Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy on Tuesday ordered the demolition of an "illegal" swanky glass building 'Praja Vedika' built by former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu to be used as a venue to meet the public, hold press conferences and do other miscellaneous official work.
The structure, which is located near Naidu's house in Undavalli, was built in 2017 at a cost of Rs 5 crore by the Telegu Desam Party (TDP) government through Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) in 2017. The demolition took place after the Andhra High Court turned down a late night plea and adjourned the hearing by two weeks. The petition had alleged the demolition was a waste of public money. Meanwhile, TDP has called the demolition "vendetta politics".
Naidu had written to Reddy on 4 June to allow him to retain the hall so that he could work from there as the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly.
"I wish to continue the same arrangement, that the 'Praja Vedika' be declared as the residence annexe of the Leader of the Opposition, to facilitate me to meet legislators, visitors, common public and discharge my duties," Naidu wrote.
The new YSR Congress Party government that came to power with a massive mandate in the recently concluded Assembly election took over Praja Vedika last weekend to organise Reddy's first meet with district collectors after becoming chief minister. During the meeting, Reddy said it was the last event at Praja Vedika as the building was "illegal" and it would be demolished on Wednesday. Reddy cited orders from River FTL (Full Tank Level) Violations and National Green Tribunal behind his decision to bring down the hall.
In fact, the YSR Congress Party has been claiming that Naidu's residence as the chief minister on the banks of the Krishna river, was also illegally built and flouted environmental norms. Reddy on Tuesday made it clear that the demolition of the Praja Vedika is just the beginning and asked officials to identify and demolish all illegal structures constructed during Naidu's regime. He said that he wanted to expose the Naidu government’s irregularities and bring them into the public domain.
Earlier, soon after taking the oath, Reddy had announced that he will change the state’s condition within six months and prove to be the "best chief minister" within a year.
Meanwhile, TDP alleged that the government showed no courtesy to the former chief minister as his belongings were thrown out of the building alleging that the party was not informed about the government's decision to take over the premises.
Naidu has been staying in Undavalli since 2016 when Andhra Pradesh shifted its administration to Amaravati from Hyderabad, which later became the capital of Telangana. Naidu is currently staying in a house leased from Lingamaneni Ramesh, an infrastructure giant, in 2015.
The former chief minister — who is holidaying abroad with his family — had announced that a collectors' conference will be held at the venue. The conference, the first since YSCRP came to power, was earlier scheduled to be held at the state secretariat.
TDP state president Kala Venkat Rao said, “We had requested that the structure be allocated to us. But the government did not respond. Instead, officials just threw out our leader’s belongings from Praja Vedika. This is not correct.”
YSRC lawmaker from Mangalagiri Alla Ramakrishna Reddy had filed a public interest petition in the high court stating that Naidu’s house and many others in the area were illegal constructions. The case is still pending in the court. According to Hindustan Times' report, the alleged illegal constructions in the area include guesthouses belonging to NRIs and other prominent people like former BJP MP Gokaraju Ganga Raju, besides a massive nature cure hospital and an orphanage.
“Praja Vedika was built for the sake of the people and not for any individual’s benefit. Similarly, several buildings came up on the banks of Krishna river over many years. Will Jagan Reddy demolish all of them? There are no instances of flooding of the area in the last 50 years,” senior TDP leader and MLA Gorantla Buchaiah Chowdary said.
However, Municipal Administration Minister Botsa Satyanarayana hit back at TDP saying Naidu would be treated in the same manner as Jagan Mohan Reddy was treated when he was the Leader of Opposition. Satyanarayana said that after losing power, Naidu should gracefully leave and it was not proper to say that Praja Vedika belonged to him, as it was "not his personal property".
Meanwhile, TDP senior leader and former minister Y Ramakrishnudu termed the government's action as "witch-hunting".
"The government has deliberately resorted to this action. If it did not want to give Praja Vedika, it could have communicated the same in writing," he said.
Reddy on Tuesday had said that the authorities had pointed out how the cost of construction of Praja Vedika was escalated from Rs 5 crore to Rs 8 crore. “As such, the construction of the building involved huge corruption. What can we say, if a person who ruled the state for five years indulges in corruption and violates the law?” he had asked in a direct attack on his predecessor.
The chief minister said that he had decided to hold the collectors’ conference in Praja Vedika despite knowing that it was an illegal construction only to disclose the facts. “On Tuesday, I will hold another meeting with IPS officers in this same conference hall. It will be the last meeting here. From Wednesday, the demolition of Praja Vedika will begin,” he had announced.
Updated Date: Jun 27, 2019 19:02:14 IST