By Mohammed Shafeeq
From trifurcation of the state capital to cancelling tenders for several key projects and from reserving 75 per cent jobs for local in industries to making English medium education compulsory in government schools, controversies dominated Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s one year in office.
The controversial decisions, confrontation with constitutional institutions, the vengeance with which his government perceived to have acted against the political rivals and several judgments by the courts against its moves overshadowed many welfare schemes launched by it to deliver on the poll promises.
The YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government completed one year in office on Saturday. It was on May 30 last year that Jagan Mohan Reddy had assumed office after his party stormed to power with landslide majority.
Analysts say while the welfare schemes helped the government to keep its support base intact, it has no tangible results to show in terms of attracting new investments to the state, taking up infrastructure projects or putting the state’s economy back on track.
Analyst Telakapalli Ravi believes it’s a mixed fare despite huge mandate and continued public support. “Jagan focussed on his Navaratnas (nine gems), other welfare schemes and was able to maintain positive opinion in his support base but invited problems for him and the state with capital shifting , massive land selling, excessive concentration of power, discomfort with bureaucrats and series of negative judgements,” he said.
Establishing village secretariats to bring administration to the village and appointment of over three lakh village volunteers to deliver social security pensions and ration at the doorsteps of the beneficiaries was one of the major achievements of the government.
The government claimed on the completion of first year of its term that as many as 15 welfare schemes were implemented, benefiting 3.57 crore individuals by spending Rs 40,139 crore. It claims to have implemented 90 per cent of the promises made during elections.
It disbursed Rs 2,500 monthly pension amounting to Rs 14,438 crore to over 58.6 lakh beneficiaries like the aged, widows, tappers, weavers, single women, fishermen, HIV-affected and traditional cobblers.
Besides increase in pensions, Jagan government also announced a slew of welfare schemes like YSR Rythu Bharosa for financial assistance for farmers, fee reimbursement, Amma Vodi to provide cash incentives to women for sending their children to schools and Arogyasri for free healthcare services to the poor in corporate hospitals. It also initiated some steps to fulfil its promise of total prohibition.
“Jagan carries the weight of huge expectations when it comes to social welfare in the state. His legacy of being the son of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy looms large over him. Additionally, constant comparison with the welfare initiatives in the neighbouring Telangana State is unavoidable. And Jagan has passed in this test with flying colours,” says political analyst P. Raghava Reddy.
“Jagan has tried best to deliver on his poll promises but when it comes to other aspects of administration, Jagan has scored few self goals. His constant run-ins with the judiciary could have been avoided. Conflict over Power Purchase Agreements, Amaravati, English medium, Ramesh Kumar episode are among the few instances when Jagan could have played more smart,” said Reddy.
From day one, Jagan had been trying to undo what his predecessor and bete noire N. Chandrababu Naidu had done during his rule. He focused on reviewing the agreements entered and cancelling the contracts awarded by the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
His move to dump Amaravati as the only state capital triggered unrest among thousands of farmers who had given 34,000 acres of land for the project. While all the works in Amaravati came to a halt, the proposals to develop Visakhapatnam as the administrative capital and Kurnool as the judicial capital remained on paper due to the legal hurdles.
In fact, Jagan’s government came under flak for making a beginning on demolition note when it razed Praja Vedika, an annex building to the rented house of Chandrababu Naidu on the banks of Krishna river in Amaravati. Naidu’s house was also served demolition notice for violation of rules.
The move to review Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) not only shocked the investors but also evoked strong reaction from the Centre which cautioned the state government that investment in power sector could suffer badly.
The cancellation of contracts for some key components of Polavaram project and consequent legal hurdles have delayed the works on the centrally funded project, billed as the future lifeline of the state.
“Except vengeance and vendetta, Jagan government had zero achievements in the first year. It is neck deep in corruption and it turned all schemes into scams,” said TDP leader Buddha Venkanna.
However, YSRCP leaders claim that the government has many achievements to its credit in a short time of one year. “We inherited empty coffers from TDP and despite this the Jagan government has implemented so many welfare schemes. There is no precedent of any other government achieving this,” said YSRCP leader G. Srikanth Reddy.
The government had to face series of setbacks in the high court. Experts attribute this to lack of proper homework by the government while taking the decisions.
Friday’s judgment reinstating N. Ramesh Kumar as the State Election Commissioner came as the latest blow to Jagan government. The high court struck down the ordinance issued to sack Rames Kumar, who was appointed by the previous government.
Only last week, the high court had reinstated Indian Police Service (IPS) officer A.B. Venkateswara Rao, who was suspended in February for alleged serious misconduct in the process of procurement of security equipment while he was working as Additional Director General of Police, Intelligence.
The suspension of the police officer was also seen as an act of vendetta by Jagan government as Rao was close to Chandrababu Naidu and as the intelligence allegedly tried to help the then ruling party.
Jagan government faced another embarrassment last week when high court ordered the probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into alleged manhandling and ill-treatment of suspended government doctor Sudhakar Rao by Visakhapatnam police. The doctor was suspended by the government for raising the issue of lack of protective gear for doctors treating COVID-19 patients.
The doctor, who was branded a TDP man, was arrested by the police and allegedly manhandled when he created a nuisance on a road in Visakahpatnam. He was even sent to government hospital for mental health.
Jagan government’s another controversial decision was to abolish the Legislative Council after the bills for trifurcation of the state capital was stalled in the upper house of the state legislature where the opposition is in majority. This move has also been challenged in the court.
The handling of the protests by Amaravati farmers by the government also earned a rap from the judiciary. The high court too found fault with the manner in which leader of opposition Chandrababu Naidu was arrested at Visakhapatnam. The Director General of Police had to appear in the court in this case.
Following the series of setbacks in the court, several leaders, activists and sympathisers of YSRCP to launch an attack on the court over social media. After some individuals brought this to the court’s knowledge, it served notices on about 100 people including a YSRCP MP, some former legislators.
“Jagan government’s obsession with negative media, attack on social media and casting apprehension on High Court judgements show it lacks spirit of democracy,” said Ravi.