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Political slugfest in Telangana over Rythu Bandhu money

The ruling Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) and the opposition Congress have blamed each other for the ECI’s decision. Representational image

The ruling Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) and the opposition Congress have blamed each other for the ECI’s decision. Representational image
| Photo Credit: MUSTAFAH KK

A political slugfest has broken out over the Rythu Bandhu scheme that provides monetary support to farmers during the cultivation period, after the Election Commission of India (ECI) first permitted the release of funds and then withdrew the order citing violation of model code of conduct.

The ruling Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) and the opposition Congress have blamed each other for the ECI’s decision, though the ECI in its order clearly said the orders were being withdrawn after the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Telangana sent a report saying Minister for Finance T. Harish Rao had claimed in a public meeting that the government would release funds.

In an election meeting, he said: “Your mobile phones will buzz alerting you that the money was being credited into you accounts on November 28.” The ECI said this was a violation of the conditions mentioned in the ECI note clearing the way for release of Rythu Bandhu funds.

The issue has been a contentious one for the last month, as the Opposition parties feared that the State government would release the money one or two days before the polling date and it was unfair that the government money was being used to attract voters. They had seen a similar situation in the 2018 elections, when money was credited into farmers accounts one or two days before the polling.

Congress went to the ECI and urged that the BRS government be directed to release the funds before November 3, the election notification date. The ECI initially did not permit the release of funds but relented on November 24 with some conditions. Citing Mr. Harish Rao’s comments in a public meeting the ECI has now withdrawn the permission.

Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao used the opportunity to blame the Congress for the denial of funds and played on the sentiments. In fact, the entire focus of KCR’s public meetings was on this very issue. Minister for IT K.T. Rama Rao and Mr. Harish Rao too took the same line.

The Congress on the other hand is questioning the very motive behind ECI permitting the scheme and then stopping it. “The ECI orders seem to be a deep-rooted conspiracy of the BJP and BRS to blame the Congress,” charged former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh. He alleged that KCR directed Mr. Harish Rao to provoke the ECI to withdraw the orders to blame the Congress as they have lost steam in their campaigning. “This is an Uncle-Nephew drama, aptly supported by the BJP,” he alleged.

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