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Why KCR's early poll call must be condemned

September 25, 2018 09:30 IST

'If the TRS, with 75% seats in the Telangana assembly, can be coerced into a sense of resignation by a tiny party that has just 10% of seats, then questions have to be asked about KCR's mettle as leader,' says Sudhir Bisht.

On September 6, 2018, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (or KCR, as he is popularly known) recommended to Governor E S L Narasimhan the dissolution of the state assembly.

The recommendation was immediately accepted by the governor and the state assembly's tenure came to an end, nearly eight months before it was due to expire.

The decision to dissolve the assembly was taken by KCR, whose Telangana Rashtriya Samiti enjoyed a three-fourth majority in the assembly.

The reason given by the the TRS is vague, funny and fuzzy. It says, 'We have dissolved the assembly to curb growing political fragility. As elections are nearing, the Opposition (Congress) has started levelling baseless allegations of corruption.'

The TRS goes on to say, 'We don't want this to threaten the state's economic growth. So we have decided to go for a fresh mandate.'

Does KCR mean that the Congress, which had just 13 MLAs in the recently dissolved assembly, was capable of pushing the TRS, that had 90-plus MLAs in the 119-member assembly, into early elections?

What does that make the TRS as a party? Pusillanimous and puerile?

 

If the TRS, with 75 per cent seats in the Telangana assembly, can be coerced into a sense of resignation by a tiny party that has just 10 per cent of seats, then questions have to be asked about KCR's mettle as leader.

If KCR can bullied into relinquishing his lawfully elected office by allegations of corruption, then he needs to give up politics and retire to a Vanaprastha ashram right away.

If KCR feels that political mudslinging by opponents can threaten Telangana's economic growth, then he should resign to the fact that his state will never progress as political mudslinging is on the rise and it doesn't seem likely to abate anytime soon.

KCR's defence of his decision to go in for early polls is devoid of any logic.

He was quoted as saying by Mint, 'We have implemented 99.9 per cent of our election manifesto and there has not been a single communal incident in Hyderabad in the last four-and-a-half years. The state has registered a growth rate of 21.96 per cent in 2018-19.'

If indeed the state of Telangana was on such a rapid growth path, then a sensible chief minister should have allowed the golden run to continue and reaped the political dividends of the economic prosperity during his tenure.

And what is the connection between not having a single communal incident and calling for an early election? XV

Clearly there is something more to it that meets the eye.

The Indian National Congress's Telangana chief, on the other hand, has alleged (external link) that KCR and his family get a commission in all state projects and his regime has witnessed the biggest loot in India!

Does it mean that KCR has decided to go to polls before the allegations of corruption gain more coverage and credibility?

Or is it that KCR has been advised by his astrologers to go for early polls as his planetary positions point to a return to power if he goes to the polls now?

I am also surprised that the thought leaders and opinion-makers of India have largely kept mum at this illogical call for early elections in Telangana.

The electorate votes in its representatives for a five-year term. If the latter can shorten their tenure at their will, then there should also be an option available to the voters to recall them ahead of their terms.

I also want to raise a point here in respect to the government money that will be spent in conducting the assembly elections.

As per a detailed report (external link) in The Hindu, the Election Commission estimated that the election of each MLA in Karnataka cost the EC Rs 1 crore.

If the same ballpark figure of Rs 1 crore per MLA is taken as the expense incurred by government agencies, then the Telangana state assembly elections would cost Rs 119 crore.

This, however, covers just the direct costs incurred by the Election Commission, like those on security arrangements and in procuring/deploying electronic voting machines and the Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail machines.

There will be several other costs, like movement of bureaucrats and other personnel, and there would be an opportunity cost in terms of closure of schools and offices, etc.

I am assuming that the Telangana elections would cost the exchequer (the Union and state governments) about Rs 250 crores. This figure appears abysmally low, but I am erring on the side of caution.

Sceptics may argue that this expense is given and that if it is not incurred now, it would surely have incurred next year when the Telangana assembly term would actually have expired.

I want to underline here that forwarding a Rs 250 crore expense in this financial year will come at the cost of some other planned expenditure during the same period.

If this sum of Rs 250 crore was earmarked for a social cause or a developmental activity, then its diversion would surely cause a setback to that planned activity.

So it is not about just taking Rs 250 crore from the next fiscal year to this fiscal year. It is about tampering with the planned and budgeted development activity schedule.

Telangana was, till some time ago, part of united Andhra Pradesh and its then chief minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu used to describe himself as the chief executive officer of the state.

KCR's son K T Rama Rao (popularly known as KTR) was hailed as the 'Most Inspirational Business Icon' by CNN-IBN in 2015.

KTR is known to be the intellectual power that drives the TRS government in Telangana.

Would KTR, a thoroughbred professional and Telangana's IT minister, think of a situation when a service contract that is awarded for five years is unilaterally terminated by a company before the full term?

If new generation politicians fancy themselves as ethical professionals, then is it not their duty to ask those who elected them if they could dissolve the assembly nearly a year in advance?

I also want to say that advancing an expense of Rs 250 crore by eight months comes at an interest cost of at least Rs 13 crore if one calculates it at a simple interest of 8 per cent per annum.

Rs 13 crore may seem like loose change for an Indian state, but it isn't about the quantum of money alone.

It is about ethics in governance and the way we treat the mandate given to democratically elected representatives by the voters.

Was it not just two years ago that the KCR-KTR duo gave all Telangana MLAs a 163 per cent hike (external link) in pay, making Telangana MLAs the highest paid in the country?

So what is the message that KCR and his son are giving to the nation?

Take a whopping salary hike and then shorten your service contract by 15 per cent?

Is this even ethical, by any standards?

I hope my article starts a debate and we don't let our political rulers shorten their tenures, hike their salaries and life-long pensions without any accountability.

Sudhir Bisht, PhD, author and columnist, tweets at @sudhir_bisht

Sudhir Bisht