BJP welcomed the policy shift, claiming that at least now, KCR has realised his mistake of opposing the farm laws.
Telangana Chief Minister and TRS president K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) who actively participated in the Bharat Bandh called by the farmers’ unions protesting the three agricultural laws, has suddenly changed his stance and taken a U-turn, backing the same without much explanation this week. This has surprised one and all, much more the Opposition parties which counted on his support to them.
The decision to oppose the farm laws was taken before the polling of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) on 1 December. In this civic body elections, KCR faced unprecedented fight from BJP which only a month ago wrested an Assembly seat– Dubbaka–from the ruling party in a by-election.
KCR has announced his full support to the farmers who opposed the agricultural laws and vowed to fight till the Centre conceded their demands. Before the Dubbaka bypolls, the CM had announced that he would hold a conclave of non-BJP opposition parties in Hyderabad and unite them all to take on the Modi-led government in the coming years.
Surprisingly, KCR has dropped his anti-Centre stand after his hour-long meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on 13 December. Before that, the CM called on Union Home Minister Amit Shah and held one-on-one talks on a range of issues, including current politics. KCR closeted with the PM, too, for about 15 minutes.
Initially, it was hinted by sources close to him that the CM would meet the protesting farmers’ leaders in Delhi, but that hasn’t happened for reasons unexplained. After his return from Delhi, there is a perceptible change in the decisions of KCR–first is his passive endorsement of the Centre’s new farm laws.
Earlier this year, KCR brought in a practice of controlled cultivation of agriculture in the state–where the farmers are told to go for a specific crop in a particular area. He also announced that the government would procure every grain of the farm produce by opening grain purchase centres across the districts at minimum support price (MSP).
During protest against the Centre’s farm laws, KCR touted his policy of full procurement of grain at MSP as a parallel model that beat the proposed new deregulated sale of food grains at the national level. However, in a review meeting of the food grain procurement held at his office-cum-residence in Hyderabad this week, KCR has announced withdrawal of his controlled cultivation policy.
According to the new policy, “now the farmers can grow whatever crop they wish and sell their produce wherever they wish”. “This is what the new farm laws enacted by the Centre say,” mentioned a media release issued by the CM office after the review meeting. This has stunned one and all, especially the Left parties and some farmer’s unions.
On the other hand, BJP welcomed the policy shift and claimed that at least now, KCR has realised his mistake of opposing the farm laws. BJP’s Telangana unit president and Karimnagar MP Bandi Sanjay, the CM has realised his folly of blindly opposing the farm laws and understood their benefits to the farmers.
There is no official explanation from the government to the winding up of purchase centres in clusters of villages, but the officials in the agriculture department contended that the decision was more to do with the loss to the exchequer. “Due to purchase of the entire paddy at the rate of Rs 1,850 per quintal–which is MSP–and other farm produce, the government has suffered a loss of Rs 7,500 crore.
This argument is seen more as making up the loss to the exchequer, but the TRS government going soft on the farm laws is strikingly evident. Not only this, there are several other moves KCR has initiated which he resisted all these months, which were seen as a sign of confrontation between the Centre and the state. For example, he for the first time has allowed officials to mention the Centre’s support to the housing scheme of his government–Double Bedrooms for the Poor. For the first time, the Telangana housing officials have displayed a banner at a function held at Siddipet acknowledging the Centre’s component in the housing scheme of the State.
Another major development is KCR’s decision to allow the Modi led government’s Ayushman Bharat in Telangana. Till now, the CM has resisted the Central scheme on the ground that his own scheme was better than that of the former’s. Now, Telangana Health Minister Etela Rajender has said that the Central scheme would add 400 plus diseases at cheaper rates to the health for the poor scheme. Political circles are abuzz with speculation over the possible political dimension behind all these moves of KCR, but B. Vinod Kumar, vice-chairman of Telangana State Planning Board, denied any such link. “Our CM will support whatever is good for the state,” said Vinod Kumar while talking to this writer. It needs to be seen what KCR’s next moves will be.