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'There's Some Anti-Incumbency, but No Scope for Hung Assembly in Telangana': KTR

In an interaction with The Quint, he said the BRS' priority "is to be the first to cross the post in the state."

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(This interview was originally published on 16 November. It has been republished from The Quint's archives.)

Acknowledging that the anti-incumbency against the ruling party in Telangana could dent their winning margin in key constituencies, Bharat Rashtra Samithi's (BRS’) working president and state Minister for IT and Industries, KT Rama Rao, stated that the party is attempting to appease the disgruntled voters who are vocal about being unequal recipients of welfare schemes.

In an interaction with The Quint, the minister said that the BRS' topmost priority "is to be the first to cross the post in the state."

Read the excerpts of the interview here:

How would you gauge the mood of the people in Telangana?

I can see our people enjoying the benefits of good governance. What you have seen in the last nine years is a fantastic combination of welfare and development. Our IT exports have risen to cross Bengaluru's exports for the second year in a row and we beat them even in terms of job creation. Our per capita income is the highest in India with Telangana's per capita income being 1.8 times higher than the national average at the current prices. So, the mood is upbeat and we are doing well. We believe will be re-elected handsomely for the third time on 3 December.

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Amongst the slew of schemes, what could be the top three factors that could vote you back to power?

The first is good governance, because we have been able to address and resolve drinking water and electricity shortages in our state; we provide both these necessities 24/7. The second aspect is a firm grip on law and order. There have been no incidents of polarisation or disturbance in communal harmony even as the rest of the country has been witness to such incidents. Finally, Telangana's model of development is worthy of emulation by the rest of India, and the electorate of our state is seized of this matter.

How are you so sure that this goodwill will translate into votes?

I believe that good economics is good politics because as long as people are happy and prosperous and enjoy the fruits of good governance, they will vote for us. Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao has done exceptionally in the last five years despite the teething problems that typically come with being a new state and battling COVID-19 which slackened growth for two years. We will win 88-plus seats this time around.

The Congress looks resurgent having sensed a chance at coming to power. What are your thoughts on this?

I am not sure if there is a resurgent Congress. The anti-BRS cadre that was with the BJP more than six months ago is now crystallising towards the Congress. While there is momentum, I will not lend credence to the hypothesis that just because a few leaders from the BRS have switched parties, the vote will not be transferred to Congress.

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There is much anti-incumbency in Gajwel [KCR's constituency] and other districts. What do you make of that?

What there is, is some dissatisfaction, some disgruntlement, and some complaints that can surely be addressed. We are speaking to the voters to take note of their grievances and the Chief Minister himself is reassuring them of a speedy redressal. I'm not sure if the people will abandon their leader just because of a few complaints. If you see the spectrum between anger and annoyance, if people are angry, there is nothing one can do to control it, but if there is annoyance, then it is not something that cannot be addressed. 

What measures are you taking to address the complaints?

Not everybody is disgruntled. I have always believed that to pass an exam, we do not need 100 marks. 51 marks are enough. And we are confident that the people who have gotten the benefits will still vote for us. They don't complain. They will silently cast their vote for us. Even if there are more than 150 candidates who filed their nomination, the ones who have seen good governance will vote.

The Congress was voted to power in Karnataka largely on account of the guarantees. Do you see a repeat of that situation in Telangana as well?

In whose name are they guaranteeing the promises? Neither Sonia Gandhi nor Rahul Gandhi have any position in the AICC. Mallikarjun Kharge is the party president and there is not a single person here in Telangana who can stand guarantee to the promises made. In Karnataka, people voted because they had decided to throw the BJP out three years ago. The Congress just orchestrated their effort well.

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What do you have to say about the rumours of a hung assembly in Telangana?

There is anti-incumbency; I won't deny it. But in a democracy, you will notice that in a system where you must be the first to pass the post, let us remind ourselves of that. The people of both the Telugu states have never been given an indecisive mandate since the independence. I see it no other way this time. The idea of a hung assembly is pretty imaginative but it will not happen.

With Congress putting out the Minority Declaration, are you concerned of the minority vote shifting to Congress?

If someone feels that Congress has a grip over the minorities, then they are mistaken. People who have enjoyed good governance, irrespective of their caste, creed, and religion, will vote for us. Our reading is that the minority vote will not get transferred to the Congress en bloc as it did in Karnataka. We have the highest minority welfare budget in our country at 2,200 crore for a population of 50 lakhs despite being the 5th largest in terms of ranking by minority population.

Your manifesto isn't too far from the Congress. Has your party aimed for counterplay in the welfare battle with Congress to blunt the effect of its six poll guarantees?

In fact, it is the other way around. The Congress has copied our manifesto. So, it is the Congress' desperation. Congress is going to the lengths of mortgaging the country to win this election. It's a case of the Congress winning and the country losing.

We have not matched them word for word. Our current programmes will go on. And we have made incremental changes. We have done the math. We have budgeted Rs 35,000 crore per annum for fulfilling the promises that we have made to the people of Telangana.

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We've seen what has happened to the Kaleswaram project. What impact do you think this will have on the election? What measures are you taking to correct the perception that things have gone wrong with the project?

The timing of the report is suspect. The NDSA report is actually the NDA report constituted by their headquarters in Delhi. Why just point fingers at Kaleshwaram when there were leakages in other projects as well – Nagarjuna Sagar Davaleshwaram, Prakasam barrage, and even in the Farakka project there were many issues. What happened in Kaleshwaram was an engineering issue, not a design issue. The designs they are calling faulty were approved by the Central Water Commission and the Technical Advisory Committee which the Union Water Resources Secretary and the Central Water Resources Chairman head.

There are small issues in projects and that can happen. Execution was done by L&T and it has issued a statement saying without a single rupee's burden on the exchequer, it will rebuild the whole barrage. The cost of the Medigadda barrage is Rs 1,839 crore.

What are your plans for going national after the state election?

KCR will be the first CM to score a hat-trick in South India when we return to power for the third term. Maharashtra will be a good battleground. There are a number of political leaders across the three parties who are in touch with us and we will be contesting the parliamentary election.

Have you made up your mind on joining either of the two alliances - NDA or INDIA?

The country isn't bipolar in its electoral choices. There are many other fronts. The Congress and BJP are larger regional parties. There are 13 parties that are part of neither alliance. Possibly we might be calling the shots tomorrow. The arrogance of the BJP and the Congress is something that we do not subscribe to. There is scope for this national front.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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