The coal mine union affiliated to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi has swept the quadrennial elections held on Thursday in the state. The outcome will work as a morale boosting factor for party president and Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, 18 months ahead of the general elections in 2019. The union, Telangana Boggu Gani Karmika Sangham (TBGKS) has retained its recognised union status.
The TBGKS secured 23,581 votes, while its main rival coalition led by AITUC (All India Trade Unions Congress, affiliated to the CPI) got 19,386 votes. The TBGKS won the majority of the votes in nine out of the 11 areas of the Singareni coal mines. Of the 52,534 votes, 49,873 votes were polled.
This victory is important to KCR for more than one reason. First, the support of coal mine workers of Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL), a 97-year-old state run venture that operates close to 100 mines, is crucial to the victory of any political party in the general elections as they constitute around three lakh voters spread in 12 Assembly constituencies across six districts of Northern Telangana.
Also, KCR has appointed his daughter and Nizamabad MP Kavitha as the honorary president of TBGKS and entrusted her with the task of retaining its recognised union status. When the last elections were held in 2012, the union was led by KCR himself and he won the majority in five areas out of 11, while AITUC, INTUC (affiliated to Congress) and HMS (Hindustan Majdoor Union) won two areas each.
This time all the three unions had joined hands and contested the polls under the leadership of AITUC with the common purpose of defeating TRS affiliate TBGKS. Their main allegation is that the TBGKS had failed to implement all its promises made to the workers since 2012 and that KCR had done nothing since he came to power in June 2014.
The victory is also important because KCR was able to trounce his arch rival and the main critic of his government these days, M. Kodandaram, convener of the joint action committee of political parties (T-JAC) which played a major role in the separate state agitation from 2009 to 2014. Kodandaram had not only campaigned along with the Congress and TDP leaders, but had also called upon the miners to defeat the TBGKS.
Though these are routine elections held once in four years to decide the status of officially recognised unions in coal mines, this time they assumed significance, courtesy the high voltage campaign by leaders of different political parties. Telangan Pradesh Congress Committee president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy, TDP working president A. Revanth Reddy had jointly campaigned for the AITUC.
CM KCR too had marshalled all his resources and around a dozen ministers and 20 legislators and MPs to ensure a victory in the trade union elections. He told the ruling party MLAs and MPs in the coal belt that unless they won their respective areas, it would be difficult for him to give them tickets in the next elections. KCR himself worked overtime to ensure the victory of TBGKS by announcing a slew of sops to the miners. A major decision is to revive the appointments in SCCL under compassionate grounds under which the dependents of a miner would be given jobs if he opts for voluntary retirement or retires due to sickness etc. The CM also increased the one-time benefit of a retiring worker from Rs 12 lakh to Rs 25 lakh or a life time pension of Rs 25,000 per month, if he doesn’t avail the compassionate appointment facility. Likewise, the miners will also be given interest free housing grant of Rs 6 lakh and there would be regularisation of unauthorised houses in SCCL township areas.
The opposition unions had alleged that the CM had made most of these promises four years ago, but little was done. Former Congress legislator Gandra Venkata Ramana Reddy, who actively led the union elections campaign, told The Sunday Guardian that KCR had failed to revive the jobs to dependents scheme since he came to power in 2014.
Reddy alleged that the CM had misused his official position to announce several new sops to coal miners and that a large amount of money was spent and costly gifts like silver glasses etc were distributed to miners’ families a day before the polling. “In spite of money power and misuse of official machinery, the moral victory is ours,” said Reddy.
KCR, who addressed the media on Friday, said the union election victory reflected the general positive mood of the people about his government. “Now it is clear that the people are still with us and the TRS is their favourite party,” said KCR.
KCR complimented his daughter and others who worked hard for the victory and announced that he would further strengthen the public sector SCCL. “Two years ago, Adani Group chairman Adani came to me and proposed to set up a private power plant in Telangana by using coal from his Australian mines, but I said no. We will protect and shield our SCCL,” said KCR.