The TSRTC strike which is being intensified by each passing day is turning to be a menace for Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao. While the High Court admonished both the government and the striking employees for their adamant stands and asked both of them to settle the issue amicably by holding talks two days ago, it was the turn of the Telangana Governor Tamilisai Sundararajan to intervene as she summoned the Transport Minister to apprise her of the latest situation arising out of the RTC strike.

The Chief Minister who cancelled his election meeting at Huzurnagar due to bad weather, was busy reviewing the situation. As the Transport Minister P Ajay Kumar was busy with the Chief Minister, the government has sent Transport Secretary Sunil to the Raj Bhavan to brief the Governor about the latest situation.

Despite the High Court instructions to both the parties – the government and the striking employees – to make efforts to call off the strike, no headway has been made with both appearing to take it as a ‘prestige’ issue as who should bell the cat, notwithstanding lakhs of commuters being put to untold hardships particularly during the festive season.

Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao seems to have been pushed onto the back-foot as far as his latest decision to declare the 50,000 TSRTC employees’ strike as ‘illegal’ and ‘blackmailing’ tactics, with the directive from the Telangana High Court. The court, in unequivocal terms, asked the government to hold talks to resolve the agitating employees’ demands amicably, instead putting lakhs of commuters into inconvenience and hardship.

Chandrashekar Rao’s decision to suspend those who failed to report for their duties, the deadline set by the government, also appears to lose to hold any water with the court directive, though it had not touched upon the subject. Interestingly, there appears no ‘solace’ in sight for the employees as the Chief Minister chooses to maintain stoic silence, in spite of the court directive. Though, Chandrashekar Rao reportedly held a high-level review meeting late on Tuesday, no decision seems to have taken, yet.

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However, time is running out for the agitating employees as well the government. If the agitating employees are experiencing hardship with no salary and a ‘bad Dasara’, besides ‘Diwali’ fast approaching next week, for the government, it is ‘prestige-coupled with risk factor’ considering the Huzurnagar bypoll scheduled to be held on October 21. With internal poll survey indicating that the ruling party is facing an uphill task in facing stiff challenge from the Congress candidate, who also happens to be the wife of that party’s State president Uttam Kumar Reddy.

Huzurnagar happens to be the Congress citadel as Uttam Kumar Reddy himself being the native of that place. The Chief Minister had to cancel his Huzurnagar rally on Thursday evening owing to bad weather. Chandrashekar Rao had the time to address the meeting till October 19. Can the star speaker still tilt the scales in ruling party’s favour?

Everybody expected that Chandrashekar Rao would strive for achieving Bangaru Telangana during his second stint. When his party rode to landslide victory in the Assembly elections, he wanted to cross swords with the ruling BJP-led NDA government at the Centre headed by Narendra Modi by determining to foist a non-BJP and non-Congress government at the Centre. He strived hard in forming even a Federal Front and toured extensively and met Chief Ministers of Bengal and Karnataka to realise his dream.

He even demanded that the Centre remove five to six major subjects from the Concurrent List. Such has been his attitude who even dared to run the newly-elected government without a Cabinet for close to two months. However, all his hopes were dashed off when his ruling TRS got only seven seats in the Lok Sabha polls that followed later, conceding four to the BJP and three to the Congress, much to his chagrin. The second shock was when the BJP obtained steamroller majority.

Despite this, he continued to display the same brave posture and inducted new faces in his State Cabinet ignoring claims of many seniors, who extended their shoulders during the agitation. The lesson that he may have to learn from the experience of the RTC strike is his unilateral decisions need serious introspection.

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For the first time in six years, Chandrashekar Rao, who led the Telangana agitation from the front resorting to all forms of strikes including the 42-day Sakalajanula Samme by the government and RTC staff, bringing the Kiran Kumar Reddy government to a grinding halt in 2013 in support of his bifurcation demand, cannot afford to forget it so early. He should realise that experiencing such ironical situation in the form of strikes and bandhs is part of democratic process. All he needs to understand is how to adopt more acceptable methods to wriggle out from such situations.

Thus far, it is a ‘litmus’ test to the KCR government to bring the situation arising out of RTC strike to normalcy before Diwali festival. Otherwise, his image which has already got dented because of series of controversial decisions, would further get mauled. Whether the RTC strike or the October 19 bandh would spill over to impact Huzurnagar bypoll outcome, one has to wait and see.

Though it is quite common for the employees to hold threats on the government with strike notices ahead of important events like festivals that may be construed as part of ‘pressure’ tactics. Yet, unilateral and provocative comments by none other the Chief Minister himself not only precipitate matters. That is what has happened in case of 48,000 agitating employees, who felt let down by the government as well as humiliated with the ‘sacking orders.’

Such unilateral move by the government has not only galvanized support from the entire Opposition to the striking employees, but also created a great sense of insecurity among the RTC staff forcing a couple of them even to end their precious lives, a trend which was witnessed during the separate statehood struggle. If one chose to analyse critically the developments that unfolded since October 5, the whole issue of the RTC strike was badly handled. When the employees struck work, all the conciliation norms and procedures were thrown to the winds.

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The Chief Minister hastily declared the striking employees failing to report to duties by the set deadline as ‘self-dismissal’, while the fact of the matter is that ‘strike is a fundamental right of any employee’. Moreover, as the agreement is between the RTC management and the employees, the authority to remove the employees lies with the corporation management and certainly not with the government. According to reliable sources, no official including the Chief Secretary or his advisors had guts to correct the Chief Minister.

Everybody appears to be scared to put the facts and consequences before him and advise the ‘political Boss’ to retrieve. A clear fear to get a ‘snub’ is the reality, a source said. As the deadlock continues, it had political ramifications and the CPI has decided to withdraw the support to the TRS in Huzurnagar by-poll, which has become prestigious issue for the ruling TRS and the Congress.

It is rare to see the BJP and Left parties who have different ideologies were on the same page supporting the RTC strike, reminding one of such scenes during the Telangana agitation. The TRS secretary general K Keshav Rao, who is otherwise a quite observer, picked courage to volunteer his experience to mediate between the government and the striking employees, too received a raw deal. Though, he was reportedly summoned from Delhi by the CMO, yet there is no word from it.

CMO sources, however, maintained that there is no change in the government stand as far as the RTC strike is concerned although the court has warned both the parties to initiate talks and call off the strike. With the court deadline ending on Friday evening and with the Telangana bandh round the corner on Saturday, what happens is any body’s guess! #KhabarLive


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