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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Telangana CM 'KCR' Following Nizam's 'Fancied Footsteps'

Telangana chief minister K. Chand­rasekhar Rao's (KCR) decisions—and shenanigans over vaastu—make him seem quixotic.

A couple of bureaucrats looking to cool off with a swim as Hyderabad grows hotter made their way to the IAS Officers Club. Changing into trunks, they proceeded to the swimming pool—only to find it filled to the brim with mud. 

A guard told the bewildered bureaucrats the pool had been emptied overnight and laden with earth on orders from the chief minister’s office.
Telangana chief minister K. Chand­rasekhar Rao (KCR), who works from a camp office in Begumpet, adjacent to the club, apparently thought it was “bad vaastu” to have an office near a water body. The IAS Officers Association has also been told the club—with its badminton and tennis courts, its buildings and heritage club house—will be demolished to make space for a new building. The officers can have their club elsewhere.


This is but the tip of the vaastu iceberg that is the chief minister’s obsession. Of late, KCR has even appointed vaastu expert Suddala Sudhakar Teja—the man said to be responsible for the mud in the swimming pool—as a consultant and architectural advisor to the Telangana roads & buildings department. His job is to ensure that all roads, government offices, flyovers, gardens, guest houses, hospitals, police stations and so on are vaastu-compliant. In fact, Teja even offers advice on layout of offices and how various cabinet ministers will be seated in their offices and at meetings.

Earlier, KCR had been advised not to move into the camp office in Begumpet as it was not vaastu-compliant. But he did move in. On his orders, a few IAS officers’ houses in the Kundanbagh area were partly demolished, where  it was said he would shift later. But KCR decided to stick to the camp office after some alterations were made to the building under Suddala Teja’s watchful eye.

In a recent statement, KCR has also announced that the state secretariat would be shifted from its current premises on NTR Marg to the TB and Chest Hospital in Erragadda. The hospital, built on 65 acres of land, in turn would be shifted to Vikarabad, about 60 km from the city. This is also because the secretariat supposedly has bad vaastu. 

Telangana Congress committee vice-president and member of legislative council (MLC) Mohammad Ali Shabbir fumes at the appointment of a vaastu advisor. Calling KCR a “second Mohammed bin Tughlaq”, who kept shifting his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad, Shabbir Ali says, “Moving the CM’s office here and there has resulted in expenses of `4 crore.” And KCR creates such news on a daily basis. 

He also cites KCR saying recently that the Hussainsagar lake, near Tank Bund, would be drained and skyscrapers would be built. “I don’t understand why KCR is not focusing on welfare policies. Why is he worried about draining lakes and building high-rise apartments? Under united Andhra Pradesh, we have seen 16 chief ministers, but not one of them was as undemocratic as KCR is,” says Shabbir.

“KCR built his foundation of being a Telangana hero on a bunch of lies. He initially said Sonia Gandhi was like his mother and said he would merge his Telangana Rashtra Samiti with the Congress. He promised voters the moon in terms of education and employment, he said he would make a Dalit the chief minister. And these are just a few examples of KCR going back on his word,” says he.

One step that KCR took as CM was to announce a Samagra Kutumba Survey (Intensive Household survey) in August 2014. The entire state stayed shut for the day as volunteers collected data from each household. There were fears that this was to establish “outsiders” and nativity. But KCR said the exhaustive data would be extremely useful for implementing welfare schemes. Till date, no one knows where the data is or what exactly the survey yielded.

Then there is another electoral promise, which the TRS government has chosen to gloss over. In the initial days as chief minister, KCR announced that three acres of agricultural land would be given to all Dalit families in Telangana to bring them out of poverty. It is estimated that there are around 18 lakh Dalit families in the state. This in turn would mean that 54 lakh acres of cultivable land would be given to Dalits, a herculean, if not impossible, task, considering that this amounted to one-fifth of the total area of the state. 

The TRS’s election promise of two-bedroom houses for the poor is also facing inordinate delay. The state government has realised that the Rs 1,000 crore (2014-15 budget) earmarked for the scheme is not enough. They are hoping for central assistance from the NDA government, which is still in the process of integrating various housing schemes for the poor.    
Meanwhile, KCR has not let such budgetary issues bog him down at all. He has announced that the TRS government will build a series of bhavans, namely Banjara Bhavan, Brahmin Bhavan, Kerala Bhavan, Christian Bhavan, Komaram Bheem Bhavan (for adivasis), Doddi Komaraiah Bhavan and Babu Jagjivan Ram Bhavan, all of these in Hyderabad and Secunderabad. 

Telangana BJP chief Kishen Reddy says that all these decisions imply that KCR does not have his priorities right. “KCR does not make stable decisions, he does not respect democratic norms and he does not discuss anything with his party members. Most of the time, they are as clueless about his plans as the rest of the people are,” says Kishen Reddy.

The state BJP chief says that KCR sings praises of the Nizam’s rule because he too wants to behave like a king. “This craze of demolishing buildings is beyond me. The chief minister recently said that he would demolish Ravindra Bharati and build a new one with a lake. I don’t need to emphasise how crazy all this sounds.”

Revanth Reddy, the deputy floor leader of the Telugu Desam party, is even more scathing. “He lives in a fool’s paradise and harbours several illusions. He exp-­­ e­cts everyone to follow suit as he remains lost in his illusions,” he says. “Look at the short form of the state (Telangana) which has been changed from TG to TS. That is just so as to make it rhyme with TRS.” The Telugu Desam leader wonders if even KCR’s son K.T. Rama Rao is privy to his father’s decisions.

Of course, KCR has support too. TJAC leader Professor M. Kodanda Ram says that the agenda of the government is quite satisfying. “There is a strong economic programme which includes free health and education. It is early days yet to judge any of the schemes because it has just been eight-nine months that the government took over,” says Kodanda Ram.
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