In KCR’s home constituency, it is development vs dissent
Despite development work in Gajwel, a section of farmers is unhappy with land acquisition
As one takes a right turn from Pragnapur village and enters Gajwel in Siddipet district, there is a marked change in the surroundings. From well-laid roads to the newly inaugurated swanky government hospital, the area has witnessed a spurt in developmental activities ever since Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) supremo K. Chandrashekar Rao won from the Gajwel assembly constituency in 2014.
In the past four-and-a-half-years, Rao, or KCR, the caretaker chief minister, has built a fully functional government educational complex, complete with hostels and a degree college, a recreation facility with an artificial lake, internal roads connecting different villages, besides a host of other facilities in Gajwel town.
“KCR has taken Gajwel forward by 30 years. Not a single MLA in the past has done as much as he has. The government hospital has ultrasound and X-ray facilities, and people don’t have to go to Hyderabad for treatment anymore,” said Mohammed Ismail, a TRS worker, who is gearing up to campaign for Rao in the forthcoming polls scheduled on 7 December.
Echoing his sentiments was Srinivas, 40, a businessman, who was content with the new infrastructure. “Business is good now. We have not seen this kind of change under any MLA before.”
However a recurring complaint among many people is that Rao never meets the public, nor is he accessible in spite of being their MLA.
Unlike in 2014, the Congress and the Telugu Desam party (TDP) are in an alliance now. Rao had won the seat with 86,372 votes, while his nearest contender V. Pratap Reddy of the TDP (now with the Congress) secured 67,154 vote and the then Congress candidate T. Narsa Reddy came third with 33,998 votes.
The opposition’s grand alliance, comprising the Congress, TDP, Communist Party of India and Telangana Praja Samithi, is hoping to give Rao a tough fight this time.
And, despite all the good work, KCR has something to worry about—a section of farmers is unhappy with the state government for acquiring their lands for the ₹80,000 crore Kaleswaram irrigation project. Touted as the world’s biggest irrigation project, it will have a 1,800km canal network covering 1.8 million acres and 13 districts to provide water to almost the entire state.
M. China Saidaiah, a 65-year-old farmer, was extremely aggrieved and upset for having to give up two acres of farmland in Tipparam village for ₹12 lakh. “What am I supposed to do with ₹12 lakh? It will cost me ₹20 lakh to buy one acre of farmland in Singatam village where I am living.”
Likewise, Ippala Ramulu, who had to part with 7.5 acres of farmland in Tipparam village, was extremely upset. “I am yet to receive the full compensation money from the government. Now I have just one acre to work on.”
In fact, dozens of farmers are unhappy with Rao in the Gajwel constituency. Even the state government’s flagship “Rythu Bandhu” scheme, under which land-owning farmers get ₹4,000 per acre (per annum) as farming costs, hasn’t earned Rao brownie points.
Clearly, the lines are drawn between Rao’s development agenda and the resentment among the farming community.
Aware of the rising discontent, the TRS chief is expected to address close to 100 rallies before the polls.
While TRS leaders, who did not want to be identified, maintained that Rao will win comfortably, senior TDP leader E. Peddi Reddy expressed confidence that the opposition alliance will win the seat.
State irrigation minister and KCR’s nephew T. Harish Rao was, however, confident that the chief minister will win comfortably. “He (Rao) will win with a margin of over 50,000 votes, and the TRS will get about 100 seats in the elections,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a press conference in Hyderabad on Thursday.
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