An eventful 2018 for India’s youngest state Telangana
Hyderabad, Dec 25: The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) juggernaut rolled on in 2018 with the party storming to power with a two-thirds majority in the assembly elections to form its second straight government in the state.
During the year, the state witnessed one of the worst road tragedies in the country when 60 people were killed in a bus accident in September.
Verdicts in key terror cases saw Hindutva preacher Swami Aseemanand being acquitted by an NIA court in the 11-year old Mecca Masjid blast case and two terrorists awarded capital punishment in another blast case.
TRS supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao, who scripted the stunning victory in the December 7 polls, swiftly elevated his son K T Rama Rao as the working president of the party and announced plans to push his initiative for a non-BJP and non-Congress front at the national level.
The outcome of the first ever polls after Telangana came into being in 2014 proved right Rao's gamble of going to the people months ahead of the assembly's term was to end in April next year.
The presumption that there was a positive mood among the people in TRS favour came true as Rao, who spearheaded the statehood movement since 2001, further cemented his position in the state.
TRS won 88 of the 119 assembly seats, riding the popularity of a slew of its government's welfare projects, including the farmer-centric schemes, quelling challenges from the Congress-led front and BJP.
The Rao government's populist 'Rythu Bandhu' crop investment support scheme and the 'Rythu Beema' life insurance scheme launched during the year paid rich dividends to the ruling party at the hustings.
Any hopes the Congress had of staging a comeback in the state, carved out of Andhra Pradesh during the UPA rule headed by it were dashed as it ended up with just 19 seats.
Keen to halt the TRS' return to power, the Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) buried their decades-old rivalry and forged the Praja Kutami (Peoples Alliance) along with Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS) and Communist Party of India (CPI).
Even before the party could recover from the ignominious poll defeat, four of its six MLCs defected to the TRS and were promptly recognised by the Legislative Council chairman as members of the TRS on December 21.
For BJP, which was looking at strengthening its position in Telangana, it was a disappointing outcome as the party ended up with just one seat, having contested the polls on its own. The party had five MLAs in the previous assembly.
Soon after his resounding victory, the 64-year old Rao, who rose to become the mascot of Telangana pride after successfully realising the statehood goal in 2014, announced plans to play a pro-active role in national politics.
He vowed to work for installing a non-Congress, non-BJP government at the Centre after the 2019 elections.
Moving quickly, Rao appointed his son K T Rama Rao as TRS working president, a move seen by many as the latter's anointment as heir apparent.
Prior to the assembly dissolution, Rao had set out on a mission to form a third alternative to BJP and Congress and had met regional satraps, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and DMK President M K Stalin.
Left leaning poet and writer Varavara Rao, accused of having Maoist links, was taken into custody in November by the Pune police from Hyderabad in a case related to Elgar Parishad conclave which has set off violence in Maharashtra.
The arrest, along with those of four rights activists, for alleged Maoist links, triggered outrage, with opposition leaders, lawyers and authors condemning it.
In March, ten Maoists, including six women and a constable of the Greyhound commando force of Telangana Police, were killed in an encounter in the forest area of Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district bordering Telangana.
In a major road tragedy, 60 people were killed when a state-run Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) bus fell into a gorge at Kondagattu in Jagtial district on September 12.
On April 16, a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Hyderabad acquitted Hindutva preacher Swami Aseemanand and four others in the May 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case.
A powerful remote controlled blast had ripped through the over four centuries-old mosque here during an assembly of devotees on May 18, 2007 when they had gathered for Friday prayers, killing nine people and wounding 58.
A Hyderabad metropolitan court on September 10 sentenced to death two terrorists, convicted of killing 44 people and wounding 68 others in two coordinated blasts here in 2007.
The court also convicted another person of harbouring the perpetrators in the national capital and other places, and awarded him life imprisonment.
Former Rajya Sabha member Nandamuri Harikrishna, son of TDP founder N T Rama Rao and brother-in-law of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, died in a road accident in Telangana's Nalgonda district on August 29.
The TRS government's efforts to woo investors saw Swedish furniture giant Ikea making its foray into the Indian market by opening its first outlet here in August at an investment of over Rs 800 crore.
The state capital continued to be one of the favoured destinations for IT companies with Qualcomm announcing plans to set up its largest campus outside the US here at an investment outlay of USD 400 million (Rs 3,000 crore).
Smartphone brands OnePlus and Oppo and superbike maker Benelli also announced plans to invest in Telangana. Tech majors Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple already have offices in Hyderabad.
Telangana stood second in the ease of doing annual business ranking of states and Union Territories by the World Bank and Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) for 2017-18.
(With agency inputs)