Newbie Revanth’s acid test: Implementing Cong’s six ‘guarantees’ in 100 days

Although it has only been a month since it came to power, the Congress government in the state is already under pressure from the opposition to keep its promise to implement six guarantees in 100 days.

Hyderabad: Telangana’s new Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy faces an acid test in managing the state finances as fulfilling the Congress’s six guarantees is the first and foremost challenge for him.

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Although it has only been a month since it came to power, the Congress government in the state is already under pressure from the opposition to keep its promise to implement six guarantees in 100 days.

In the words of the Chief Minister himself, his government inherited empty coffers and considering this, mobilising resources to foot the bill for freebies will be a daunting task.

Deputy Chief Minister Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, who also holds the finance portfolio, will have his task cut out when he presents his maiden budget.

While allocating funds to implement six guarantees in addition to providing money for existing welfare schemes, the government will also have to ensure that the state does not slip on the development front.

Implementation of six guarantees alone may require doubling the welfare budget to Rs 1.2 lakh crore and with revenue and revenue expenditure in the previous budget almost equal at Rs 1.72 crore in the previous budget, finding resources to meet the additional expenditure will be a huge task.

The experts have already cautioned that if the entire budget goes towards welfare schemes and salaries and pensions, there will be nothing left for capital expenditure such as infrastructure works.

Immediately after taking over, the Congress government presented white papers on state finances and also on energy in the state Assembly. They show a dismal picture of the state’s financial position and poor health of power distribution companies.

It blamed financial indiscipline of the previous BRS government during the last 10 years for the present situation in which the state is struggling to meet even daily expenditure.

With a shortfall in revenue receipts, the state is depending on financial accommodation instruments of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

According to a statement from the RBI last week, the quantum of market borrowings by the Telangana government for the quarter January-March 2024 from the central bank will run into at least Rs.13,000 crore.

According to the whitepaper presented in Assembly, there is a fiscal stress and the state is staring at a debt crisis with outstanding debts of over Rs 6.71 lakh crore.

Telangana, which was a revenue surplus state in 2014, is today depending on the ways and means advances from the RBI on a daily basis, the Finance Minister told the Assembly last month.

The government has not come out with an estimate of funds required to implement six guarantees. It may have to allocate an additional Rs.70,000 crore.

“Implementing the guarantees in a timeframe of 100 days will be a challenge,” says political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.

The number of applications received for six guarantees has already crossed 93 lakh. There is a common application form for all the guarantees and the filled-in forms were received between December 28 (2023) and January 6.

“Lakhs of other people have applied for white ration cards (issued for below poverty line families), which is the criteria for availing the benefits. The public expectations are huge and meeting them will be a big task,” said Raghavendra Reddy.

He believes that identifying beneficiaries like tenant farmers under the Rythu Bharosa scheme will be another challenge.

The previous government had excluded tenant farmers from its scheme Rythu Bandhu.

Under Rythu Bharosa, every farmer will get investment support of Rs.15,000 per acre annually. The assistance provided under Rythu Bandhu was Rs.10,000 and it was meant for only farmers owning the lands.

Revanth Reddy also faces the challenge to fill two lakh vacancies in government departments by the end of 2024.

The unemployed youth are eagerly waiting for job notifications and the Telangana State Public Service Commission (TSPSC) is yet to be reconstituted and only after a new team takes over the process to conduct recruitment exams can start.

The Chief Minister will also be under pressure to immediately implement the promise of Rs.4,000 unemployment allowance.

The anger among unemployed youth over the previous government going back on its promise of unemployment allowance and its failure to provide government jobs was a key factor in the Congress party’s victory.

Both the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister and four other ministers had never held an administrative post before.

The Chief Minister, Deputy Minister and 10 ministers had taken oath on December 7, 2023.

Only two ministers — Tummala Nageswara Rao and Jupally Krishna Rao — had served as ministers in Telangana, while three others had served in the Congress cabinets in united Andhra Pradesh.

Political analysts say Revanth Reddy has accommodated all prominent faces, he still can induct six ministers to give representations to the sections left out.

Since no Muslim candidate was elected, there are demands to induct a couple of senior leaders from the community into the Cabinet by nominating them to the Lok Sabha.

The analysts point out that the major challenge for Revanth Reddy will be to give representation to Hyderabad in the Cabinet as the Congress party has no MLA in the state capital.

“It’s the rural Telangana which elected the Congress party. It remains to be seen how Revanth Reddy ensures representation to Hyderabad,” said Raghavendra Reddy.

The TRS (now BRS) had faced a similar situation in 2014. It had not done well in Hyderabad.

However, KCR had managed to lure some key leaders from other parties to TRS and rewarded them with ministerial berths.

It will be interesting to see if Revanth Reddy adopts the same strategy to make some BRS legislators from Greater Hyderabad defect to Congress.

In the recent elections, the Congress wrested power from BRS by winning 64 seats in the 119-member Assembly. The BRS stood second with 39 seats. BJP and AIMIM bagged eight and seven seats respectively. Congress ally CPI won the remaining seat.

While the Congress has done well in almost all districts, it failed to win even a single seat in Greater Hyderabad.

The BRS continued its grip on the region, winning 16 seats while its friendly party AIMIM retained all its seven seats.

The BJP also retained its only seat.

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