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An attempt to efface KCR’s legacy

The Telangana Thalli statue in Khammam.
| Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Chief Minister of Telangana, Revanth Reddy, has been making consistent efforts to efface the legacy of Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) chief K. Chandrashekhar Rao ever since he assumed power. Mr. Reddy is trying to delink Mr. Rao from the Telangana movement, the subsequent creation of the State, and the landmarks that the former Chief Minister built during his 10-year regime.

Examples of Mr. Reddy’s efforts include changing the prefix for the registration numbers of vehicles from ‘TS’ to ‘TG’, changing the government’s emblem, replacing the Telangana Thalli statue with a new image, recognising Dalit poet Andesri’s song ‘Jaya Jaya Hey Telangana’ as the State song, renaming Pragati Bhavan as Praja Bhavan, and painting the Kaleshwaram irrigation project, identified with Mr. Rao, in negative light.

Also read | A State in search of a different emblem

The Chief Minister argues that through his efforts, Telangana will be able to reclaim its identity, which was “in the the clutches of KCR [Mr. Rao].” He said, “KCR captured Telangana, its resources, and its identity using the goodwill bestowed on him. In the combined State, people vehemently fought for self-respect, but lost it in KCR’s regime.”

Mr. Reddy first ordered the huge iron barricades in front of Pragati Bhavan to be demolished. Pragati Bhavan was rarely open for people despite being the Chief Minister’s official residence and camp office. He gave this order even as he took the oath amidst thousands of people at the sprawling LB Stadium in Hyderabad. It was a rare scene as thousands of people walked into Pragati Bhavan without being obstructed by the police, sat on the lush green lawns, and clicked selfies with the lavish interiors.

Mr. Reddy hit Mr. Rao where it hurt him the most when he decided to change the prefix for the registration of vehicles from ‘TS’ to ‘TG’. He argued that ‘TS’ had been adopted by the Rao government to remind people of his party, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (subsequently renamed the BRS). During the Telangana movement, people blackened the words ‘AP’ on the registration plate of vehicles and replaced them with ‘TG’ despite this being illegal. ‘TG’ was what the people wanted, but Mr. Rao cared little for their sentiments and only cared about his political interests, Mr. Reddy said.

Telangana Thalli became the symbol of the Telangana agitation. Wearing a crown and holding maize in one hand and the Bathukamma (flower Goddess) in the other hand, the statue looked resplendent. But Mr. Reddy argued that the statue, which is designed like Bharat Mata, does not represent the common woman of Telangana, but only a feudal woman. He said that the statue represents the feudal class that exploited the poor. He similarly justified changing the State emblem.

The decision to adopt Andesri’s ‘Jaya Jayahe Telangana’ as the State’s anthem also sent a strong signal to Mr. Rao that the Congress government wishes to honour those who were allegedly ignored during Mr. Rao’s rule. The song was a sensation during the agitation. Millions sang it and used it as their ringtone.

The Kaleshwaram project, which Mr. Rao described as a diamond in Telangana’s prosperity crown, has been under the scanner after a few pillars developed cracks in the main Medigadda barrage. A vigilance enquiry and a judicial enquiry proposed into the corruption of the ₹1 lakh crore project indicate the government’s eagerness to bring attention to the alleged corruption in the project.

The BRS has taken exception to these changes by terming them ridiculous. It believes that they reek of a personal vendetta. The party argues that no one can erase Mr. Rao’s role in the Telangana movement. But the Congress argues in turn that the movement was exploited by Mr. Rao who saw himself more as a king than a democratically elected ruler. The BRS doesn’t agree with the Congress’s charges that it ignored the contribution of several other political parties and individuals such as M. Kodandaram and Kothapalli Jayashankar to ensure that the limelight stayed on Mr. Rao alone.

These changes show that Mr. Reddy is making a pointed attempt to impose his and his party’s identity on the State at the cost of previous leaders and their initiatives. Ironically, the other leaders who have made similar efforts at the State and national level are Mr. Rao and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, respectively — the Congress’s archrivals.

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