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The Tragedy Of Being The Andhra CM

As the 16th chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, former cricketer and a tennis enthusiast Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy seems to be in the right place at a wrong time. Prasad Nichenametla reports. A politician and a gentleman

india Updated: Jul 11, 2013 14:08 IST
Prasad Nichenametla
Prasad Nichenametla
Hindustan Times
Prasad Nichenametla,Andhra Pradesh,Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy

As the 16th chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, former cricketer and a tennis enthusiast Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy seems to be in the right place at a wrong time.

For, no matter how well he does as the CM, he can’t avoid being criticised for his view on Telangana — “a division is not the answer to Andhra’s problems” — or being compared to his predecessor, the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR).

Add to this the constant threat from YSR’s son, Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress and the hostility of his own senior ministers, and the picture of the man, who is expected to lead the Congress in the 2014 assembly elections, becomes clear.

Opinion polls peg the number of Lok Sabha seats the Congress could win in the state this time at about 10 out of the 42. During YSR’s time, the party managed to bag more than 30 seats in 2004 and 2009 — and allowed it to form the UPA government and stay on in power.

Still, Reddy soldiers on at the secretariat, putting on a brave face. “When I took charge two-and-a-half years ago, no one thought I would come this far,” he told HT.

Last week, just before the panchayat poll notification was issued, Reddy launched a scheme for the girl child to improve the falling sex ratio in the state — the government will provide Rs. 2,500 when a girl child is born, support her education and gift R1 lakh on completion of her graduation.

The Bangaru Thalli (golden girl, in Telugu) will cost Rs. 200 crore in the first year and will cover 800,000 girl children every year. But Reddy’s pet project doesn’t seem to offer any poll benefits to him.

Reddy admits: “Schemes help us go to the people. But to turn support into votes, we need effective political management.”

Also, Reddy’s Bangaru Thalli is compared to YSR’s health insurance scheme, Aarogyasri. The scheme provides free treatment to the poor in government or corporate hospitals.

Altogether, 1.75 million cases, involving an expenditure of more than Rs. 4,700 crore, were taken up till 2012-end. And although the data show 870,000 benefited under the scheme during Reddy’s tenure, his government is criticised for not giving enough support to the scheme.

“Kiran is doing his best. In fact, he is delivering some good schemes like the Bangaru Thalli. But for the people who benefited under YSR’s regime, this new one seems unappetising,” said P Kasaiah, a party worker of 30 years from Nalgonda.

Meanwhile, deals struck during YSR’s tenure are still haunting the Reddy cabinet. While one minister, Mopidevi Venkataramana, is in jail, the CBI has sought custody of two more ministers, besides arresting some IAS officers.

What’s more, while Reddy is fighting charges of corruption committed during YSR’s tenure, YSR’s legacy is being claimed by Jaganmohan — now in jail under disproportionate assets cases — especially in the Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions.

As Jaganmohan knows that Reddy doesn’t have much fan following in coastal Andhra-Rayalaseema, the YSR Congress Party is courting several Congress leaders from that region. In Telangana, given the strong sentiment for a separate state, some have already joined the Telangana Rashtra Samiti.

Political analyst K Nageshwar sums up Reddy’s tenure: “Reddy managed to consolidate his position as the captain, but sadly for him, of a sinking ship — the Congress.”

First Published: Jul 11, 2013 00:33 IST