Father-in-law vs son-in-law for Congress ticket

By T S Sudhir

Politicians lobbying for tickets for their kith and kin is nothing new in Indian politics. One has seen it in several elections, including the latest round of state elections in five states. But what is happening within the Congress for the party ticket to the Secunderabad Cantonment constituency is something rather new. A father-in-law is lobbying for a ticket, asking the party to deny it to his son-in-law.
With his work on the ground in the last three years and an active participant in the agitation for Telangana before that, M Krishank, an Osmania University student leader who joined the Congress, was always the frontrunner to get the ticket. He has been leading from the front when it comes to articulating people’s issues in this reserved constituency in the state capital. His `basti nidras’ that involve spending the night in a slum, listening to their woes, sharing their dinner and sleeping under a tent, have helped him develop a connect with the urban poor. He also has a rapport with Rahul Gandhi and his team and with the party’s emphasis on fielding new and young faces, atleast on paper, Krishank fits the bill.
Enter his father-in-law Sarvey Satyanarayana, former Union minister in the UPA. He has also thrown his hat into the ring, staking his claim to the Secunderabad Cantt seat. His argument is that he is a senior face of the Congress, who has represented the constituency in 1985 on a Telugu Desam ticket. He was subsequently MP from Malkajgiri in 2009 and Secunderabad Cantt is one of the assembly segments under it. 
This family feud is making matters difficult for the Congress leadership. It is
neither able to refuse a senior leader like Satyanarayana nor does it see merit in rejecting a fresh face like Krishank who has nurtured the constituency, after being informally promised the ticket.
In order to make Satyanarayana give way, a diktat was issued from Delhi to all former MPs who are contesting the assembly elections. They were told that in case they lose, they cannot expect a ticket in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Alternately word was reportedly sent to Satyanarayana that if he withdrew from the race, he would be fielded from Nagarkurnool seat which is considered a safe seat for the Congress.
But Satyanarayana is reportedly keen to contest because he believes a Dalit MLA has a good chance to become CM, if the Congress-led Grand Alliance comes to power in Telangana. He is banking on the anti-incumbency that exists against four-time MLA G Sayanna, who was elected in 1994, 1999, 2004 and 2014 on a TDP ticket. Sayanna subsequently migrated to the TRS and has been fielded by the pink party this time. 
Satyanarayana’s last two elections resulted in defeats. In 2014, he lost the Lok Sabha election from Malkajgiri and the following year, suffered a crushing defeat in the byelection from Warangal Lok Sabha constituency. 
The process of nominations opened on Monday and the Alliance list after several rounds of discussions is set to be announced on November 13. Krishank is hoping that the Congress will keep its word to give one seat to a student leader from Osmania University and among five claimants to such a quota seat, he has the best credentials.
His Plan B is to make it a family battle as an independent candidate or approach the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) for its elephant symbol. While conventional logic says that may end up helping Sayanna as he will split up the anti-TRS vote in the constituency, it is also quite possible that the Cantonment electorate could take a break from voting for familiar names who have represented them all for the last three and a half decades and plump for a new energetic candidate. 
It is not Krishank who is on test, it is the Congress that is being tested.

The battle for KCR’s Gajwel


By T S Sudhir

For the past several days, Harish Rao, Telangana’s irrigation minister and chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s nephew, has been campaigning in Gajwel. Why this is significant is because Gajwel is KCR’s constituency and given the high stakes, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) chief has deployed his best campaign manager there.
Harish Rao has been with KCR right from the inception of TRS and was an integral part of the agitation for statehood to Telangana. What’s more, every minister – from deputy CM Mahmood Ali to Animal Husbandry minister Srinivas Yadav – has been tasked with campaigning in Gajwel as well. 
This has made people ask the question if all this indicates nervousness in the KCR camp over Gajwel. 
Ideally it should be a cakewalk for KCR in Gajwel. To give the chief minister credit, the constituency has witnessed development in the last four years. Be it in the form of motorable roads, a new government hospital, an auditorium, a park, market yard, integrated facilities for education, Gajwel has been touched by KCR’s largesse. So when it is expected that the voters will be more than willing to reward KCR for the good work done, where is the need for Harish Rao to work so hard in Gajwel.
The reason is Math.
In 2014, KCR emerged the winner with 86600 votes, 19000 votes more than V Pratap Reddy of the Telugu Desam who bagged 67000 votes. This time Reddy has crossed over to the Congress and will be announced as the joint opposition candidate against KCR. Four years ago, Narsa Reddy of the Congress polled 34000 votes and after a spell in the TRS, he is back with his parent party. He has promised to back Pratap Reddy’s candidature. It is the arithmetic of 67000 + 34000 which is decisively more than 86000 that could upset the TRS applecart in Gajwel.
But for that to happen, the vote transfer between the Congress and the TDP voter has to happen seamlessly. The argument is that since Pratap Reddy has crossed over from the TDP to the Congress, he will ensure it happens. Harish Rao’s task is to ensure Reddy does not score an upset. 
Why would the 2.27 lakh voters of Gajwel plump for a Reddy who may be just another MLA instead of the CM? The criticism against KCR largely is that though he spends a considerable amount of time at his farmhouse in Eravelli, he remains largely inaccessible. In contrast, Reddy has spent most of the last four years building interpersonal relationships with villagers in just about every part of Gajwel. Will that goodwill translate into votes this winter is the question.
KCR is not complacent and there is reason for it. There have been upsets even for chief ministers and high profile candidates in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. In 1989, NT Rama Rao lost from Kalwakurthy while winning from Hindupur. Actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi who positioned himself as chief ministerial aspirant in 2009, contested from two seats – Tirupati and Palacole. He won from the temple town but lost from the second seat in West Godavari district.
Harish Rao would also do well to take a close look at what happened in neighbouring Karnataka in May this year. Chief minister Siddaramaiah contested from Chamundeswari in Old Mysuru region where the JD(S) had fielded his friend-turned-foe GT Deve Gowda. Since it was suspected that there would be a tacit understanding between the BJP and the JD(S) whereby the former would transfer its vote to Gowda to defeat Siddaramaiah, the CM chose to contest from Badami in north Karnataka as well. That proved to be a face saver as Siddaramaiah indeed bit the dust in Chamundeswari. 
Realising that Harish Rao could well stand between Reddy and a difficult victory,
mindgames are being played in Gajwel. Reddy has claimed that Harish Rao called him from a private number and said, “If you defeat my uncle, their family will go behind and I will work with you. I am ready to help.” Reddy also went on to allege that Harish was in touch with the Congress and would join the party soon. 
Realising the gameplan, Harish declared dramatically that his birth and death will be in TRS only. He also vowed to ensured Pratap Reddy lost his deposit and his political career was buried. Harish has promised to pursue the charge legally. 
Again talk of differences between Harish Rao and the rest of the KCR family are not new and several people in the know, have continuously spread different conspiracy theories on what could possibly happen if Telangana were to give a fractured verdict. It is to quell such rumours that Harish and KCR’s son and Telangana IT minister KT Rama Rao, recently appeared together in public, praising each other. 
Earlier, balladeer and former Maoist Gaddar had evinced interest in contesting against KCR from Gajwel. He even met Rahul Gandhi but the party does not seem to be in a mood to trust a high-profile constituency with a political greenhorn. Incidentally 7 December will be the first time that Gaddar will be voting in an election.
Meanwhile pictures of Harish Rao playing tennis and cricket have appeared on social media. His managers perhaps want to convey that the ball is in his court.

Door-to-door EVM next?

By T S Sudhir
At 6:15 pm, when K Chandrasekhar Rao addressed the media to claim the Telangana household survey was a resounding success, the Telangana chief minister claimed over 90 per cent had taken part in the survey. And that by the time, the curtains were down between 7-8 pm, it would be tantalisingly close to 100 per cent. With no agency to dispute the accuracy of the figures, one has no option but to take the sarkaari word as the gospel truth.
If what KCR is saying is indeed true, then this should be adopted as the template to conduct elections in India. After all, KCR has just shown that he is the Chief Election Commissioner India never had. (KCR seen in pic taking part in the survey)
kcr ktr survey
Just imagine, shutting down all of India for one day, a true Bharat Bandh, the kind our Communist friends can only dream of enforcing. All schools, colleges, offices, shops, factories shut for the day. Stop all buses, trains and aircraft. Stop even pizza delivery boys and vegetable vendors. Impose a one-day house arrest for every citizen above 18 years of age and do a door-to-door EVM yatra. The largest ever yatra of its kind in the world.
`India votes’. And this time, India would be at home, doing so, quite literally. And the voting percentage will zoom much beyond the pathetic 60s it records in most constituencies at the moment. 
Imagine Twitter timelines and Facebook profiles full to the brim with selfies and group pictures with the EVM officials. Something you cannot do inside the polling booths.
And what’s more, the prospect of getting an extra day off work is huge. Just like in Telangana, where August 20 has been declared a public holiday. Yo ! 
The Telangana survey exercise has caused much envy and heartburn in other parts of India. No, not about the benefits that most who are surveyed are unlikely to get but about getting a government-sponsored day off. India’s youngest state is indeed showing the way. 

August 19, the day Telangana will be under `house arrest’

By T S Sudhir
“Don’t spread rumours and panic,” K Chandrasekhar Rao gently admonished the media, asking them not to do anything to dissuade people of Telangana from taking part in the August 19 intensive household survey. (Read previous blog by T S Sudhir here)
On his part, the Telangana chief minister is leaving nothing to chance. Short of calling it house arrest, the government won’t make it easy for you to stir out of home. No bus, no auto will ply in the ten districts of the state, all government and private offices will be closed. So will be commercial establishments and educational institutions. Four crore Telanganites have been asked to be at home.
My colleague, a native of Telangana has a genuine concern and something that reflects the doubts over data privacy. “Should I declare my property details or not? If I do not declare the land I have in my village, isn’t it quite possible that it will be grabbed and because I did not declare it in the survey, the government of Telangana will tell me it is no longer yours,” is his dilemma. 
Though the column that would have revealed nativity has now been removed, after much public outrage, doubts persist that identifying the settlers (people from Andhra Pradesh) in Telangana is the prime objective. But fear not, because that cannot be identified with this survey. The Telugu Desam is however, doing its bit of mischief by leaking a video of someone who is identified as the PRO to the Telangana CM, who makes outrageous claims that settlers will be thrown out of Telangana after this survey.
The Telangana government has now said that taking part in the survey is optional and KCR has also clarified that revealing bank account numbers is optional. But what about lakhs of people, who fear they will be targeted if they do not reveal all information. Plus there is no guarantee of data privacy. When an unauthorised employee in the bank where you hold an account can unethically peep into your bank account and ask you the reason you have parked your funds there and suggest other financial options, where is the guarantee that only a few officers in responsible positions will have access to personal information about you.
Defenders of the Telangana government argue why this outrage was not there when Aadhaar demanded your bank account number. It wasn’t there for the simple reason that there was a clear linkage that was sought to be established between LPG reimbursement and Aadhaar card. The TRS government so far at least, has not spoken about any such financial linkage. Also if that was indeed the reason to demand bank account number, one account number would have sufficed, why ask for all of them. No one in the establishment has answered these queries satisfactorily.
P.S. The next time, you get a telemarketing call, asking you if you will like to buy a second AC, since you have only one, you know where they have got that info from. Or if you get a telemarketing call, suggesting better quality food for your dog, you know you are barking up the right tree.

Stand up and be counted in Telangana

By T S Sudhir
`Hidden agenda’ is a term that is being spoken about quite a bit in Telangana these days. The reference is to the real intention of the Telangana government in undertaking an ambitious household survey on August 19. The day has been declared a holiday and to ensure everyone in the 84 lakh households stay home on Tuesday, buses are unlikely to ply, petrol bunks will be closed and all offices – government and private – have been asked to shut shop.
The Telangana government says it wants to find out about the socio-economic status of its 4 crore citizens. The aim it says is also to get rid of anomalies like the existence of 1.47 crore ration cards for its 84 lakh families. Fair enough. That is indeed a honourable objective and law-abiding citizens should ideally have no qualms about being part of an exercise that seeks to get rid of bogus cards and thereby save public money.
The doubts arise because no one quite knows what the government plans to do with the data. When the government of India has access to almost all your financial details through the PAN card and knows your address details through the Aadhaar card, where is the need for yet another survey that asks for exhaustive details of your bank account numbers, property details, how many vehicles you own, their registration number, even how many air conditioners and pigs, cows, ox, dogs and poultry. The manner in which questions are raining cats and dogs, don’t be surprised if many citizens chicken out of revealing so much information.
Because the fear – and legitimately so – is whether this data will be safe. The opposition BJP and TDP have raised this bogey, further scaring the people. Those settled in the state capital from Andhra Pradesh do fear being targeted, though the controversial question “Where did you come to Telangana from?” no longer figures in the survey form. With the trust deficit, continuously fanned by the political class, suspicion is a dominant emotion.
A TRS leader Srinivas Taduri pointed out the government should know what every citizen is doing. Particularly in the light of ISI activities and bomb blasts that have happened in Hyderabad in the recent past, he said. I suppose he does not expect any citizen, even if he is part of an ISI sleeper cell, to put `Terrorist’ in the occupation column when the enumerators come visiting. Intelligence gathering does not happen through such surveys, that is a police job.
What is needed is someone right at the top, preferably the chief minister, to talk directly to the people to explain what he plans to do. Assuage their feelings, address their fears, concerns, apprehensions. KCR’s maiden Independence Day speech from Golconda Fort may give him just the right opportunity and platform.

Kavitha’s argument out of tune?

By T S Sudhir
Is it an act of sedition to say Hyderabad and Kashmir were forcefully annexed to the Indian Union post independence in 1947? Is it an act of sedition to suggest that India must accept the reality (meaning to say – recognise the reality of the LoC) and move on?
My mind, with limited knowledge of law, says not really. Both points were uttered by K Kavitha, TRS MP from Nizamabad and daughter of Telangana chief minister, K Chandrasekhar Rao at a media conclave in July. For which now, on the orders of a lower court in Hyderabad, the city police has booked Kavitha under three different sections of the IPC, one of which is for sedition.
Yes, there is an error when relating history on Kavitha’s part and equating Hyderabad with Kashmir is certainly wrong. The Maharaja of Kashmir did want to remain independent like the Nizam of Hyderabad. But when the Pakistan raiders overran his kingdom, he turned to India for help and agreed to make his kingdom a part of India.
That was not quite the case with Hyderabad where the Nizam had to be shown the might of India to fall in line. Police action in September 1948 ensured the kingdom of Hyderabad – which is largely present-day Telangana – became part of India. But again here, it was only the Nizam who became a reluctant Indian citizen. Because his subjects fed up of the atrocities committed by the Razakars, wanted Hyderabad to merge with the Indian Union. So to say “forcefully annexed” is not entirely rooted in history. The 7th Nizam, Mir Osman Alik Khan was merely the ruler of Hyderabad, he wasn’t Hyderabad.
The second comment is more of a suggestion, a solution to somehow take things forward. But to make it seem as if PoK is akin to a land having been grabbed and you give up the fight against the land grabber, is not quite the thing to say, more so when you are an MP. This is about patriotism, even if it is a tad impractical. Yes, it is highly unlikely that India would be able to get PoK vacated by Pakistan but you do not agree, like a meek country, to shrink in size. Certainly not a big brother like India.
The intent behind Kavitha’s remarks, to my mind, is not wrong. But they certainly go against the idea of India. An India who is strong. An India where the people mattered more than what an autocratic ruler did. For Kavitha to reduce the issue to a petitioner trying to have his day of glory, is not really what one would expect from someone like her.

Why some AP industrialists in Hyderabad are looking east

By T S Sudhir


Less than a month since the official division of Andhra Pradesh, many firms established in Hyderabad and in other districts of Telangana state are looking east. Owned by those from the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, their reasons to move out of Telangana however, vary. While some want to be part of the development process of the residuary Andhra Pradesh, others are smelling a good business opportunity if the new state offers generous tax incentives. Some others feel they will be short of opportunities in a Telangana state that will like to give preference to its own entrepreneurs.


Sanjay Devulapalli and Sai Ramesh started Malloc Solutions, an IT company, in Hyderabad in 2007. Sanjay is from Telangana while Ramesh is from coastal Andhra. Now with the borders redrawn, the partners have decided to branch out as well. The decision was also motivated by Ramesh’s desire to work out of Visakhapatnam, his hometown. So Malloc Solutions will now set up a unit in the city of destiny in addition to its operations in Hyderabad.


“We have been thinking about in the last three months since the elections happened. For me, it was a business decision. If the state of Andhra Pradesh is going to give some exemptions and encourage business, especially since we are into e-governance, we see an opportunity,” says Sanjay Devulapalli. “For me, it was most definitely an emotional decision to go back to Vizag,” says Sai Ramesh.


The reasons are different for Lakshmi Prasad, prinicipal consultant with Soham IT services. He feels he is being treated as a second-class entrepreneur in Telangana state. 


“Yes, we are also going for business reasons but there is an underlying emotional reason as well. I have studied in Nizamabad in Telangana and have been here since 1983. Yet I feel that the manner in which the state is divided, there is now a glass ceiling. The emotional factor is impacting our business. Even the clients are backing out and looking at us as Andhra companies and have second thoughts about doing business with us,” says Prasad.


A few entrepreneurs especially in the manufacturing sector, who did not want to be named, said a few Telangana clients are withdrawing orders, indirectly pushing those with Seemandhra roots out. What is worrying them also is the demand of the Telangana Joint action committee that is placing restrictions on the kind of labour they employ. Prof M Kodandaram, Chairman of the TJAC says, “About 70 to 75 per cent of the jobs pertaining to skilled and semi-skilled category should be reserved for local people. This includes operators and people below that.”


But not everyone is convinced that shifting to Andhra Pradesh at the moment is a good idea. IT honcho Raghu Sakuru says none of the cities in Andhra Pradesh compare in terms of infrastructure with Hyderabad and therefore, it makes little sense to move out of an established IT centre.


But the Chandrababu Naidu government is already gloating over the early gains, in terms of a spike in firms queuing up to register themselves in Andhra Pradesh. “Naidu has international image and is a brand. Industry has confidence on him about permission and law and order. That is why businessmen are more attracted towards Andhra Pradesh,” says C M Ramesh, TDP MP. Jitender Reddy, leader of the TRS parliamentary party pooh-poohs the claim saying Telangana is a new brand while Andhra Pradesh is an established brand. “These are teething problems in Telangana. It is a hare and tortoise story. They will do things in a hurry. We will do it slow and steady,” says Reddy. Telangana IT minister K T Rama Rao is already in overdrive, trying to woo industry to help the government add lustre to Brand Hyderabad. 


But just as Rome was not built in one day, Andhra Pradesh will face a long gestation period. Not just infrastructure, even quality manpower faces a question mark in Naidu land and that will prompt many from the state, working in Hyderabad, to stay back despite the problems. But the early flight of entrepreneurship, even if it is a trickle, is not something that will help Telangana’s brand equity.