a whopping 40% as poor. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Rao has himself expressed dissatisfaction with many ministers. He sacked a Deputy Chief Minister, T. Rajaiah, on charges of corruption and has reshuffled portfolios of many others for incompetence.
Harish Rao rated higher than KTR
The leading lights in his Cabinet are KCR’s nephew, T. Harish Rao, his US-returned son K. T. Rama Rao and Finance Minister Eatala Rajendra. They scored 44 %, 37% and 10% respectively to the question of who were the top ministers in the government. These numbers are significant since KCR’s son and nephew vie with each other to impress the party supremo with their work. Each of them considers himself as the rightful heir to KCR’s political legacy.
The report card says 79% of the 37,100 respondents found the TRS government’s performance satisfactory. This is a few notches higher than the Chief Minister’s rating and indicative of the fact that the Telangana sentiment has not waned, KCR or no KCR. Surprisingly, 82% of the respondents gave poor marks to KCR in Warangal district, his party’s citadel, while 70% were of the same opinion in Adilabad and Ranga Reddy districts. Express TV conducted the survey in all the ten Telangana districts, including Hyderabad, with 61 per cent of the respondents being male.
After Congress president Sonia Gandhi announced her decision in mid-2013 to create the state, many skeptics believed that power shortages and the consequent flight of capital would bring Telangana down on its knees as most of the power plants were located in residuary Andhra Pradesh. This has not happened and, after initial ham-handedness in dealing with the power sector, Telangana is largely free from unscheduled power cuts.
This is aptly reflected in the findings of the survey to a question about the the TRS government’s biggest achievements. Power stood first with 44%, followed by Mission Kakatiya (26%), a massive programme to restore all tanks and lakes, pensions for the poor (24%) and others (6%).
On the flip side, people want KCR to immediately address unemployment (40%), farmers’ suicides (20%) and other issues (30%). As a corollary, a majority of the respondents (67%) say the farmers’ situation in Telangana is poor, 25% say it is average and only 8% rate it as good. Notwithstanding the poor marks on the farm front, 66% of the people are convinced that KCR can fulfil his election promises in the remaining tenure.
Bleak future for Congress
Perhaps flowing out of this conviction, 51% of the respondents did not see Congress, the party primarily responsible for creating Telangana as a state, reviving as a strong force. Only 39% saw better prospects for the Grand Old Party. Respondents were asked which party they would vote for if elections were held today. 61% said they would back TRS, 22% Congress, 13% for the TDP/BJP alliance.
Finally, people were asked the all-important question – whether Brand Hyderabad would improve under the TRS government. After all, the decades-long battle between Andhra and Telangana was all about the ownership of Hyderabad. As elections to the Hyderabad municipal corporation are due this year, KCR can draw comfort from the belief of 56% of the respondents that the brand value of the capital city can indeed improve under his stewardship.