Tamilisai’s direct intervention has definitely embarrassed the KCR government.
HYDERABAD: Telangana Governor Tamilisai has got into an active role, signaling the end of the cooperative role played by her predecessor E.S.L. Narasimhan with Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) in the last five-and-a-half years. Tamilisai on Thursday not only reviewed the ongoing strike in TSRTC (Telangana State Road Transport Corporation), but also expressed her unhappiness over the impasse.
This has caught the KCR government unaware as the Chief Minister, ministers and officials were busy dealing with the strike and gearing up with arrangements to deal with the bandh on Saturday. The bandh call was given by the striking RTC employees’ joint action committee (JAC) and backed by several other unions, including the private cab drivers and private transport operators too.
The Governor’s move to call for a review of the strike came a day after a delegation of BJP state leaders submitted her a memorandum, seeking her intervention to end the deadlock which is spiraling into a crisis-like situation in the state. Due to the RTC strike, the state government has extended Dusshera holidays for schools from 14 to 19 October, or to 21 October, the reopening day.
Tamilisai, who returned from New Delhi after calling on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah last week, swiftly acted on the BJP memorandum and summoned the transport minister and senior officials to her Raj Bhavan on Thursday for a review of the RTC strike. She is believed to have briefed the PM and the Home Minister, too, on the strike’s impact on the people.
Telangana Transport Minister Puvvada Ajay Kumar excused himself from attending the review meeting of the Governor on the pretext that he had to be in another meeting called for by the Chief Minister on the same issue. Transport Secretary Sunil Sharma, however, turned up for the Governor’s meeting and briefed her about the situation arising out of the strike.
Tamilisai took a stern approach to the government’s handling of the situation and her straight grilling on what steps were taken to solve the strike, which entered the 13th day. She was not satisfied with the explanation of Sharma on the alternative arrangements made by the RTC to meet the public transport needs.
The Governor is also learnt to have asked the secretary to see that the educational institutions were reopened next week and see that enough buses were kept ready for the students. Tamiisai was well within her role as the constitutional head of the government, but her direct intervention in a strike that was fraught with political consequences has definitely embarrassed the government.
Even Narasimhan, too, had directly reviewed the law and order and other issues during the time of Congress governments led by K. Rosaiah and N. Kiran Kumar Reddy between 2008 and 2013 and 2014, but he never meddled with the day-to-day administration of KCR ever since he became the Chief Minister in 2014. KCR has never been used to an active Governor in the last five plus years.
The Governor’s review meeting came as a shot in the arm for the striking employees who on Friday blamed the government in the High Court for not calling them for talks to solve the issue. The HC, which heard a batch of petitions on Friday evening, ordered the government to call the employees for talks by 10.30 am, on Saturday and report to it by 28 October.
The RTC strike comes against the backdrop of the by-election to the Huzurnagar Assembly seat on 21 October, with political tempers running high and both the ruling TRS and the Opposition camp accusing each other of being responsible for the aggravated situation. So far, two RTC employees—a driver and a conductor—have committed suicide.
KCR has made it clear that he won’t call the striking employees for talks as they had refused to join duties by 5 October, when the strike began. The striking employees have been demanding that the RTC be merged into the government like in neighboring Andhra Pradesh, but KCR had made it clear that he would never agree to the demand.
There are other economic demands from the JAC, to which the government is open to discussion albeit with some reservations. Currently, the TRC is steeped in a debt burden of around Rs 5,000 crore and interest payments amount to Rs 450 crore per year. The CM had lashed out at the employees’ unions for causing further loss to a tune of Rs 200 crore due to the strike.
Similarly, Tamilisai also chaired another important meeting on Thursday where she ordered the state government to release its share of funds to match the grants given to the state universities under RUSA (Rashtriya Uchhatar Siksha Abhiyan) from the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development. She, as the chancellor of state universities, orders the in-charge vice-chancellors, all IAS officers to get the funds from the state.