Obsession with Chandrababu Naidu emerges as key highlight of Jagan Mohan Reddy's first 50 days in office
If there is one thing that characterises the first fifty days of YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s government in Andhra Pradesh, it is an unrelenting pursuit of former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s alleged sins of omission and commission
Hours after Jagan Mohan Reddy assumed office on 30 May, he cancelled all projects sanctioned prior to 1 April, 2019
Jagan’s subsequent actions displayed a streak of personal vendetta as he demolished the Praja Vedika, which served as Naidu's residence during the TDP regime
Even bureaucrats who were seen as being close to Naidu are facing the music as several are yet to receive postings
Jagan believes Naidu had played a role in sending him to jail for 16 months in the past and would like to pay him back at any cost
Fixated on sending Naidu to jail, Jagan refused to heed even the advice of the Centre against re-opening PPAs of renewable energy projects in the state
If there is one thing that characterises the first fifty days of YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s government in Andhra Pradesh, it is an unrelenting pursuit of former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s alleged sins of omission and commission.
Jagan all along has made no bones about his wish to see the Telugu Desam Party chief — his senior in politics by more than three decades — spend the rest of his life in jail. Since the day he took over, the young chief minister has been training his guns at the ageing TDP chief. He is leaving no effort to put him on the mat over alleged corrupt and fraudulent deals.
Hours after Jagan assumed office on 30 May, the young Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh cancelled all projects sanctioned prior to 1 April, 2019, by the previous Naidu government. Works on the upcoming capital of Amaravati, the dream city envisioned by Naidu, came to a grinding halt. Major infrastructure projects like the Bhogapuram International Airport, Ramayapatnam Port, Kadapa Steel Plant, Bandar Port, Amaravati Iconic Bridge and Muktyala Lift Irrigation scheme were put in limbo as well.
A month into government, the new chief minister appointed a Cabinet Sub-Committee to investigate alleged corruption that took place during the TDP regime. The terms of reference were wide-ranging as the sub-committee was asked to review procurement systems, tender procedures, allocation of public resources, memoranda of understanding (MOU), letters of intent, joint ventures and special purpose vehicles (SPVs).
More specifically, the role of political leaders and key officials in designing and implementing policies, projects, or programmes that have had a harmful impact on the people of the state was to be looked into.
There was no mistaking the intent of the new government to catch Naidu over any and every lapse.
Jagan’s subsequent actions went beyond politics and displayed a streak of personal vendetta. In a dramatic but telling action, a building constructed with government money called Praja Vedika or 'people's forum', was ordered by Jagan to be pulled down a day after holding his maiden Collectors' Conference at the same venue.
Praja Vedika was the annexe of the then chief minister's official residence which itself was a guest house leased out from an industrialist on the banks of the river Krishna. The new government claimed that the structure, used for official meetings, violated the norms under the River Conservancy Act, having come up within 500 metres of the river.
The annexe was brazenly knocked down by earthmovers and bulldozers in the presence of TV cameras even as the former chief minister's family, which stayed in the house next, was vacationing in Europe. Since Naidu’s residence also came under the same law, the Jagan government issued a notice asking him to vacate the building. The TDP chief called the action ‘political vendetta’, and his landlord went to the court against the government’s move.
The environmentalists welcomed the government’s action but the critics questioned the motive, pointing out that there were about 50-odd unauthorised constructions existing in the bank for many years. Some of them were built during Jagan’s father YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s regime.
So fixated was the Jagan government on targeting alleged culpability of Naidu that it refused even to heed the advice of the Centre against re-opening Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) of renewable energy projects in the state.
First, it was Anand Kumar, Union Secretary for New and Renewable Energy, who in a letter to the state chief secretary LV Subramanyam expressed concerns over reports of the new government contemplating to revisit the PPAs in the energy sector. A few days later, RK Singh, Union Minister of State, wrote to Jagan, warning that "investments will dry up and growth will come to a halt" with such a move.
But the chief minister went ahead by appointing a high-level committee to renegotiate agreements. The concerns expressed by rating agency Crisil and the protests by NTPC too had little effect. The government’s proposed move, however, was stayed by the Aandhra Pradesh High Court on 25 July.
Jagan had earlier alleged that because of the corruption in the PPAs, the Andhra government exchequer suffered a loss of Rs 2,636 crore. He ordered the recovery of the money from the persons responsible for it and recommended legal action against Naidu.
The chief minister's zeal over revisiting PPAs and his willingness to disregard the Centre’s advice in this regard is being seen as a sign of his resolve to go after Naidu at any cost.
The YSR Congress government constituted a committee to dig out alleged irregularities in Polavaram project undertaken by the Naidu government. The task was to prove that there was ‘massive, unprecedented corruption’ in the execution of the project. The committee has already come up with the finding that estimates of various works were hiked by Rs 2,346 crore against norms. More such ‘findings’ are expected to be made public in the near future.
Even bureaucrats who were seen as being close to Naidu are facing the music in Jagan’s government. Several officers who worked closely with Naidu in the last government have been left hanging in the air without any postings till date. The officials in the former Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) were especially the targets. Satish Chandra, special chief secretary, and two other officials — G Sai Prasad (principal secretary) and AV Rajamouli (secretary) — are yet to get a posting nearly two months after the change in the government. Ajay Jain, who served as principal secretary of Energy, CRDA and Infrastructure and Investments department, is still waiting for work.
Jagan also shunted out then DGP RP Thakur and posted him as Commissioner of Printing and Stationery and Stores Purchase in an obvious humiliation. Additional DGP AB Venkateswara Rao, who was shunted out from the intelligence chief post by the Election Commission of India during the polls, was relieved forthwith but two months on, has no office to go.
The YSR Congress chief's deep-seated animosity against Naidu is by now well-known in the state. So much so that the TDP chief, stung by the venomous outbursts against him in the ongoing Assembly session, had to remind the young chief minister that his father, YS Rajasekhara Reddy, his contemporary, remained a friend for life, even though they were political rivals throughout.
The crusade against 69-year-old Naidu, who had received a crushing defeat in the recent Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, has not gone too well with the people. But Jagan does not seem to be in a mood to leave the Opposition leader untainted. Undermining Naidu is as much personal for Jagan as it is political, say YSR Congress leaders.
Jagan believes Naidu had played a role in sending him to jail for 16 months in the past and would like to pay him back at any cost. And by dragging Naidu to courts and proving that the former chief minister was more corrupt, he wants to redeem himself to whatever extent.
Jagan’s rather quick and unexpected restoration of the general consent for the CBI to conduct investigations in the state after the previous TDP government withdrew the same is also to be seen in this light. It is, observers believe, to facilitate Naidu’s prosecution in future. Interestingly, Jagan was very critical of the agency’s partisan investigations not very long ago.
The author is a Hyderabad-based journalist
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