Thursday, December 7, 2023

Kishore Poreddy Column: A car without fuel, a hand that can’t give

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Terms and conditions apply. This proviso pretty much sums up the attitude and approach of the Bharat Rashtra Samiti and the Congress parties and their respective promises to the people of Telangana.

The last nine years of the BRS government in the state reflected how Telangana went from being a revenue-surplus state with a low loan burden into one that creaks and groans and barely manages to squeak through each month to meet the bare minimum of expenditure, including staff salaries.

There was a time, before bifurcation, when fears arose over what could happen to the revenues generated from the growth engine that is Hyderabad, and whether these would have to be shared by Telangana and residuary Andhra Pradesh for the next 10 years but this remained just an unfounded fear leaving Telangana to boost its kitty from Hyderabad.

But then a sense of well-being and hope dissipated when the BRS government let promise after promise it had made to people fall by the wayside. There are many to list but suffice to recount some of these unkept promises which serve as more than adequate examples of the failures of the BRS government. These include double bedroom houses for the poor, 3 acres of farmland for landless Dalits, a job to every household, the Rs 3,016 unemployment dole, free fertilisers, and loan waiver for farmers. And these were just the unfulfilled promises.

Coupled with other acts of sleight of hand including denying benefits such as medical insurance, fee reimbursement, diverting panchayat funds, and payments to cooks in schools, the path the BRS government put Telangana on has become increasingly evident.

This situation came to be despite the Centre increasing its tax devolution to the states from 32% to 42%, the state enforcing highest taxation on fuel prices, pushing liquor sales to new heights, selling government land to raise funds to pay salaries, leasing out assets such as the ORR, and holding back on payments to public utilities such as the DISCOMS and GENCO throwing them into financial ruin.

It is at this stage that the Congress decided to exploit the unfulfilled aspirations and dreams of the people with it, without any thought of Telangana’s financial distress and unprecedented loan burden. Despite full knowledge of the state’s inability to service loans and its being on the verge of bankruptcy –Union Power Minister RK Singh only recently said loans had been held back for the state’s power sector as the Centre now believed that Telangana had gone beyond the tipping point and could not service any fresh loans — the Congress, believing it has nothing to lose but everything to gain, has begun making promises that will be impossible to fulfil. Although estimates vary, the cost of its promises and declarations are expected to require another Rs one lakh crore a year that will need to be found.

It is not that the Congress is unaware of the duplicity of its promises. It cannot claim that it does not know where things stand as far as Telangana’s financial doldrums are concerned. The Congress also knows that it cannot divert any funds from an already non-existent development budget but it still has made promises in a brazen manner, possibly in the hope that if proclaimed with such confidence, the people could just buy into a fresh round of hope, after having been ditched by the BRS which too acted in the same manner. In fact, almost every promise Congress has made as part of its so-called guarantees and declarations involve a hidden sleight of hand –incidentally that party’s symbol that suddenly has acquired a different meaning with this move – and its true costs will become evident if it ever comes forward with data based on which it made its promises.

Meanwhile, be it the BRS or the Congress, their promises mean just one thing: the casualty will be development in Telangana with every possible penny getting diverted to vote catching doles desperately camouflaged as welfare schemes and programmes.

The silence of both parties on the attacks on Sanatan Dharma raises apprehensions, whether it is Congress leading the INDI Alliance or the BRS, would not hesitate to even exploit the very way of our life for which they clearly have no regard for. For the BRS, temples are nothing more than good business opportunities, a stand taken by none other than the CM’s son Taraka Rama Rao — the party’s working president and Minister. For the Congress, which has proved it has no regard for Sanatan Dharma, it should come as no surprise if it devises ways and means to dip into even God’s funds. But it is unlikely that even God, with his funds would be able to rescue Telangana from these two parties ruining the state.

(The author is BJP TS spokesperson)

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