The welfare schemes implemented during the last four-and-a-half years more than Telangana pride appear to have helped K. Chandrashekhar Rao lead his Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) to a resounding victory in India’s youngest state.
Unlike in 2014 when KCR managed to scrape through despite the strong Telangana sentiment, this time people have given a clear mandate for the 64-year-old, now one of the most powerful regional leaders in the country who is eyeing a role in national politics.
After achieving his goal of statehood to Telangana, he had taken upon himself the task of building ‘Bangaru (golden) Telangana’ and satisfied with the progress made so far people have given him another term to lead the state.
Initially, KCR’s campaign was about Telangana self-respect and focused more on hitting out at ‘anti-Telangana’ Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
Subsequently, the orator par excellence changed his tactic and at every election meeting appealed to people to compare his four-and-a-half year rule of TRS with 60 years of Congress and TDP rule. He urged them to ponder after returning home and then decide.
This strategy seems to have worked. Lakhs of beneficiaries appeared to have voted for TRS as reflected in its massive win, bagging 88 seats in the 119-member Assembly with nearly 47 percent vote share.
The gamble of advancing elections also paid off for KCR as he feared that going for Assembly polls along with Lok Sabha elections next year may overshadow his welfare and development narrative.
Making a beginning with just 63 seats in 2014, KCR politically cemented his position by encouraging defections of over two dozen legislators and several seniors from the Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
A weakened opposition and TDP President and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu shifting base to Vijayawada in the wake of ‘cash for vote’ scam in 2015 made KCR’s task easy.
Launching various welfare schemes targeting different sections of the society, KCR strengthened his vote base. He claims that by spending Rs 40,000 crore on welfare schemes annually, Telangana is number one in providing welfare to people among all the states.
The social security pensions to widows, old age people, differently abled, single women, financial assistance to weavers and beedi workers and schemes like ‘Kalyana Lakshmi’ and ‘Shadi Mubarak’ under which girls are provided with an assistance of Rs 1 lakh each for their marriage helped KCR to endear himself to various sections.
Residential schools for poor students from backward classes and minorities with annual expenditure of Rs 1.20 lakh on each child, overseas scholarships and distribution of sheep on subsidy among shepherd communities helped him to cement his position further.
During the election campaign, KCR projected 24×7 electricity supply as his single biggest achievement and recalled how the state was reeling under severe power crunch at the time of its formation.
Farm loan waiver with an expenditure of Rs 17,000 crore, uninterrupted round the clock free power supply to farmers, ‘Rythu Bandhu’ under which each farmer gets Rs 4,000 per acre per crop as investment support, ‘Rythu Beema’ launched recently to provide Rs 5 lakh life insurance were the initiatives hailed by farmers in a state notorious for farmers’ suicides.
TRS also claimed to have made progress in construction of re-designed irrigation projects to achieve its goal of bringing one crore acres under irrigation.
There were also some areas where the implementation was partial or unsatisfactory. The government could not complete Mission Bhagiratha aimed at providing drinking water supply to every household. It also came under criticism for failing to provide double bed room houses to all the beneficiaries.
KCR himself admitted that the results were not to the desired level in providing jobs to youth.
The Congress and BJP had made many promises including Rs 2 lakh farm loan waiver at one go, increase in the amount of social security pensions and several freebies. But the common refrain among people seemed to be why trust promises instead of someone already delivering.