The rivalry between Andhra Pradesh and Telangna took a new turn earlier this week, in what some called a new low in the simmering tension between the two southern states. In a letter written to Union Minister of State for Commerce & Industry Nirmala Sitharaman, the Telangana minister for Industries and Information Technology, K T Rama Rao accused his neighour of stealing data. The plagiarism charges is only the tip of the fight between the two states over who gets to lead in the Ease of Doing Business dashboard set up by the Modi government for investors to compare and choose which state to park their money. The final pecking order is yet to be frozen, but for now Telangana leads over Andhra Pradesh by a mere 0.17%, that puts it second on the list led by Uttarakhand.
Other states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat for over two decades have fought bitter battles over wooing investors but they have rarely become street fights ending in police stations. For now Telangana has lodged a formal complaint with the state’s cyber crime squad.
The two generals leading this fight over investments are Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu and Telangana minister K T Rama Rao, son of the state chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao. Naidu is no stranger to fights. Naidu without any doubt is the first technocrat chief minister in an Indian state, who rose to fame, some seven years before Modi’s exploits with Vibrant Gujarat.
His rival across the border, despite his relatively limited political experience, is also a technocrat in his own right. He holds two post graduate degrees in bio-technology from two Indian universities and an MBA in marketing and e-commerce from University of New York. This fast talking 40-year old politician’s charm seldom goes unnoticed. At a recent ceremony to announce Apple’s entry into the state with its latest and largest development centre outside the US in Hyderabad, Rao opened his five and half minute welcome address thus: “Firstly, Tim, the one question I have been getting over the last couple of months is what’s cooking. Finally (pointing to Apple Inc CEO on the stage) Mr Cook himself is here.” Turning a few degrees to face Cook he went on to add, “We are a new state. We would like to call ourselves a startup state.” Talk of turning a weakness to strength.
The lynch-pin, as Rao puts it, to draw investors into Telangana is ease of doing business, cutting through ceremonial red-tapism. Telegana promises approval of setting up businesses in 15 days, and if it fails the state says the project will be deemed approved. Also on the accountability front, if the government does not deliver on its end of the deal, it is liable to face self imposed penal action. Investors seem to appreciate these efforts.
Telangana, according to state officials has received investment proposals worth Rs 33,101 crore with an estimated work opportunity for 25,000 and 1.25 lakh indirectly.
After the enactment of Telangana State Industrial Project Approval and Self Certification System (TS-iPASS) last year, the state has attracted new investments worth Rs 2,167.47 crore from as many as 18 companies which are estimated to potentially generate 13,817 more jobs. Most of the big names who have committed so far are global tech giants like Apple, Amazon, Google, Cognizant and engineering and manufacturing leaders like Airbus and ITC.
Andhra Pradesh, led by its deal maker chief minister, is way ahead in this race, at least at the MoU signing level. In 2015-16, the state signed MoUs worth Rs 4.75 lakh crore with the potential to generate upto a million new jobs. Malaysia’s Petrogas, Pepsi, Wal-Mart, Queensland Coal Corp, Asian Paints, Rashtriya Ispat Nigam, HPCL and Hero Motocorp are some of the marquee investors who have committed in green-filed projects in the state.
A spokesperson for a US-based tech giant called the two chief ministers as Modi-microcosms. “Like Modi, both have been on a whirlwind tour of countries since 2014. As investors we don’t see this as a fight. These are siblings with the same genetic coding.”