Hyderabad: Telangana Rashtra Samiti MPs on Wednesday staged a dharna in front of Gandhi statue in the Parliament demanding the release of funds due for the newest state of India. Breaking a six-month-long silence, Kalvakuntla Kavitha, former Nizamabad MP, urged Prime Minister Modi in a tweet not to make cooperative federalism just a slogan.
It happened hours before the state cabinet reviewed the worsening state finances. Referring to the economic slowdown and the Centre’s delay in releasing funds, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao asked his ministers to stick to budgetary allocations. He urged them not to be extravagant to tide over the fund crunch.
In the five-hour-long meeting, the CM was critical of the Centre for not releasing what is due for the state. He also recalled how the Centre had not released even the allocations made for the state in the union budget.
These developments took place, as if orchestrated, on the eve of completion of one year of KCR’s second term. He took oath as chief minister for the second time on December 13 2018, following a massive majority in assembly polls.
Now, the writing on the wall is clear. The government is no longer in a comfort zone with the economy staring at tough times. The financial commitments for welfare measures and significant projects launched in the first term are well beyond the ways and means available for the state.
In the first term (2014-2018), KCR enjoyed fruits of the successful Telangana movement. As the new state came into existence, people extended unwavering moral support since the memories of the 14-year-long movements were fresh. It encouraged the chief minister to launch numerous significant projects, discarding the ones started by the previous Congress government of united Andhra Pradesh. Coupled with multiple welfare schemes, these projects, which are nowhere near completion, are expected to put an enormous burden on the exchequer.
Ironically, the successful first term is going to become the proverbial millstone around the neck of the state government. The majority of the high profile projects either have missed the targets or are progressing at snail’s pace. Telangana Congress and BJP see massive corruption in the irrigation projects. They argue that corruption was responsible for the significant capital cost, which reduced the surplus state into a debt-ridden one.
The first indication of the shape of things to come was revealed during the presentation of the 2019-20 budget by none other than KCR. The CM had cut the budgetary spending by fifth, pointing to the economic slowdown and dip in revenues. It seems to have affected not only the progress of on-going projects but also the implementation of welfare measures such as Rythu Bandhu, loan waiver, 2BHK, etc.
Of all the schemes, Rythu Bandhu and loan waiver are said to have played a significant role in the massive win for TRS in 2018 elections. Now with meagre allocation made in the budget, the flagship Rythu Bandhu scheme has faltered in the first year itself.
If the reports were to be believed, the government is planning to impose land ceiling for the universal scheme. Similarly, the ambitious 2BHK project is also going to be a disappointment because of the lack of funds.
The various projects — Mission Bhagiratha, Mission Kakatiya, fee reimbursement scheme, pension scheme — are all expected to suffer fund crunch in the second year of the second term. The repayment commitments and maintenance of lift irrigation projects are likely to aggravate the situation.
The RTC strike, which is no longer an issue now, is seen as a blow to the credibility of the TRS government. Though the employees finally surrendered, the way the government handled the unrest has dinted KCR’s image as an administrator with a heart.
KCR is entering a phase where his autocratic personality and his ability to fulfil the electoral promises he made will be under the scrutiny of the electorate in the rest of the second term. Now the blame for the state’s predicament cannot be put on the Andhra rulers, TDP and the Congress. What is the option left for the CM?
Would he wage war on the Centre for its apathy towards Telangana?