On March 31, MK Stalin sent a SOS tweet to K Chandrasekhar Rao, the chief minister of Telangana and tagged his son, IT Minister KT Rama Rao. He was seeking help for vendors from Tamil Nadu who were stuck in Balakonda in Nizamabad district without food or shelter. Within minutes, KTR had responded, telling Stalin that “my team @KTRoffice will coordinate”.
A couple of hours later, a second tweet from KTR informed the DMK chief that all the vendors had been taken care of, with the local officials distributing 12 kg rice and Rs 500 each to six members.
The social media platform means it is not just the politically well-connected manage to draw KTR’s attention to their problems. Prashant Paley, a citizen tweeted to KTR about an urgent liver transplant that was needed for his 6-month-old son. “We will do our best to support,” wrote back KTR, asking his team to assist.
What stands out in the manner in which KTR responds is his empathy, all the more important at a time like now. It helps convey the impression effectively that the government is accessible, sensitive to a citizen’s woes and responsive.
It is not as if KTR Office has come into existence around this crisis. This backend team that consists of people with varied backgrounds has been around to help those who cannot quite get their way through the bureaucratic red tape. Unlike the real world, where getting work done by the government would entail several trips to the State Secretariat, greasing palms, keeping those in the peshis of ministers and MLAs happy, KTR with his team has helped cut through the waiting period. All it now needs is a tweet tagging him and hope he sees it. With the number of tweets that tag him, that needs a bit of luck as well.
While this is obviously a boon to tech-savvy citizens, it also ends up making the minister and his office the sole gateway to getting work done by the Telangana government. With the other ministers not active on social media, any issue pertaining to any ministry in the government gets tagged to KTR, often for no fault of his. Though by virtue of being the number 2 in the government and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti party, most would assume the buck does stop at his table.
Look at the present situation. Unlike say a state like Tamil Nadu, where Health minister Vijay Bhasker is at the forefront of fighting the Corona pandemic and is active both online and offline, Telangana Health minister E Rajender’s tweets are largely restricted to putting out the health bulletin. The most visible face of the government apart from KCR, has been KTR.
What this has done is to get the communication part right for Telangana given that KTR is easily the most articulate minister in this cabinet. But it would really help if his other colleagues too became more e-savvy and used the medium to address issues pertaining to their ministries and districts.