Andhra Pradesh Assembly Polls:

Cyber Regime Erased

CHandrababu Naidu was an expert in downloading the lingo from the IT world and using it fashionably in statecraft to earn the image of an IT-savvy Chief Minister, even as the numbers of starvation deaths and farmers’ suicides were mounting in his state under his regime. No wonder, his cyber regime just got deleted at the press of a button! Naidu escaped from the PWG’s claymore mines but the bombshell dropped by the electorate finished him off politically.

Chandrababu Naidu went in for early elections hoping to harvest the sympathy over the PWG’s assassination attempt against him and also hoping that the Vajpayee factor would click in the Lok Sabha polls and the decision badly boomeranged on him. Naidu would have been thrown out in the last elections itself. But his promise of free gas ovens for the rural poor under his populist Deepam scheme somehow enabled him to ride back to power. The rural poor who never got the gas ovens have taken sweet revenge this time.

It is a clear verdict against the World Bank-inspired reform process set in motion by the Chandrababu government. The English media is clueless about the severe drubbing received by their darling CM. In particular, the pink papers are bemoaning his defeat. “The fisc is likely to come under tremendous pressure (due to free supply of power to the farmers). Labour reform will have to wait a bit more. Fresh hikes in FDI will become difficult”, lamented the Economic Times (15 May, 2004). The Financial Times grumbled that the Congress party’s populist promise to extend free power to the state’s agricultural sector could increase the subsidy tab by over 30 per cent from Rs. 1,303.27 crore to Rs 1,712.44 crore — an increase of over Rs 400 crore — for 2004-05 (FT, 12 May, 2004). “Naidu’s defeat is a victory for democracy but defeat for development”, commented another business paper.

It is a humiliating defeat for the ruling TDP, with 28 out of the 36 Ministers who contested getting defeated and the party totally routed in Khammam, Nizamabad, Nellore and Medak districts and winning only one seat each in Nalgonda, Mahbubnagar and Kurnool districts. The Congress led alliance that included left parties and Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) bagged 226 seats out of 294 in the state. The TDP alliance managed to bag only 49 seats and while its ally, the BJP, has won in just two constituencies and others bagged 19 seats.

Contrary to the image projected by the English media, Andhra Pradesh was the worst performing state in South India. Its growth of real income, or Gross Domestic Product, has been only around 5 per cent per annum since 1995. This was the lowest among all the southern states and less than the all-India average of 8%. Similarly, employment growth in AP was lower than the national average over the period between 1993 and 2000. In terms of literacy and school enrolment, Andhra Pradesh is well below the national average and ranks among the worst States in India. School dropout rates are among the highest in India. The infant mortality rate is higher than the national average, and has shown an increase in recent years. Under Naidu, Andhra Pradesh has become a highly indebted state with loans to the tune of Rs.40,000 crore. He went scrounging for funds from international institutions and borrowed heavily from the World Bank, only to spend the money to improve the infrastructure in Hyderabad in favour of Indian and foreign monopolies. During his last days the state got caught in a debt trap and he was borrowing only to pay interest for the accumulated debt.

Chandrababu Naidu was among the first chief ministers in India to carry out the World Bank-prescribed electricity reforms. He steeply hiked the power rates. CPI(ML) Liberation, CPI, CPI(M) and six other left parties jointly conducted a massive agitation and Chandrababu’s government fired on the agitators, killing a few.

There were severe droughts in 2002-03 and 2003-04 in Andhra Pradesh. In Anantapur district there were mass starvation deaths and indebted farmers were committing suicides in large numbers. Chandrababu Naidu did not do anything to ameliorate the condition of the farmers. When CPI(ML) Liberation organised a road blockade on the busy National Highway-5, running between Calcutta and Chennai, Naidu’s police brutally beat up many women and seriously injured them. But it evoked a tremendous response among the drought-affected farmers.

The women voters in Andhra Pradesh rejected Chandrababu’s regime completely. The reason is not difficult to seek. Chandrababu formed more than 2 lakh DWACRA (Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas) groups in the state and promised to extend Rs.10,000 revolving fund to each of them. He also promised to set up a Mahila Bank with a paid-up capital of Rs.2,000 crore. With these promises he collected several hundred crores from women as savings but not even 1% of the groups were extended loans. In fact, he collected more from the women than what he gave them. He received poetic justice at their hands during elections.

The Left parties have won 16 constituencies. Though they conducted an independent mass movement against the TDP regime, unfortunately the CPI and CPI(M) aligned with the Congress and won these seats. It is not that the Congress alliance was indispensable for the Left. The CPI(M) won the Khammam Lok Sabha seat contesting independently fighting against the Congress since Congress refused to leave any Lok Sabha seat to the CPI(M). The CPI and CPI(M) should have tried the Khammam model in the assembly elections also and fought independently with the support of other left formations and that would have enabled the Left to emerge as a powerful independent political force in the state. The CPI(ML) New Democracy has won its traditional seat Illendu in Khammam district through independent contest. CPI(ML) Liberation polled 4,619 votes in Pratipadu, 4.013 in Polavaram, 2,374 in Tuni, 1,816 in Jaggampeta, 1,623 in Paykaraopeta, 1,267 in Pithapuram, 1,201 in Sompeta and 1,040 in Sampara, 925 in Avanigadda and 725 in Tiruvuru.

Chandrababu's regime has been kicked out, but the new Congress Government certainly does not have pro-people credentials. Congress leaders in the state are notoriously corrupt, and YS Rajashekara Reddy himself has a gangster past. The opportunist left – the CPI and CPI(M) – should quickly break their relations with the Congress as a ‘friendly alliance partner’ and veer around to the united left opposition role.

– BS