Rama Krishna Sangem
Congress top leader Rahul Gandhi virtually launched his party’s electioneering in Telangana from a public rally in Warangal on May 6, Friday. He focused his attention on tenant farmers and agricultural labour. These two groups, incidentally are at present not covered by KCR-led TRS government’s Rythu Bandhu scheme which gives land owning farmers a cash assistance at the rate of Rs 10,000 per acre, per year.
Christened as Warangal Declaration, a paper with nine major promises to farmers was released at the rally by PCC president and MP A Revanth Reddy. This declaration was modelled on a similar poll promise made by Congress in Chhattisgarh three years ago. Writing off farm loans up to Rs 2 lakh for each farmer, increasing minimum support price (MSP) for various crops are some of the high points of the Warangal declaration.
Two announcements stand out in the declaration: 1. Cash help to tenant farmers at the rate of Rs 15,000 per year per acre. 2. Direct cash transfer of Rs 12,000 per year to every landless agricultural labour. According to an estimate, these two schemes will cover around 45 lakh persons, as against 56 lakh land owning farmers covered by Rythu Bandhu.
As Congress failed to make its presence in 2018 Assembly elections in Telangana, mainly due to Rythu Bandhu scheme of CM KCR, this time Rahul Gandhi wanted to focus on other left out sections. Congress’ newly appointed electoral strategist Sunil Kanugloe too is understood to have played a role in framing these two new promises.
Many have doubts over the feasibility of these schemes for tenants and landless labour, but Revanth says: “They are game changers. “
Warangal public meeting was well attended, building confidence among Telangana Congress leaders, who are badly divided into groups. Many warring leaders like Revanth Reddy, former PCC chief and MP N Uttam Kumar Reddy, Star Campaigner and MP Komatireddy Venkat Reddy, veterans like K Jana Reddy, Madhu Yashki Goud, J Geeta Reddy and Ponnam Prabhakar were present at the meeting. But Congress MLA Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy was absent.
On the second day of his stay in Hyderabad, Rahul Gandhi met a section of Telangana civil society – right from Bahujan intellectual Prof Kanche Ilaiah to rights’ activist Prof Haragopal, and a group of media chiefs, in one- on-one meetings. Rahul, through these interactions, wanted to gather first-hand information on the ground situation in Telangana and take suggestions to revive Congress in Telangana.
Rahul Gandhi has toured in Telangana after a gap of over three years – since 2018-19 electoral defeats. This time, he appeared to be focused and keen on winning Telangana. He ruled out any tie-ups with any other party here. He brought curtains on any possible understanding of Congress with TRS, a speculation kicked off since Prashant Kishor’s meeting with CM KCR last month. On the other hand, Rahul alleged some nexus between BJP and TRS.
A senior political observer who analysed Rahul’s speech told Excel India that the Congress leader had successfully established some nexus between TRS and BJP. “Rahul’s remarks that why TRS should back all the Bills of BJP in Parliament? Why the Center hasn’t ordered ED or CBI against corruption of TRS government – is a point that may stick with,” he said.
Rahul couldn’t visit Osmania University, the hotbed of Telangana agitation a decade ago, but he visited the jailed NSU(I) leaders in Chenchalguda central jail to express solidarity with them. These leaders were jailed because, they staged protests in the varsity demanding permission to Rahul’s visit a few days ago. Rahul may have brought some hope to Congress circles, but will they sustain it till the next elections two years away?