Why did KCR start meeting with opposition leaders? Is it the fear of losing polls?
Hyderabad: Last Friday, leaders of the Telangana Congress were taken by surprise when they received a call from Pragati Bhavan, the official bungalow of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, saying he would like to meet with them.
Congress leaders were coming out of Raj Bhavan after submitting a memorandum to Governor Tamilisai Soundarrajan calling for strict action against police officials responsible for the death of a Dalit woman when they received the invitation.
Mariyamma, 40, died in custody at Addaguduru Police Station in Yadadri Bhongir District on June 18.
The new development was surprising even to the media, which immediately spread the news on their channels and websites. Because it is for the first time after having taken the head of the ministry of Telangana in June 2014 that KCR appointed the deputies of the Congress.
Unlike his predecessors in Congress and the Telugu Desam Party regimes in Andhra Pradesh combined who used to meet opposition delegations on various issues and hold all-party meetings on important political decisions, KCR followed a unique style.
In the past seven years he has never met any opposition MPs except when they wanted to shift their loyalty to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi. Besides the leaders of his friendly party – the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), Congress or BJP deputies had failed to secure appointments to meet with the KCR, either inside or at the outside the state assembly.
The last time a delegation of congressional leaders tried unsuccessfully to submit a memorandum to the Chief Minister was in July 2018, when eight young Dalits from Nerella village, Siricilla district, were tortured in police station for setting fire to a sand truck that killed a local youth.
After that, the opposition leaders stopped asking for the appointment of KCR. So it was rather a surprise to the leaders of Congress last Friday when they were told he wanted to meet them.
When the delegation led by the party leader of the Legislative Assembly of Congress and Madhira MP Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka met with the Chief Minister, he not only received them well but also spoke to each of them affectionately, before to concede their requests for ex-gratia to the family of the death in custody. victim and dismissal of the lost police.
Within hours there was another surprising development. The chief minister urged opposition parties including Congress, BJP, MIM, CPI and CPI (M) to send their Dalit representatives to a multi-party meeting on Sunday to discuss the modalities of the empowerment program. Dalits of the CM.
It was a one-day session that ended at 10 pm and the Prime Minister provided a sumptuous lunch and dinner for the opposition representatives. He also listened patiently to the leaders and incorporated some of their suggestions into the program.
The latest developments make it clear that there has been a noticeable shift in KCR’s attitude in the recent past – not only in entertaining opposition parties and giving value to their suggestions, but also in how it operates in as administrative head.
From the start, KCR had been a leader with a difference. Except a few times during his early days as Chief Minister, he never visited the Secretariat, the seat of administration. All official machinery comes to his camp office to attend meetings.
Unlike its predecessors, KCR never held regular cabinet meetings, which are essential for making crucial political decisions. He never gave his ministers (except of course his son KT Rama Rao) the freedom to conduct review meetings of their respective departments. If there were important decisions in a department, the chief minister himself conducted review meetings.
Its focus areas were mainly irrigation and agriculture and where appropriate KCR had a regular review, it only covered the Kaleshwaram Irrigation Project and agriculture focused programs like Rythu Bandhu.
Unlike the other chief ministers, KCR had not shown much interest in field visits to directly understand the problems of the people. Except during elections, he never toured extensively in any part of the state. His favorite field trips were mainly to the Kaleshwaram project sites and the Yadadri temple. His field visits can be counted on at their fingertips and most of them would be in Gajwel or Siddipet.
Even when there were major accidents like the death of more than 60 people in a bus crash in Kondagattu in Jagitial district in September 2019, KCR never bothered to appeal to the bereaved families.
After becoming chief minister, KCR virtually stopped going even to Telangana Bhavan, the headquarters of the TRS, to meet with party officials. Forget the opposition leaders, it had not been accessible even to ministers and deputies. As former health minister Eatala Rajender pointed out, there have been numerous occasions when ministers have been denied hearing even after having to wait more than four hours.
Now KCR appears to be a changed man, especially after the Eatala episode. He regularly meets his party leaders and takes their representations. He began to conduct formal review meetings on various topics and even cabinet meetings on a fairly regular basis. He also organized collector’s conferences to take stock of the progress of various development work.
His recent visit to Yadadri Bhongir’s Vasalamarri village where he had lunch with the villagers was also a surprising development. His official tours to Siddipet and Warangal indicate that he wants to be seen and heard more in public.
Apparently, KCR sensed growing opposition to power among the population during his second term and the strengthening of the opposition, especially from the BJP. He realized that he had to abandon his feudal style of government and become more democratic, if he was to retain the support of the masses.
A Srinivasa Rao is a senior journalist based in Hyderabad and covers developments in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. He has over three decades of reporting experience.