KCR tries to make an edge in the first panchayat elections
KCR tries to make an edge in the first panchayat elections of the state, but a rollback of reservations could hurt him.
On January 1, the state election commissioner V. Nagi Reddy announced the schedule of panchayat elections since the creation of the state. Between 21 to 30 January, as many as 14,952,058 rural voters are to cast their votes in three phases to elect Sarpanches and ward members across 12,751 gram panchayats.
Though this election is not being contested on political party symbols, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao, fresh from his assembly election triumph, views the rural polls as an opportunity to cast his party's net wider. The chief minister's strategy is to capitalise on the popular support his party enjoys for a firmer grip on the local bodies that have a say in spending rural development funds. KCR wants to consolidate his party position by holding out fresh promises on development issues. The polls are also expected to serve as the first test for his son K.T. Rama Rao, who was appointed the TRS working president after the party swept the assembly election.
In the last panchayat elections, held in East Andhra Pradesh in 2013, the Congress claimed victory in the districts that are now part of Telangana. The TRS won only 470 panchayat seats.
Significantly, keeping in view the orders of the Supreme Court, the state government will also examine the popularity of KCR in the elections after reducing reservation from 62.5% to 50% in Panchayat elections. The rival parties had demanded that the calculation of the Backward Classes should be completed before the announcement of panchayat elections, but the KCR decided to follow the High Court directive to hold it before January 31.
The KCR's cabinet, which had only Deputy CM in addition to itself, reduced the reservation for SC, ST and BC through an Ordinance on December 16. The worst affected was BC, whose share dropped from 34 to 23 per cent, although their population was 54 per cent.
Telangana Congress chief N. Uttam Kumar Reddy says KCR chose to ignore reservations according to population and is relying on an electoral roll where 2.2 million first-time voters are missing. Reddy alleges this is to keep the Congress and other opposition parties out. "KCR continues to play foul," he says.