K. Chandrasekhar Rao
By Suresh Dharur
A perceived slight in the Naidu govt set KCR on the Telangana path, which has ultimately led to crowning glory. Peopleís high expectations from the maverick, however, may prove tougher than delivering a new state.
After savouring the Che Guevara moment, now comes the burden of expectations. For Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao, widely seen as an architect of the Telangana statehood movement, the transformation from a rebel to a ruler has been swift. His 13-year-old Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has earned a decisive mandate in the recent elections, putting him in the driverís seat to guide the destiny of the new state.
However, the flip side of achieving a political goal is that one loses the luxury of blaming the enemy, both real and imaginary, for the things that go wrong. It is this irony that KCR, as the TRS chief is known in political circles, is grappling with now. Just three days into his new role as Chief Minister, KCR finds his effigies being burnt by the same people who adored him as a champion of the statehood cause for more than a decade. A warrior of many a political battle, he gets down to the task of fire-fighting as protests break out across Telangana over the proposed dilution of a loan waiver scheme, a key poll promise of the TRS.
"KCR is like Sachin Tendulkar of Telangana politics. People do not want him to fail. Even a hint of watering down of the loan waiver for farmers has triggered anger," says one of his close aides. Settling down in his chair and holding a Benson and Hedges cigarette between his fingers, KCR says meditatively, "I know people are restive. They have suffered a lot for six decades at the hands of exploitative Andhra rulers. They have huge expectations from us. We cannot fail." A steady stream of supporters was still pouring in to congratulate him for realising a long-cherished statehood dream.
KCR, who turned 60 last month, is in no mood to rest on the laurels. He has declared reconstruction of Telangana to make it a model state in the country, welfare of weaker sections and minorities and creating more jobs and irrigation facilities as his top priorities.
Life with style
The critics have often questioned KCRís "Nawabi lifestyle" and wondered whether he would be fit to lead the state, given his personal habits and late-night drinking sessions. Poet and an avid fan of old Hindi film songs, he, however, makes no bones about his taste for good things in life. He is said to have a penchant for premium Scotch and Benson and Hedges. However, on doctorsí advice, he quit alcohol two years ago but continues to smoke.
KCRís personal habits often provided fodder for his political rivals. His laid-back lifestyle and penchant for escaping from public glare to spend time at his farm house in the neighbouring Medak district have often evoked derisive response from his detractors. "Raatri bar, pagalu darbar (Bar at night and darbar during the day)," was how the actor-turned-politician Roja, now with the YSR Congress Party, described his lifestyle. "No other political leaderís personal habits have been subjected to scrutiny as much as KCRís," says his son K Taraka Rama Rao, who is now a minister in his fatherís Cabinet.
A post-graduate in Telugu literature gifted with mesmerising oratory skills and razor-sharp sarcasm, KCR has already earned the image of a folk hero in Telangana politics, having single-handedly led the movement through a turbulent period. His quirky one-liners, dubbed by his detractors as offensive and unparliamentary, never failed to grab media headlines.
Adore him or abhor him, you cannot ignore him. For Telangana, the backward region yearning for statehood for six decades, he was the folk hero who liberated the region from the clutches of "exploitative forces". For the rest of Andhra Pradesh, though, he is a divisive force and a rabble-rouser who sowed seeds of hatred and separated the Telugus.
Man of the mike
Frail, lean with emaciated look and dressed in white trousers and full-sleeve shirt, KCR at first glance does not come across as an ideal candidate to lead a movement that calls for upsetting the status quo and rubbing the mighty and the powerful on the wrong side. But, give him a mike and a crowd, he transforms into an orator par excellence, holding the audience in rapt attention with his biting one-liners and comparative figures to drive home the point that Telangana was a victim of deliberate neglect and exploitation across all sectors by successive governments.
So complete was KCRís domination of AP politics in the last decade that the very mention of his name evoked extreme responses, depending on the regional loyalty of the people one spoke to. Admiration and hatred flowed in equal measure. However, even his bitter critics would vouch for his mass appeal, persuasive skills and political craft based on pragmatic calculations. Emerging as the powerful symbol of Telangana identity, he had succeeded in bringing the statehood issue to the centre-stage of national politics, getting almost all allies of the UPA on board and compelling the central leaderships of both the Congress and BJP to hurry through the process of passage of the Telangana Bill in the 15th Lok Sabha in a race against time.
The political journey of this four-time legislator and four-time MP has been a bumpy ride, making friends and enemies with equal ease. Whether it was his participation in the UPA-I government at the Centre in 2004 or his stormy exit a year later accusing it of delaying decision on the Telangana demand, KCR was provocative, eccentric, rebellious and rabble-rousing, all rolled into one.
The defining moment in KCRís career came in December 2009 when his indefinite fast forced the UPA government to announce the initiation of the process for creation of separate Telangana state. "KCR chachudo, Telangana vachudo" (Either Telangana comes or KCR dies) was his slogan before launching the fast.
At the height of the Telangana movement, KCR positioned himself as a rabble-rouser in the mould of Shiv Sena leader late Bal Thackeray, targeting people from Seemandhra who have made Hyderabad their home. His call "Telangana waale jago, Andhra waale bhaago" injected bitterness into the bifurcation debate.
It is often said in political circles that KCR had quit the Telugu Desam Party in 2001 to float TRS only because he was denied a Cabinet berth by his former boss N Chandrababu Naidu. "Had he been made minister at that time, he would not have started the Telangana agitation," a senior TDP leader Y Ramakrishnudu says. KCR was close to Naidu and served in his Cabinet from 1996 to 1999. Later, he was made Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, a post he quit to revive the Telangana movement at a time when the TDP government had imposed an undeclared ban on even using the word "Telangana" in the Assembly.
Starting his political career with the Youth Congress in the mid-1970s, KCR joined the TDP in 1983 and was elected to the Assembly from Siddipet in Medak district four times between 1985 and 1999. He had an uneasy courtship with the Congress in 2004. After his exit from the UPA, he was part of a grand alliance, comprising the TDP and Left parties in AP, ahead of the 2009 elections. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from Karimnagar in 2004 and 2006 and from Mahaboobnagar in 2009.
The political void created by the sudden demise of Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy in September 2009 gave an opportunity for him to step up the Telangana agitation that turned out to be decisive.
Very early in his new role as Chief Minister, KCR has realised that meeting the high expectations of people is far more challenging than leading a mass movement.
Over two decades, Prof SL Saini and his team have planted over one lakh saplings in the twin towns of Yamunanagar and Jagadhri.
Residents of Yamunanagar and Jagadhri are indebted to Prof SL Saini, a mathematician popularly known as the Greenman, for his count of trees. Thanks to his efforts, they now enjoy the flowery shade of the green umbrella that has covered the two towns.
It was in 1991 when Prof Saini, having completed his deputation at the University of Al-Anbar, Iraq, rejoined his duties as professor of mathematics at his parent institution, MLN College, Yamunanagar. He thought of giving back something to his town, which had given him the opportunity to earn his livelihood. While continuing with teaching, he thought of undertaking tree plantation at public places in his spare time.
The green journey began as a hobby but soon turned into a mission and a consuming passion. Starting with a meagre amount of 15,000, he began the field work in various localities of Yamunanagar in 1994. He formed the Yamunanagar Environmental Society, which was later rechristened Haryana Environmental Society (HES), with the aim of "green and clean Haryana".
The society, with the untiring efforts of Dr Saini and his team over a period of two decades, has extended green cover to nearly 90 per cent part of the common available land in the MC limits of Yamunanagar.
More than one lakh saplings of about 65 species of trees have been planted in the inhabitant areas of the towns and neighbouring areas. In Yamunanagar, all main roads, dividers, lanes, mohalla parks, grounds, private and government office complexes, including mini secretariat, judicial complex and anaj mandi, have been covered under the mission.
This year, the team is busy with the "green sweep campaign", under which locations in Yamunanagar are being surveyed where there is still some scope for plantation. Prof Saini can be spotted riding his motorcycle and zeroing in on places where a car or scooter has been parked in the sun for lack of shade from a tree.
The uniqueness of the green campaign is that no financial help is received from government agencies. The entire project is being carried out with the help of public participation and cooperation. More than 15,000 persons from all walks of life, including eunuchs and people from urban and rural areas, are associated with the field activities in the form of donors, volunteers or field workers. The HES has its own steel tree guard workshop, nursery, tractor, water tankers, trolley and gardeners. Saplings are planted by holding plantation melas and camps on all social occasions and national festivals. Residents sponsor plants on special occasions like the birth of a child, wedding, marriage anniversary, "shraad", Diwali and Holi.
The sapling is planted at the place of the donorís choice and is covered with a steel case bearing the donorís nameplate. Mohalla-level committees headed by locals have also been set up. Mohalla parks are developed with the active participation of residents and the overall maintenance is undertaken by the central team of the HES.
This professor, whom 20 years ago people called crazy, has proved that he was not building castles in the air. For hours, he would convince the common man of his vision to make the city green, says Lal Singh, a resident of HUDA Colony and one of his former critics, but now an active member of the HES.
Prof Saini has not hung up his "mathematical boots". He is writing a book on intuitive mathematics to rid students of maths phobia. He says students will find meaningful examples from daily life associated with definitions and formulae of mathematics that would make it easier to understand. He has also formed the Aryabhatta Intuitive Mathematical Society (AIMS), Yamunannagar. Scholars from Punjab University, Chandigarh, IIT, Roorkee, Kurukshetra University, and many others joined him in his endeavour to set up the AIMS.
Talking about retired teachers, he says: "They should utilise their hard-earned life experience for the benefit of society. Their voluntary services are required in nation building. At least those senior citizens who are enjoining the benefits of a good pension should do something worthwhile."