THE PROFLIGATE GENERAL
India Today|February 07, 2022
ANDHRA CM JAGAN REDDY’S POPULIST WELFARE MEASURES HAVE GOT THE PEOPLE’S VOTE, BUT IT HAS ALSO LEFT THE STATE ON THE VERGE OF BANKRUPTCY
AMARNATH K. MENON

ANDHRA PRADESH CHIEF minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy had added one more pledge to his prepoll promises when he took charge in May 2019—that he would replace his cabinet colleagues midway through the five-year term and dispatch them for party work. So, with the Nov ember 30 deadline lapsing, there is anxiety in his Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress (YSRC) about the impending reshuffle. Sources say a few of the five deputy chief ministers and 20 other ministers may be retained so that the changeover does not deliver any rude shocks to the governance engine. The reshuffle, expected in mid-January, is still in the works, and is poised to be a defining moment for Jagan. Even more so considering that the YSRC as a political party does not have an internal governance mechanism.

However, dissent seems unlikely in a party that has 151 MLAs in the 175-seat legislative assembly. The YSRC has also been on a winning spree since the assembly win, securing overwhelming majorities in elections at every level. The party won 22 out of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 parliamentary election and all 12 municipal corporations and 74 of the 75 municipalities and Nagar panchayats in March 2021. In September, the party captured all 13 zilla parishads (ZPs), the first time a ruling party has done so in the state, and over 90 per cent of the MPTCs or the mandal parishad territorial constituencies.

The main opposition, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), has been decimated, unable to reach even double digits in any of the zilla parishads. “The poll outcomes show that conspiracies and lies will fail when a government takes care of its people and their necessities,” says Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy, advisor (public affairs) to the chief minister. In November, the YSRC scored a major electoral tri u mph in the Kuppam municipality poll, winning 19 of the 25 wards in the heart of TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu’s assembly constituency in Chittoor district. The debacle is a huge loss of face. Kuppam has been Naidu’s bastion since 1989 when he won the assembly seat for the first time. Though he won the seat again in 2019, the TDP has fared so poorly in all the polls thereafter that a bounce back before the next election looks improbable.

The electoral triumphs reveal the remarkable support Jagan has elicited from the people for his populist welfare measures (even as the state reels from a massive financial crunch). In keeping with his pre-poll promises, Jagan has launched numerous schemes (see Grants Galore) named after his late father and united Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy (popularly known as YSR) and himself. Implementing the welfare bonanza is in keeping with the saturation coverage first envisaged by YSR to shower all disadvantaged families with one scheme or another. The cost is humongous, but it has not deterred Jagan.

“Our chief minister is clear that implementing welfare measures and investing in human capital will be priority, whatever the cost. We’ll develop infrastructure aggressively in the next term,” says finance minister B. Rajendranath Reddy. “We lost five years after the state reorganisation (in 2014). Naidu did not plan quick decentralised development and left the state nearly bankrupt.”

FINANCIAL DISTRESS

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