A week ago, Chandrababu Naidu embarked on a holiday to Europe along with family to recuperate from the crushing election defeat of his Telugu Desam Party (TDP). But no jacuzzi or sauna on the Atlantic or the Mediterranean coasts could soothe the aching soul of Naidu, whose woes at home only multiplied in his absence.
Just as he was packing bags for the vacation, he was threatened with the demolition of his rented home in Amaravati. And a couple of days after his departure, four of his party’s six Rajya Sabha members eloped to the BJP. This was followed by reports that some of TDP’s Assembly members too would jump ship.
Then came an announcement by new Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy of the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) that the “illegal” government annexe next to Naidu’s private home, which he had been using for meetings, would be demolished. At the same time, it became known that the new government had scaled down the security cover for Naidu’s family members. Earlier, Naidu’s own security had been downsized.
And when Naidu returned home on the midnight of Tuesday, he was greeted not with garlands and crackers from supporters but with the deafening noise of bulldozers and jackhammers. While the annexe called Praja Vedika (people’s platform) was being demolished, he faced the unmistakable threat of his main home being the next target. Both the private home and the government annexe allegedly stand on what should be the riverbed of the Krishna and so violate laws. They probably do.
All this means one thing. The honeymoon after the stormy 11 April election to the Assembly and the Lok Sabha (first phase) in the state had been too brief. Jagan’s promise of a vendetta-free politics had raised the hope that peace might reign for a while after all.
Indeed, there were no brickbats — though no bouquets either — exchanged by Jagan and Naidu for some time. Always smiling and wringing his hands like a shy groom, the new Andhra Pradesh chief minister was humble to the fault after his swashbuckling election victory, earning admirers in the process. Like the wise man who had once said, Jagan was showing even his foes that the surest way to rise was to descend.
Now, forget all this. It only proved to be a lull after a storm, but before another one. First came the West Bengal sort of — well, almost — dingdong battles between the workers of YSRCP and TDP. Then came what looks like the Tamil Nadu type of vendetta from the winning party against the losing one.
There is no case for arguing that every action taken by Naidu during his term as chief minister was lilywhite clean. But the new chief minister appears to be in a tearing hurry to punish Naidu for crimes yet uninvestigated. Accused of being corrupt to the core and taunted with jibes about his periodic visits to courts to clear himself of the cases against him, Jagan is driven by a burning desire to turn the tables on Naidu. He is bent upon exposing the TDP leader as the very fountain of corruption.
Rs 2,636-crore power ‘scam’
On Wednesday, the YSRCP government also announced an inquiry into the alleged underhand deals the Naidu government had signed with many companies, including power producers.
“We have identified as many as 30 agreements signed with various companies by the previous government involving massive corruption,” Jagan said, adding that the Naidu government had made excess payments of Rs 2,636 crore to producers of solar and wind power.
While this inquiry involving several state agencies may take a long while before unraveling truth, the immediate question that begs answer is whether Naidu will be driven out of his home.
It was in 2016 when Naidu moved into this rented house on the banks of Krishna river when the state government shifted its work to the new capital at Amaravati from Hyderabad. This became necessary because Andhra Pradesh was split in 2014 and Telangana was carved out of it as a separate state, with Hyderabad as its capital. Then, in 2017, the Praja Vedika annexe was built by the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) as an extension of the private home at a cost of Rs 9 crore for Naidu’s official and, sometimes, even party meetings.
After Naidu lost power and YSRCP took over, he sought permission for his continued use of Praja Vedika in his capacity as the main Opposition leader, a post that goes with a Cabinet minister’s rank. But the government demolished it on Tuesday, citing its alleged illegality, leaving open the question of bringing down Naidu’s home too.
It’s difficult to imagine that Naidu had invented illegal construction of buildings. Few state governments in India are without blemish on this score. Jagan’s father YS Rajasekhara Reddy — popular as YSR — who was the Congress chief minister from 2004 till his death in a helicopter crash in 2009, too was no exception. The innumerable statues of YSR that have sprouted on public spaces after his death are not the only illegal structures put up by those backing the party founded by his son.
If Jagan issues a blanket order to raze down all illegal structures anywhere in the state irrespective of political loyalties of violators, he would be hailed as a leader taller than the tallest statue of his father. If he targets only Naidu instead, he would be charged with petty politics. He would also be seen as a man conspiring with the BJP, which wants to marginalise Naidu’s party, by engineering defections to start with, and take its place in Andhra Pradesh.
By giving Jagan a huge majority, Andhra Pradesh had hoped for good governance, and that’s what he must deliver.
Author tweets @sprasadindia
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Updated Date: Jun 26, 2019 22:55:44 IST