Welfare schemes, tussle with rivals mark 2 years of Jagan tenure
It was a year of consolidation of power and controversies for Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) president and Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, who will complete two years in office on Sunday.
The Navaratnalu (nine jewels) welfare schemes and a slew of other populist schemes that began during the first year of the YSRCP coming to power picked up pace during the second year of Reddy’s rule, the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic notwithstanding, consolidating his vote bank and fetching him tremendous mileage in the local body elections.
Apart from direct benefit transfer (DBT) schemes like Amma Vodi (cash incentive to women who send their children to schools), enhanced pensions, fee reimbursement scheme, YSR Zero Interest Scheme, etc .that were introduced in the first year, Reddy came up with a calendar of various other welfare schemes for farmers, weavers, lawyers, autorickshaw drivers, hawkers, fishermen etc., covering every section of the population, to increase the YSRCP’s votebank.
The distribution of 2,500,000 housing sites for economically weaker sections of the population on December 25 last year brought Reddy massive goodwill.
“It was a sort of social engineering by Reddy, who ensured that not a single section of people is left out in the implementation of welfare schemes. He even covered upper castes like Brahmins, Kapus and Reddys, besides minorities,” said political analyst Sangem Ramakrishna.
The establishment of village and ward secretariats to bring the administration to the villages and towns firmly entrenched the YSRCP at the grassroots level. Over 300,000 village and ward volunteers, who were appointed to deliver the benefits of various government schemes, be it pensions or ration, directly to the beneficiaries at their doorsteps, proved a masterstroke for him.
But in his eagerness to implement his welfare agenda, Reddy has not focussed much on industrial and infrastructure development. Though his government came up with an industrial policy seeking to provide a lot of incentives to the sector, no major industries have been grounded in the state. No new infrastructure projects have come up in the last two years.
“We had several grandiose plans for the development of Vizag-Chennai industrial corridor and Kakinada special economic zone. But the pandemic has virtually stalled everything,” a YSRCP leader, who asked not to be named, said.
The indiscriminate borrowing by the Reddy government to implement its welfare schemes has also left the state exchequer virtually bankrupt. “The state is totally dependent on loans. As of today [Friday], the total outstanding debt of the state stands at ₹4.47 lakh crore and in the last two years, the Reddy government borrowed ₹1.60 lakh crore,” former finance minister and TDP lawmaker Yanamala Ramakrishnudu said.
State finance minister Buggana Rajendranath Reddy, however, said during the recent budget presentation that the state had to borrow enormous amounts of money because of the crippling of state finances because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
What marred the otherwise welfare-oriented rule of Reddy were his acts of vengeance against his political rivals and confrontation with constitutional institutions, including judiciary. Many of his decisions taken in a hurry – such as creating three capitals for the state in place of existing capital Amaravati, introducing English medium in all government schools, removing the state election commissioner by promulgating an ordinance, acquiring land for house site schemes and painting of government buildings with YSRCP colours have come under the scanner of the judiciary.
This led to Reddy launching a tirade against the judiciary, going to the extent of lodging a complaint with former Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, accusing second-most senior Supreme Court NV Ramana of colluding with TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu and a few judges of the state high court to dislodge his government. He even attributed the land scam in Amaravati to justice Ramana, but the CJI dismissed his petition after due inquiry.
“It appears Reddy has crossed all limits in acting with vengeance against his political rivals, aimed at finishing them politically and financially. The closure of Amara Raja firms owned by TDP MP Galla Jayadev and seizure of Sangam Dairy from ex-MLA Dhulipalla Narendra are classic examples of his vengeance politics. This has never been heard of in any other state,” said senior journalist and political analyst Suresh Dharur.
His prolonged legal battle over the sudden postponement of local body elections in March 2020 due to the outbreak of Covid-19 with previous state election commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, which Reddy lost, also showed his aggressive approach to whoever had opposed his decisions. Reddy was displeased with the announcement postponing the elections.
In the last one year, many TDP leaders, including state unit president K Atchannaidu, Kollu Ravindra, Dhulipalla Narendra, Chintamaneni Prabhakar, JC Prabhakar Reddy, JC Asmith Reddy and BC Janardhan Reddy were arrested in various cases. Even TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu was booked by the CID for his alleged role in the acquisition of assigned lands in Amaravati.
Reddy ordered several inquiries, alleging insider trading on part of rival political leaders during the land acquisition process for Amaravati, but the cases are still being heard in court. The filing of a sedition case against his own party MP from Narasapuram K Raghurama Krishnam Raju for questioning his government policies clearly displayed his intolerant attitude.
Dharur said Reddy appeared to be of the view that he was above any criticism after receiving a huge mandate with 151 of his party MLAs in the 175-member assembly. “The way he fixed even two Telugu television channels [the TV channels regularly telecast Raju’s press conferences] in the sedition case along with Raju shows he cannot tolerate any negative talk about him,” he said.
In the last one year, the chief minster made several attempts to shift the administrative capital from Amaravati to Visakhapatnam, but it did not work out due to court litigations and the pandemic.
“The two-year rule of Reddy is marked by corruption, political victimisation and hatred for his rivals. There is no job creation and dreams of the youth are shattered. The economy in shambles,” TDP chief Naidu said.
The Reddy government, however, claimed that it could fulfil over 90% promises he had made in the party manifesto.
“It [the government] has implemented several revolutionary programmes which were never heard of in the past, covering all sections of people,” an official note from the government, listing its achievements in various sectors, said.