Interview: KCR schemes, Congress guarantees are conspiracies, says Telangana BSP chief Praveen Kumar

Women's reservation should include internal quota OBC, SC, and ST communities, said Praveen Kumar, besides speaking on two Telanganas.

ByAjay Tomar | Deepika Pasham

Published Sep 24, 2023 | 2:20 PMUpdatedSep 24, 2023 | 2:22 PM

The BSP will keep tenant farmers at the heart of its agricultural policy, says the party's Telangana chief RS Praveen Kumar. (Supplied)

The Bahujan Samajwadi Party’s Telangana president RS Praveen Kumar is confident when he says he stands for the marginalised sections of society.

The former IPS officer-turned-politician takes pride in his Swaero movement (Social Welfare Aeros) aimed at fulfilling aspirations of the oppressed classes.

While welcoming the 33 percent reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies, Kumar demanded an internal quota for women from OBC, Scheduled Castes, and Tribes.

The welfare schemes of the BRS government and the six guarantees the Congress has recently made have not impressed Praveen Kumar. He felt they were conspiracies to make people dependent on the rulers.

In a freewheeling conversation with South First — in which he shed light on two Telanganas — he too made a few promises to the electorate in the state: An acre for the poorest of the poor, 10 lakh jobs in the next years (of which 50 percent will be reserved for women), an international school in every mandal and 66 Sainik Schools across the state.

Related: Swaero makes its way into Oxford English-Telugu dictionary

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. What is your stand on the Women’s Reservation Bill and the demand for internal reservation within the quota?

A. It is a welcome step, long pending and progressive, compared to the Western countries. We must appreciate the Government of India for taking it up for discussion, but my worry is it should not end up as a token gesture to garner women’s votes.

Telangana BSP president RS Praveen Kumar

Telangana BSP president RS Praveen Kumar. (Supplied)

I am saying this for a reason. In 2010 and 2011, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government came up with a Women’s Reservation Bill, and nobody spoke about it. The Narendra Modi-led BJP, which had a good majority during its first term, did not take up.

I demand an internal quota within the quota. The number of women representatives from OBCs, SCs, and STs is highly disproportionate to their population. For instance, the Telangana Legislative Assembly has only three women legislators in the general category, which has 88 seats. All three are from the Reddy community, which is considered to be dominant in Telangana.

Our demand is within the 33 percent reservation, there must be provision for including women from OBC, Schedule Caste, and Schedule Tribe categories. Otherwise, upper-caste women will occupy the positions.

Q. What are the BSP’s chances in the upcoming Telangana polls?

A. They are very bright. For the first time, the people of Telangana understand what is happening in their communities — how prosperity has been robbed by the feudal lords, who are wielding power for long, and giving peanuts to the workers who carry flags, and shout slogans for them. We will stand with the have-nots.

Open to alliance

Q. Are you considering an alliance with other parties?

A: As of now, we are not looking for an alliance. But if any like-minded political parties come forward, accept our agenda, and find common ground, we are open to them.

Q. Why did you choose to contest from the Sirpur constituency?

A: The Sirpur Constituency has not been liberated. It is still in the hands of feudal, imperialist Andhra landlords. They came here 50 years ago and looted its forest wealth, and smuggled them to Andhra Pradesh.

Though it is been almost 10 years since Telangana was formed, most of the contracts are still being awarded to feudal lords from Andhra Pradesh. The people of Telangana are living in poverty and if uncomfortable questions are raised, they are put behind bars. The people also want me to be the torchbearer in this fight against the rulers.

Q. How many women from BSP will contest the upcoming polls?

A: We will give a good number of seats to women. Leadership qualities in women won’t develop overnight. When I say women, I mean giving true power to them and now we are also grooming a lot of women to be leaders.

This time we have decided to give 10 seats and, in the future, their representation will be 30 to 40 percent because our party gives true power to women at all levels. Our national president is a Woman and we are working under her.

Q. How was the transition from bureaucracy to politics for you?

A: It was smooth. People welcomed me with open hands and hearts. The day I joined BSP inspired by its ideologies, several people voluntarily visited to congratulate me. I am really happy with this phase of life. I have visited 2,200 villages until now and travelled 40,000 km interacting with lakhs of people. What can be a better and more exciting experience than this in life?

Also read: LS Speaker warns Ramesh Bidhuri of ‘strict action’ over slurs

The guarantees

Q What are the BSP’s promises to the people of Telangana?

A: The poorest of the poor will get one acre of land. In 1972, there was a Land Ceiling Act which defined a family of five members as a unit and they can have a maximum of 10 to 27 acres of irrigated land and 35 to 54 acres of dryland. The BSP will ensure that land is redistributed to the poor people.

All homeless will get a home in one to three years. We will create at least 10 lakh jobs in the next five years with 50 percent of jobs reserved for women. We will establish one international school each in every mandal, and 66 Sainik Schools in the state. Free 12,000 coaching centres with quality equipment will also be set up to equip students for the job market. We will make ‘opportunity to employment’ a fundamental right. We will make coding a fifth language along with Artificial Intelligence.

We will ban all liquor-belt shops. As many as 33 percent of the people are dying in Telangana because of excessive liquor consumption. KCR’s liquor is known as 90 ml, as not all can afford good quality alcohol, and hence people are consuming cheap liquor. Nobody wants to talk about the silent genocide in Telangana. It will cost the exchequer heavily but nothing is more important than the health of the people.

Q. How will you address caste politics?

A: I am particularly not in favour of playing caste to garner votes. Caste is a reality. Certain communities have been given a raw deal in the past 75 years. Before you abolish caste, we must ensure that all the communities get equal opportunity and equal justice. We are going to develop all castes which were left out in the past 75 years and the BSP will give them a platform to grow. We will ensure that all that has been lost in the past 75 years is regained.

Q There are allegations against you for joining the BSP?

A: Those allegations are baseless. The fact that I have chosen BSP speaks volumes about my integrity. If I did not have this commitment to serve the people, I would have joined the Congress the BJP, or even the BRS. These are the parties that exploit the poor, including women. I chose BSP.

The BSP is the only party that can deliver justice, not just to people from SC/ST but also to other backward classes, minorities, women, students, workers, and everybody who has been exploited until now.

Q. When can we expect the list of BSP candidates?

A: Most probably in the last week of September or the first week of October. It will be done in a phased manner.

Also read: Modi to set Telangana BJP poll machinery rolling at Mahbubnagar

Education needs more funds

Q. The Social Democratic Forum (SDF) has done a survey on the state of schools in Telangana. A few days ago they gave you their representation. So did they bring to your notice some of the prevailing issues?

A. Yes, they highlighted issues not just in education but in the health and agriculture sectors. They also shed light on unemployment and corruption. So they submitted about seven books. They said primary education is in a shambles. The schools do not have adequate infrastructure. The major reason is budgetary allocation, which is just six percent. It must be increased to 12 to 13 percent to bring about a seachange in the education sector.

So is the case with healthcare. We discussed many issues and we are going through the reports submitted by them. We will include most of the recommendations. We will announce our promises to the people of Telangana probably in the first week of October.

Q. What is your take on the Dharani portal? Several citizens are facing hardships in the Chief Commissioner of Land Administration (CCLA) office. The people are there from different districts.

A. We will abolish the Dharani portal if we are elected. It’s a farce. Any programme or portal that is created must address the difficulties. It must address the pain points and it should not become a pain itself. But the Dharani portal itself is a pain. It is ruining the lives of lakhs of farmers. It has become a tool in the hands of exploitative rulers who want to garner as much land as possible and then make money out of it.

This is because land is the only resource that Telangana has and these rulers have occupied all the lands, which belong to the people. We are going to take back those lands and give them back to the people. We will also prosecute all those who have occupied lands and demolish all the buildings even if it calls for bulldozers.

There about about 27 lakh tenant farmers in Telangana and they are treated like refugees. So we are going to address their woes and keep tenant farmers at the heart of our agricultural policy.

Also read: Congress’ Karnataka model 2.0 for Telangana: 6 guarantees

Complaints galore

Q. Can you recall some of the instances/complaints you came across your Bahujan Rajyadhijara Yatra (BRY) or some you received on your the grievance portal?

A. There are many incidents — people who are paralyzed, people who are waiting for support from the government, and people who don’t have homes. I also came across children dropping out of school, young children becoming mothers and young children taking care of families.

And then the silent genocide in Telangana because of KCR’s liquor policy and the state abdicating its responsibility in the health and education sector. The ruling class is becoming richer while the poor are becoming poorer. I used to read about this in university but now what I saw on the ground, what I saw in the heart of Telangana is moving. Unemployment is rampant. People have lost hope.

Q. On your party’s website, you mentioned you will be focussing on risk sharing with the government as well as investing in jobs and not in infra. What message are you conveying?

A. Risk sharing with the government means people’s participation. We want to create a balance. So any effort by the government should not end up boosting the real estate price. So it has to cater to the needs of the people.

So currently, an institution building is mistaken as a building a classy structure with a nice facade, a nice flyover, a black-top road, nice hotels and restaurants, and cable bridges. I think this is a very narrow and urban way of looking at things. But what I’m looking at is going to the heart of the problem. So the problem is that of the people. You have to address the concerns of people.

Q. Reports of police excess are rampant these days. A woman was recently harassed at LB Nagar. A few months ago, a person, Mohammed Khadeer Khan, died in police custody. Why do you think this is happening? As a former IPS officer, do you think the police should be sensitised?

A. There are policy reforms but no government wants to implement them. Police reforms mean giving independence to the police and no government is willing to give independence because the governments are manned by feudal rulers and feudal rulers want to extend their power. They use the police to further their exploitation. They use the police as a tool to exploit. They use police to shield their exploitation and protect them, but not the exploited.

Intra-police sensitization has to happen and it keeps happening. No senior police officer would say to a junior cop to beat a woman. But this is a mindset not just among policemen, but all government officials. If you do harm the poor, you can go scot-free.

If you do anything to the rich, you’ll land in jail. So that’s why a policeman thinks twice before beating a rich person. A poor person is taken for granted.

Q. Why should other communities vote for the BSP? Will it again give tickets to Reddy and other upper-caste communities?

A. The BSP is for everybody. There’s nothing like others in BSP. It is a space for everybody except the feudal landlords. We are an anti-elite, anti-exploiter party. When I’m promising a clean government, I am promising jobs. I’m promising that to upper castes since they, too, have poor people who are exploited.

I am going beyond the narrow parochial ideology. I am voicing for justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity as core constitutional values. I request the people to vote for a party cutting across all party lines.

Also read: Telangana custodial assault: BSP wants HM replaced

Two Telanganas

Q. The population of the youth population is increasing. Do you see it as a problem leading to a lesser number of people getting employed?

A. I see it as an asset. A growing youth population is an opportunity. India should be proud of its youth. The only problem is the apathy of rulers towards the youth. KTR says they have created many jobs over the years but I want to know where are those jobs. Why is KTR not giving the data on who is getting the jobs and where are they coming from? And what is their social background?

Like the Government of India silent on the caste census, KTR is also silent.

Under KCR’s rule, Telangana is divided into two Telanganas: One is Oakridge Telangana, and the other, non-Oakridge Telangana. One Telangana is my home, the other is not. One is mega Telangana, the second is not. One is farmers’ Telangana, the other is farm labourers’ Telangana. One is a private-university Telangana and the other is a public-university Telangana, which is in a shambles. One is gated-communities Telangana, and the other is non-gated.

It is Western Hyderabad Telangana vs. the rest of Telangana — One percent Telangana vs. 99 percent Telangana. I am for that 99 percent Telangana.