The entire Munugode constituency, which will go for a by-election soon, appears to be at peace with the world, but it is misleading calm.
As Telangana received plenty of rains in the recent past, the villages and the farmlands that stretch out endlessly look vibrant and verdant. The rainfall led to a profuse growth of vegetation, imparting a look that the people and nature are in blissful communion with each other.
But take a closer look, and you will see clear faultlines. The constituency appears to emerge as a bellwether for the changes that lie in store for political parties, as people are livid over the long neglect they have been subjected to. Though they do not know how or who to teach a lesson, they want to do it one way or the other.
The Congress, devoid of Rajagopal Reddy, appears to be at loss to navigate through the choppy waters while the TRS is trying to whitewash its grey areas like the delay in commissioning the Cherlagudem Irrigation project, touted as the lifeline of the Munugode constituency.
In some villages, people are angry with Rajagopal Reddy for ditching the Congress and joining the BJP. They suspect it is for the promotion of his business interests. They are not sure whom they should vote for, making one wonder if the BJP is skating on thin ice.
The ground reality
Except for Choutuppal on the Hyderabad-Vijayawada highway, there is no other town that fits the description.
The cacophony of the vehicles that pass through the arterial road through Choutuppal sets it apart from the rest of the constituency.
The traders, small-time businessmen, workers, and labourers, who work in pharma companies nearby, make up the town.
If it continues to remain under a perpetual dirt storm, the rest of the constituency presents an idyllic scene. The contrast is difficult to miss.
When this correspondent drove through the sleepy constituency, there was nothing that proved that a by-election was not very far off.
The Election Commission is likely to notify the by-election next month, but the political parties are not out in the open, yet. They are busy trying to dream up methods to reach out to the people, who are angry with everyone and with all the parties.
The pulse of the people
“It is an everyday struggle for me. Unless I work, I cannot have even a morsel of food. No one is going to help. Though I am from the Backward Classes (BC), I do not get any loan from the BC Corporation as it does not seem to have the budget,” rued 45-year-old flower vendor Pasham Lingaswamy sitting by the side of the main road in Choutuppal.
“We did not get a double-bedroom house. Maybe the aged are benefiting from the Aasara scheme, and the farmers from Rythu Bandhu, but the likes of us are left out,” he told South First.
In the town, people seemed to be seething inwardly. Take, for instance, N Swamy, a cobbler who ekes out a living repairing footwear on the roadside.
“No one helps us. Though I am from a Scheduled Caste (SC) community, I do not get a loan from the SC Corporation because I belong to the Mochi sub-sect,” he said.
He is so upset with parties that he said he has been asking people who visit him for repairs to their footwear to use the NOTA option. “It is an attempt to make the politicians not forget their primary responsibility of being in the midst of people when they are going through a rough patch,” he explained to South First.
The youth seemed to be depressed over the lack of employment opportunities or capital to start any venture. The Dalit Bandhu scheme is yet to be announced, but it covers only Dalits even when it is implemented. The youngsters, thereby, continue to be bereft of help.
With a small investment, 24-year-old Sai Modugada set up a mixie repair shop in Choutuppal that is very narrow and hardly accommodates him and few mixies. And he has set this up after acquiring a diploma in computer applications in a polytechnic college!
“I have long given up hope that the political parties would help me. Though I will vote, at this stage I cannot say who I will support,” he told South First.
Politics: Left, Right, and Centre
As this correspondent moved on, along came Samsthan Narayanpur, once the hotbed of Maoists. The Rachakonda hill range that circles the mandal once used to be a haven for the ultras.
Though the Maoists have cooled down, the people seem to have an affinity for communism. Said labourer Mallesh in Narayanpur: “Most of the people in this mandal and elsewhere in the constituency have an affinity for communism. Over the years, we shifted to the Congress, but even when we voted for the party, we did not leave communism behind,” he told South First.
It is clear that he was trying to say that a majority of the people were out and out Communists deep down: Regardless of whom they had voted for, the communist ideology resonated with them.
“Now both the CPI and CPI(M) have asked us to vote for the TRS. We honour the directive,” he said, but made it clear that it was not definitely an endorsement of the TRS’ ideology.
Drive on, and you will reach Mohammadpet, where residents appeared angry over sitting MLA Rajagopal Reddy not visiting them.
“That man is now in the BJP, saying that the government had not given him funds to take up the development of the constituency as he was in the Opposition till now,” said senior citizen Butchi Reddy.
“But he is now in the Opposition again. So we have decided not to support him: He now represents a party that has made our lives miserable. The LPG and petrol prices had shot up. Please visit our homes. We are using firewood to cook,” he told South First candidly.
Ch Swamy, another farmer, but one who doubles as a bike mechanic, said political parties had left them to their fate. “I will be thankful if the Cherlagudem project, 40 km away from his village, is completed so that we get water to our farmlands.” He raises both cotton and paddy on four acres of land.
A people wronged
In Kompally in the Munugode mandal, you can see people feel wronged by the successive governments both at the state and the Centre.
Many women crowded this correspondent asking him why they were not being allotted double-bedroom houses.
“Though I have been pleading with the government, a double-bedroom house remains elusive,” said Boyapati Pentamma, an SC woman who was looking forward to the implementation of Dalit Bandhu scheme in the Munugode constituency.
In the Munugode mandal headquarters, small-time entrepreneur Ch Sreenu said he learnt quite early in life that he should not depend on the government for any help but rely on his own strength.
“I am running this foundry and I have hired a worker. Though I do not make millions, I earn enough to live. There is no point in blaming anyone. I have no great ambitions, and I have not sought any help from any political party,” said the 45-year-old.
A stone’s throw from Munugode, a group of rickshaw drivers sat in front of a rice mill in Chandur. They were well aware of the charade the parties played. For some of them, discussion of politics was a pastime as they are resigned to the fact that not much changes even when a new dispensation takes over. Said an ageing Anantaramulu Goud: “I get Aasara pension and that supplements my income. Other than that, I am not a beneficiary of any scheme of the government.”
Barbershop owner Empati Satya was very philosophical about the way the political parties work. “Look at this village. How dirty it is! If there is rain, all roads will vanish under sheets of water,” he said. Whether it was the BJP or the TRS, they were all the same to him. “It is like choosing between a bigger evil and a lesser evil,” he said.
The strident voices against the dispensation both at the Centre and the state only got shriller as this correspondent moved on.
In the Marriguda mandal, a movement was going on against the ruling TRS. They cried foul over the state government for ditching them after promising them the moon at the time of acquisition of the lands for the Cherlagudem Irrigation project.
V Sudhakar Rao, one of the farmers who lost their lands and houses, said: “There is a disparity in the compensation paid to farmers in Siddipet and here. People lost lands in three villages, and both land and houses in four villages. Mallanna Sagar oustees got up to ₹12 lakh per acre, but we are getting only ₹4.15 lakh. We will move the court,” he said.