In Telangana, Narendra Modi tries to shed image of BJP-TRS camaraderie, but fails to address voter concerns

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at his first election meeting in Telangana's Nizamabad, called Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao "anti-development", claiming he believes more in superstitions and astrology than in public welfare and perpetuates family rule. His sharp attack on KCR comes completely contrary to his appreciation of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief in the past, that too on the floor of Parliament. While making a comparison with the Andhra Pradesh chief minister and his estranged ally N Chandrababu Naidu, Modi had described KCR as a leader with maturity and one who focuses on development rather than picking up political squabbles.

In a bid to answer the critics who describe TRS and BJP as undeclared allies in Telangana's political terrain, the BJP leader in Modi made a frantic attempt to not only dispel this thesis but also call TRS as an extended ally of the Congress-led UPA. At a time when the TRS and Congress are engaged in a do-or-die battle, such remarks by the prime minister sound insipid and devoid of any political significance.

However, it was inevitable that Modi said so, as he has to ensure a split in the Opposition vote that would harm the Congress, his principal foe in national politics. Modi's speech was clearly aimed at presenting his party as an alternative to both TRS and the Congress-led grand alliance. Therefore, he described both parties as two sides of the same coin.

Narendra Modi addressing a rally at Nizamabad in Telangana. Twitter/@BJP4India

Narendra Modi addressing a rally at Nizamabad in Telangana. Twitter/@BJP4India

In fact, Modi said KCR had his apprenticeship in dishonest and corrupt politics in the Congress. This is half truth as KCR spent most of his political career in the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) before the launch of TRS, though his political debut was in the Congress.

Surprisingly, the prime minister made no mention of the TDP-Congress alliance in the state, which is now the hot topic in the electoral discourse. The Telangana BJP has joined the chorus with TRS in criticising the Congress for enlisting the support of what it calls the Andhra party led by Naidu. But Modi chose not to speak even a word on Naidu, his bitter critic, even though the latter's role in the Telangana elections is now under intense scrutiny.

Modi disappointed the average residents of Telangana by speaking nothing on the long list of grievances of the young state. The BJP-led NDA government at the Centre is under fire for not implementing several provisions of Act under which the state was bifurcated and formed and the promises made therein. Instead, the prime minister confined his speech to naming some of his schemes, such as the Ujjwala Yojana, and the estimated benefits due to the implementation of such central schemes in Telangana.

In 2014, while speaking at a public meeting in Mahbubnagar on the eve of the elections, the then Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj had said that the next NDA government would grant the Palamuru Rangareddy Lift Irrigation Scheme the status of a national project. The promise remains unfulfilled. Modi is now conspicuously silent on it and many such benefits that have to be accrued to the new state from the central government.

The Telangana government has been requesting the Centre to accord such national status to its prestigious Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation project as it is normally a practice to provide every state with at least one national project. Such a status would alleviate the fiscal burden on the state government, thereby allowing it to take up a few more projects.

During bifurcation, the state was also promised a steel plant at Bayyaram, a coach factory at Kazipet, a tribal university as well as a branch of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. These promises remain unimplemented despite legislative backing. Instead, with remarkable alacrity within days of coming to power at the Centre, the Modi-led government merged several mandals of Telangana with Andhra Pradesh through an ordinance.

However, the most glaring failure of the central government has been in setting up two separate high courts for the residuary states.

Moreover, the UPA government has sanctioned an Information Technology and Investment Region (ITIR) project to Hyderabad, but NDA government scrapped it altogether, thus harming the development of the state.

On Tuesday, Modi chose to remain silent on many such complaints emanating from the political system and civil society of Telangana. He chose to dedicate most of his speech to attacking TRS and Congress.

A request from the Telangana government is pending with the Centre to allow 12 percent reservation for Muslims and tribals in the state. Although BJP president Amit Shah had minced no words in rejecting the demand for Muslim quota, Modi chose not to talk about it, except for criticising both TRS and Congress for their alleged politics of minority appeasement. While Shah repeatedly asked the people of Telangana to vote for the BJP to liberate the state from All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, the prime minister didn't mention this either.

Modi's election speech was primarily aimed at carving out a political space for the BJP in Telangana independent of the TRS and the Congress, but he, nevertheless, failed to tell the electorate how the state benefitted under his regime and how it would prosper under BJP rule. Instead, his filled his speech with anti-KCR rhetoric, with occasional jibes at the Congress.

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Updated Date: Nov 27, 2018 19:25:15 IST

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