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BRS Manifesto: KCR Pads Up Existing Schemes To Counter Congress' Guarantees

KCR, in his manifesto, has promised to increase the benefits offered in existing government schemes.

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In his maiden campaign rally this election season in Telangana, Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) president and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao released the party's manifesto in Husnabad in Siddipet district on Sunday, 15 October.

While the BRS manifesto carries only a handful of new promises – like 'KCR Bhima', which offers Rs 5 lakh insurance coverage to BPL families – it pads up KCR's existing schemes in Telangana, just enough to counter the Congress' six guarantees that were announced at the 'Vijayabheri' rally in Hyderabad last month.

For instance, one of Congress' guarantees included 'Rythu Bharosa' – which promises Rs 15,000 per year to farmers and tenant farmers on the lines of BRS' existing scheme of Rythu Bandhu. In KCR's manifesto this time, the Rythu Bandhu amount has been upped from Rs 10,000 to Rs 16,000 per year – Rs 1,000 more than what the Congress promises to offer.

As the BRS and Congress engage in a 'welfarist auction' in Telangana – a strategy that has benefitted both parties in the recent past – let's take a look at how it would play out electorally.
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A Look at the Promises

Here are some of the major promises in the BRS manifesto released on Sunday:

KCR, in his manifesto, has promised to increase the benefits offered in existing government schemes.
KCR, in his manifesto, has promised to increase the benefits offered in existing government schemes.

While the Congress hasn't released a manifesto per se, it had announced six poll guarantees targeting farmers, youth, women, senior citizens, and Dalits – akin to its strategy in the Karnataka Assembly elections.

The Congress' promises are as follows:

  • Mahalakshmi: Provision of Rs 2,500 for women every month; LPG cylinders at Rs 500 each; free travel for women on RTC buses

  • Rythu Bharosa: Farmers and tenant farmers to receive Rs 15,000 annually; agricultural labourers to get Rs 12,000

  • Gruha Jyothi: All households to receive 200 units of free electricity

  • Indiramma Indlu: Homeless persons to be provided with house sites and Rs 5 lakh

  • Yuva Vikasam: Students to be granted Vidya Bharosa Cards worth Rs 5 lakh

  • Cheyutha: A monthly pension of Rs 4,000; Rs 10 lakh as part of Rajiv Arogyasri insurance

"When the Congress offers Rs 2,500 for women, the BRS increases it to Rs 3,000. When the Congress promises Rs 15,000 to farmers, the BRS ups it to Rs 16,000. This is essentially competitive populism – or a political auction," former MLC and political analyst Prof K Nageshwar points out to The Quint.

Speaking to The Quint, senior journalist Roshan Ali says that this is not the first time that the BRS (formerly Telangana Rashtra Samithi) is engaging in a welfarist battle with the Congress.

"In the 2018 Assembly elections, the Congress announced Rs 3,000 unemployment allowance. KCR then increased his unemployment allowance to Rs 3,016," he says, adding, "It worked for him then, but we must wait and see if it does this time."
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Who Has the Advantage?

Will this manifesto give the BRS a political advantage – especially at a time when voter surveys point to a tight battle between the BRS and Congress as Telangana goes to polls on 30 November?

"The BRS has the advantage of being the incumbent government. But these welfarist promises would only work depending on the political mood. They are only one aspect when it comes to winning an election," says Prof Nageshwar.

Roshan Ali concurs, saying: "Firstly, what we need to consider is that before KCR announced his 'enhanced welfare schemes', the Congress' six guarantees to farmers, women, youth, SC/ST had already reached the people."

Secondly, he points out, Telangana (or united Andhra Pradesh) has only seen one-term or two-term governments in the last 30 years – and never a three-term government.

"The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) won in 1994 and 1999 TDP; the Congress came to power in 2004 and 2009; and in 2014 and 2018, the TRS came to power. If he wins this election, KCR might be the first CM in the whole of South India to score a hatrick."

The senior journalist adds that any ruling party, after two terms, would face a natural anti-incumbency – and "this is true for Telangana as well."

He says that another aspect to look at is that senior BRS leaders – since the announcement of the Congress' guarantees in September – has been brushing off its promises as being too "far-fetched."

"They [BRS leaders] have been saying that the Congress' promises are impractical and non-implementable. If they are non-implementable, then the public would also wonder how the BRS can offer the same and more," he adds.

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As for the Congress, the party's six guarantees came on the back of its massive win in the Karnataka Assembly elections in May this year.

"The Congress also has an attractive manifesto with plenty of freebies. This was meant to counter the BRS, which is going to voters with a combination of its track record in office and the freebies it is already giving," anchor and political commentator Sumanth C Raman tells The Quint.

But he points out that "for the Congress, the freebies alone did not bag them the win in Karnataka."

"It was the anti-incumbency against the ruling BJP government there that turned the tide. Here in Telangana, the anti-incumbency is not as strong. So, we need to wait and see how effective the freebies will be."
Sumanth C Raman

Why Voters Are Buying Into Welfarism

"Parties have realised that elections are now more and more about doling out freebies. Neither the parties nor the voters seem to care about the long-term impact on the state's finances," opines Raman.

"While freebies to those below the poverty line are essential, untargeted freebies will ruin the state's finances in the long run," he adds.

Prof Nageshwar says:

"The public also doesn't want long-term development or holistic development. When it comes to election demands, it is not collective bargaining right now but individual bargaining. It is not about collective consciousness but individual consciousness."

But Roshan Ali suggests that these schemes assume much more importance in any election now because of the rising prices of commodities. "Middle and lower-income section of the society are suffering. Salaries have not gone up because of COVID – savings have gone down, debts are increasing. So, people are willing to take what they can get from governments."

Moreover, welfare schemes have always had a history of helping parties get votes in Telangana (or united Andhra Pradesh), he points out.

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