CM KCR gearing up for showdown with Centre

The TRS decision to intensify the protest comes close on the heels of the face-off during the ongoing Winter Session of the Parliament.

Hyderabad: Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao is gearing up for a direct fight with the Narendra Modi government at the Centre over the ‘raw deal’ being meted out in the state, especially in paddy procurement.

After two rounds of sit-in, including the one led by the Chief Minister himself in Hyderabad last month, demanding the Centre to lift entire paddy produced in the state, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief has asked his party cadres to widen the scope of the fight by staging protests in every village against ‘anti-farmer’ policies of the BJP-led NDA government.

Unlike the first phase of protest, which was confined to ‘dharnas’ in all the 119 Assembly constituencies, and the subsequent mega dharna led by KCR, as the Chief Minister is popularly known, in Hyderabad, the third phase will include demonstrations and burning of effigies.

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At a meeting with ministers, TRS state legislators, MPs and other leaders on December 17, KCR had declared an open war with the Centre.

“The party cadres have been told to burn effigies of BJP-led Centre and Union ministers who are speaking lies and spreading misinformation over the issue of paddy procurement,” a senior party leader had said after the meeting.

This will be the first time in seven years that TRS will be organising protests of this nature against the BJP-led Central government.

KCR, who last week completed three years as Chief Minister in his second term, minced no words in slamming the Centre for doing injustice to Telangana. He asked the party leaders to go to the people in their respective constituencies and explain to them the anti-farmer policies of the Centre.

KCR told the party cadres that the time has come for a decisive fight with the Centre, which is harming the interests of Telangana farmers by running away from its constitutional duty to lift paddy from the state.

The TRS decision to intensify the protest comes close on the heels of the face-off during the ongoing Winter Session of the Parliament.

After taking on the Centre on the floor of the House for not lifting paddy from the state, the TRS announced boycott of the rest of the session over paddy procurement, other issues related to Telangana and suspension of 12 members of Rajya Sabha belonging to other opposition parties.

The 16 MPs of TRS, including seven from Rajya Sabha, wanted the Centre to announce a national food grain procurement policy and also take a decision on paddy procurement from the state during the Rabi season.

Angered by the Centre’s attitude towards their demands, the TRS MPs said the country will get justice only when Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves his seat.

“This is a fascist and anti-farmer government. We will prepare the people to revolt against the BJP in the people’s arena,” said TRS Parliamentary party leader K. Keshava Rao.

The TRS government, which was already worried over the impact of the Centre’s decision not to procure parboiled rice during the upcoming Rabi season, is also up in arms for sluggish procurement of paddy during the ongoing Kharif season.

The TRS was further angered by the statement of Central minister Piyush Goyal in the Parliament as he sought to blame the state government for the tardy pace of procurement.

“How can they blame the state government when the Food Corporation of India, warehouses, trains all are in their hands,” asked Agriculture Minister S. Niranjan Reddy.

He claimed that the state has almost reached the procurement target of 60 lakh tonnes set by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for the current season. To mount pressure on the Centre to procure more paddy, a delegation of state ministers and MPs left for Delhi on Saturday.

The TRS is thus adopting a two-pronged strategy. While pressurising the Centre to lift the paddy from the state, the party is taking the issue to the grassroots level to explain to the people, especially farmers, that the problems are created by the anti-farmer policies of the Centre.

Political observers say that by hitting the streets, the TRS is also trying to effectively counter the BJP, whose state leadership has stepped up attack on the ruling party in the state for failing the farmers.

By organising a series of protests, TRS plans to expose what it calls ‘double game’ of the BJP. KCR and other leaders have been slamming the BJP leaders for provoking the farmers on a problem created by their own government at the Centre.

The TRS government has already appealed to the farmers not to grow paddy during Rabi season as the Centre has ruled out procuring parboiled rice from the state. The agriculture department said that since only parboiled rice is grown in the state due to its agro-climatic conditions, the farmers should look for alternate crops.

BJP leaders, on the other hand, have been asking the farmers to continue growing paddy and blaming TRS for the present situation. BJP’s state unit chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar has targeted the ruling party for not promoting the cultivation of fine quality rice.

Apart from countering the BJP, the TRS faces the big challenge of convincing the farmers to stop paddy cultivation. Since paddy cultivation is considered relatively easy and is not capital intensive, persuading the farmers for a change in crop pattern will not be easy. Some political analysts say that in this situation, the TRS has limited options.

“KCR needs an escape route from the potential wrath he would face at the hands of the farmers in Telangana. Irrigation projects were the biggest assets for the TRS government to cultivate a positive image among the farmers. But now the issue of paddy procurement might upset the farmers and turn them against this regime. Now KCR needs to find means to blame the Modi government for not procuring paddy. His attack on the Union government must be looked at from that prism,” said political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.

He also feels that time is fast approaching for KCR to transfer the baton of power to his son K.T. Rama Rao.

“This would necessitate KCR to find a higher pedestal to step on to, and pave way for his son. Talking of national politics, and indicating at his potential move to New Delhi, is possibly what KCR is looking at at this stage,” Reddy added.

With just two years to go for Assembly elections, KCR will be keen to ensure that he doesn’t lose grip on power in the state, and at the same time play a key role in national politics.

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