TRS rolls up sleeves for crucial poll with huge Dalit sop, writes VJM Divakar


Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) Supremo and CM K Chandrasekhar Rao took a very calculated risk both politically and as chief minister by announcing the Dalit Bandhu program and embarking on its pilot implementation in the constituency of the Huzurabad Assembly.

The constituency has already garnered a lot of political attention, as it will soon be subject to an indirect ballot. One of the KCR’s trusted lieutenants, Etela Rajender, who served as Telangana’s finance minister, resigned from the party, and resigned as lawmaker, forcing elections to be held. Etela will now be in the fray as the BJP candidate while TRS announced relatively newbie Gellu Srinivas Yadav as the party’s candidate for the constituency. Indeed, a royal battle is on the program since the TRS is doing everything to ensure the defeat of Etela.

Diagram Dalit Bandhu

In this context, launching the Dalit Bandhu program before the indirect ballot, targeting a large part of the constituency electorate, is seen as a smart move. Opposition parties screamed harshly as it was to thwart Etela’s challenge by using public funds. But an outright KCR hit them back by saying what’s wrong if it profits from government policy in the polls.

Let us forget for a while the political or electoral gains that may or may not accrue to KCR. Look at the politics. He has repeatedly claimed that there is no other social assistance scheme in the whole country, which has the same characteristics as Dalit Bandhu. As part of the program, initially in the constituency of Huzurabad in Telangana, all families in the constituency will receive Rs 10 lakh in cash deposited in their bank accounts exclusively opened for this purpose. With Rs 10 lakh each, each Dalit family can start a business, trade and any other financial activity on their own. Even a community government employee would be entitled to the benefit. They do not have to return this amount and will not be obligated to the bank or any other financial institution.

All Dalit families who receive this grant will also benefit from a plethora of social protection and development programs implemented by central and state governments. KCR also reiterated that it will replicate the program statewide once it is successful in Huzurabad. Along with this program, KCR also announced the establishment of a Dalit Security Fund and Dalit Insurance Program. In case of any eventuality of one of the beneficiaries of the Dalit Bandhu program, the security fund will give Rs 5 lakh to the family members, as has been done in the Rythu Bima policy.

“Popular movement”

It is estimated that there are around 20,929 Dalit families with a population of around 70,000 in Huzurabad constituency and the program will be implemented in saturation mode. Imagine the amount of money to be given in the form of a grant to such a large population in Huzurabad alone. If implemented statewide, the Dalit population is estimated to be around 54 lakh. Can the State, already in a financial crisis, afford such a project?

But CM KCR has its own logic to offer. He said the Telangana Dalit Bandhu program would help Dalits define their own development and become development partners. According to him, Dalit Bandhu is not just a government welfare program, but also a massive grassroots movement, aimed at financially empowering every Dalit family. This can be compared to the Telangana state agitation initiated and led by KCR with the aim of securing a separate Telangana state, which has been achieved.

The opposition parties are in a mess, as they can never openly oppose the project, as it would rub the Dalits the wrong way. Their demand for its statewide implementation was nipped in the bud when KCR itself announced that it would implement it statewide if the pilot project in Huzurabad was successful. Without an alternative, the leaders of the opposition now demand the implementation of such a program for CBs, STs and minorities.

Many opposition parties claim that after the Huzurabad assembly vote, KCR will abandon this project, as it has done with other projects like three acres of land for Dalits, making a Dalit the CM, etc. If KCR abandons this project in the event that his party’s candidate loses the ballot, it will boomerang him and his party in the next general polls.

Any attempt to dump or dilute the scheme will have a dramatic effect on KCR’s image, its credibility, and its party’s overall poll prospects. A smart and clever KCR will never do anything that could harm the interests of its party. The only possibility is that he announces the implementation of the program statewide and tries to convince the Dalits to give up some existing programs.

Hanging effect

KCR’s intention to announce the program is that it is expected to spread like wildfire across the country, with Dalits demanding a replication of the program. In such an event, he would become a Dalit icon in the country. But intentions and desires are not always satisfied. KCR, before the last general polls, also thought of playing the role of anchor point for the non-BJP parties in the country and met with Mamata, Stalin, Kumara Swamy, etc., but the idea and the effort did not have not worked. But you never know what’s going on in politics.

At the launch of the Dalit Bandhu program, KCR spoke about purity of speech (“Vaak Suddhi”), purity of purpose (“Lakshya Suddhi”) and purity of action (“Acharana Suddhi”). But some party leaders and MPs seem to have neither Vaak nor Lakshya Suddhi. In the recent past, MPs from his party have crossed all lines, using the dirtiest language in press conferences, public meetings against their political opponents. KCR seems to be ignoring them on purpose.

As far as Andhra Pradesh is concerned, the ruling parties and the opposition are engaged in their war of words and show absolutely no interest in the welfare of the people. Take any major issue, whether it be the sharing of river waters with neighboring states and how AP is losing its rights, the privatization of the Vizag steel plant, the dire state of the state economy where institutions financial institutions refuse to grant loans, the degeneration of the situation of public order, whatever the burning issue, the parties in power and the opposition and their leaders are engaging in blame games and have not been able to offer solutions.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Hyderabad

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Posted on: Monday August 23, 2021, 2:30 a.m. IST

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