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When “Power” Turns Friends Into Foes

An erstwhile “friend” turns “foe” putting AP CM Chandrababau Naidu in the dock over charges of corruption and nepotism.

 On December 8, 2017, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu’s son and Panchayat Raj Minister Nara Lokesh declaredthe assets of the family. The net worth of the Telugu Desam Party supremo was just Rs 2.53 crore and liabilities at Rs 3.58 crore.

However, on February 14, 2018, a report by ADR (Association of Democratic Rights) and National Election Watch pegged Naidu’s net worth at Rs 177 crore, terming him the richest chief minister in the country.

Naidu was understandably upset at the denting of his “Mr Clean” image. But worse happened last week. Naidu’s alleged political creation – actor Pawan Kalyan –openly attacked the chief minister alleging that mounting corruption and nepotism had become the hallmarks of the TDP regime and that Naidu was blind to the corruption of his son Nara Lokesh.

Chandrababu Naiduis the longest serving chief minister of Andhra Pradesh in the history of the state. As a Congress MLA in 1978, he was also Cinematography Minister before he became the son-in-law of TDP founder and former chief minister NT Rama Rao.

He was the de facto leader of the Opposition when NTR lost a second term (during 1989-94) and also the Opposition leader from 2004-2014. “Naidu has been in the power seat for almost 30 years of his 40 years in politics.Hence his claims of being Mr Clean have to be taken with a pinch of salt,” says Kommineni Srinivas Rao, a well-known political observer of AP.

Naidu has been attacked on corruption charges many times in the past. When in the 1980s, the Opposition BJP had published a “chargesheet” against the TDP when Venkaiah Naidu was state BJP president. Congress MLA. The leader of the Opposition, P Janardhan Reddy, had in 1999, accused Chandrababu Naidu of being involved in the Yeleru canal compensation scam. A Sub-Judge, bank officers, government officers, employees, and two advocates from Anakapalle were involved in theYeleru land compensation scam in which records were manipulated by the accused in the process of payment of compensation to farmers and other. Though Naidu appointed the Justice BK Somasekhara Commission, it was disbanded before it completed its probe. The YSR government had revived the commission after its return to power, directing it to submit a report within six months. But it did not give the commission an extension beyond six months.

When YS Rajasekhar Reddy headed the Congress regime from 2004 onwards, a series of inquiry commissions and FIRs were filed, but were not pursued to their logical conclusion. “The Congress tried everything, but dropped the cases as they found no evidence or wrongdoing,” Chandrababu Naidu had asserted in 2004.

In 2000, Tehelka had published a story of Naidu’s riches under the headline “Tale of Two acres to Rs2000 crore” which was reproduced in toto by The Statesman daily in 2002. The debate in the AP Assembly over this issue lasted for over 10 days, but nothing came of it.

More recently, the Opposition YSR Congress president YS Jaganmohan Reddy had alleged corruption to the tune of Rs 3.75 lakh crore in the Chandrababu Naidu regime since 2014 and also brought out a publication – “Emperor of Corruption”. These again came to naught.

“Power Star” Pawan Kalyan of the Jana Sena has been making similar noises. Why has Pawan Kalyan made Naidu jittery?

At a press interaction in Vijayawada on March 14, Pawan Kalyan levelled similar allegations of corruption against Naidu and his son Lokesh. Pawan Kalyan had only said that the TDP supremo was blind to the corruption of his son Lokesh and that at least 40 TDP MLAs had told him of the sand mafia and land mafia that were activein Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, and Tirupati after the TDP took over in 2014. He had also charged the Naidu government of violation of environmental norms in acquiring fertile lands for capital Amaravati– 33,000 acres as against a need of just 5,000 acres. But Pawan has not said a single word about Naidu’s residence built on the banks of Krishna River near Vijayawada. In fact, it was a BJP leader’s house – Lingamaneni estate – which Naidu had bought.

And Naidu has beenat pains to explain his non-corrupt stance since then in the Assembly. “My state has a record for largest ACB (Anti Corruption Bureau) raids against everyone and no one is spared,” he told Assembly on Monday.

A friend suddenly attacking him has perhaps caught the TDP chief off guard. That Pawan Kalyan is attacking his son who is just nine months old in active politics and administration, is perhaps doubly upsetting for him. Naidu put on a hurt face and a frustrated appearance in the Assembly when he offered an explanation on the issue – so much so that his followers described it as “Peddayana kanthi thadi petichadu”. He (Pawan Kalyan) made the big man cry.

Naidu argued that his family need not engage in corruption as he had built the Heritage Group for his own economic stability. His political ventures were for the sake of development and for the people. “Even if Lokesh prefers to sit at home, he can have an annual income of Rs 65 crore,” Naidu said in the Assembly.

TDP leaders flayed Pawan Kalyan for talking about Chandrababu Naidu and his son’s alleged corruption. They were upset that a political upstart who had stood by the TDP and BJP in 2014, had suddenly turned hostile.Naidu reportedly briefed his MPs and MLAs in his teleconferences during the Assembly session, that Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSRC and Pawan Kalyan had become “coverts” for the BJP. Covert is a term used by Maoists for double-crossers.

But Naidu is a hard-nosed politician and is very careful about whatever he does. But for the audio tape of his conversation over the phone in the vote-for-note case, Naidu is not likely to allow himself to get caught for any underhand dealings of the government. Currently the BJP and the TDP are on a head long clash on the clash over the escalated cost of Polavaram project. As debate is underway in the AP Assembly, the BJP MLA Vishnu Kumar Raku charges that the state government has paid Rs 21,385 for clearing one cubic feet of mud in the Polavaram dam site against the tender quote of Rs 92.65 per cubic feet.

Naidu has set himself as a role model for others to follow by announcing his assets, liabilities and net worth every year-end. Naidu went on record when he began the exercise in December 2011,that even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had declared his income levels later in 2012 at Rs 10.78 crore.

A week before demonetisation, the Heritage Group sold away their “Fresh” chain of supermarkets – 124 in all– at Chennai Hyderabad, Bangalore, with anet worth estimated at Rs 2,381 crore, to the Future group. Naidu has built a palatial house at Jubilee Hills in Hyderabad costing over Rs 35 crore and his farm house at Madinaguda, about 12 kms from Hyderabad is also developed into a posh bungalow with sophisticated security systems.

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