By Rahul Maganti:
The state of Residuary Andhra Pradesh gave a resounding victory to the TDP + BJP combine, led by Chandrababu Naidu, often dubbed as a man of ‘vision’ and ‘development’. Winning over 100 seats and coming back into power after being out of it for 10 years, TDP faced an existential crisis and somehow managed to stay afloat in the battle. Of course, with a lot of money, muscle and liquor power which were used to levels unexpected by both the parties. Andhra Pradesh singlehandedly accounted for the largest amount of money seized. For a party which has very less ideological baggage and for which grassroots support eroded due to serious mistakes by the leadership, to sit out of power for 10 straight years is no ordinary deal. TDP supporters themselves accept that it would have been damn difficult for the party to survive if it had lost this election. Thus, the win was taken as a prestige issue by industrialists and money pumping NRI’s alike. Since the ruling Congress lost the elections well before they evenÂ begun, the battle is with YSR Congress, an offshoot of the Congress led by YS Jagan, son of former CM of AP, YS Rajashekhara Reddy. The choice was very limited for an average voter between ‘anti-farmer, anti-welfare’ Chandrababu and ‘Corrupt’ Jagan.
Precedence set between 1996 and 2004: Chandrababu Naidu, who ruled Andhra Pradesh for close to 10 years, is a staunch student of neo-liberal economics who cut upon all the welfare measures on the terms and conditions set by the World Bank, which lent funds to ‘develop’ Hitech City. While lakhs and lakhs of farmers were committing suicide and many more suffering from hunger and starvation, he cut subsidies on agriculture, hiked power prices among many others, again mortgaging the state to the World Bank. The ‘development’ he inflicted during those 10 years is a development for the rich, the development of the Hitech City and the software industry. While this kind of development is necessary, doing this at the cost of the lives of lakhs of farmers who committed suicide is the worst list of priorities.
Loan Waiver —Â The single largest reason why Naidu won the election. However, that is all past. The present looks promising though, atleast on paper. Having termed those decisions as ‘wrong’ and having shown remorse for not catering to the agriculture sector, which accommodates close to 60% of households, Naidu also undertook a fast unto death in support of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farmers. TDP’s manifesto was designed in a populist way to secure the votes of the farming community and women. It promised complete loan waiver of farm loans and DWACRA loans. While the farm loan alone is going to cost the state exchequer Rs. 55,000 Crores, and this at a time when the state has a budget deficit of 13,000 Crores, this move has already invited the ire of bankers and economists and a red signal from the RBI. Mr. Naidu promised during his election campaign that his first signature will be on the farm loan waiver, which will waive off all the farm loans. However, that wasn’t possible because the RBI insisted on money being paid instead of accepting securities. Ironically, his first signature was on a file ‘setting up of the high level committee which will look into possible solutions’ but not on the Government Order (GO) waiving off farm loans. Now, a high level committee is looking into the issue which will release its mid-term report on June 22 and the final report by the end of July. With the monsoons round the corner, the Kharif crop is getting late because the farmers don’t have money till the loans get waived off. It is toÂ be seen how Mr. Naidu manages to keep his promise intact.
Infrastructure, Industries and Development: To a state that has it’s economy in debt after the bifurcation (because majority of GDP for the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh came from Hyderabad alone which is now part of Telangana) and has a burden to start everything right from the scratch, build new infrastructure, right from a new Capital city to Legislative Assembly and a Secretariat, it is going to be a daunting task ahead for Mr. Naidu to manage financial resources. Riding on the slogan, ‘Seemandhra into Singapore’, Naidu promised a world class capital city and a coastal industrial belt, he also promised to set up a software industry, like the one he did in Hyderabad. All this needs a lot of land which again, is a Herculean task with majority of lands in the Delta Region of Krishna and Guntur, where the new capital is expected to come. Many people would not like to part away with their lands, given their sky-rocketing price. It needs to be seen how Mr. Naidu manages SEZ’s or whether he will come up with public sector industries.
Polavaram Issue: With the rapport Naidu enjoys with the Central Govt., he lobbied for a Polavaram Ordinance which will displace 7 Mandals, 206 villages and 4,00,000 people, predominantly Dalits and Adivasis. These submerged villages are geographically in the Telangana region, but the GP transfers them to the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. There was immense pressure to change the present design from the people and the MLA of Bhadrachalam, Sunnam Rajaiah of the CPIM, who went on fast unto to death. In hindsight, this can be termed as a bad step because this should be more accommodating, deliberative and discussed between the two states rather than coming out with ‘Ordinances’ to favor big fish politicians and industrialists.
To govern a state which was wounded and bruised after the bifurcation is no easy thing. However, Mr. Naidu, who is an able administrator carries a lot of hope and expectations to rise above the occasion and build a state with good infrastructure, a vibrant industrial belt and a capital city. On the other hand, he also has to meet the expectations of a welfare state, the farming community, women and the working class, which he himself seems to have learnt the hard way after receiving a drubbing in 2004.