Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu always saw himself as a big brand. Back in the mid-90s, after he dethroned his father-in-law NT Rama Rao and became chief minister in the most undemocratic manner, he was fond of describing himself as the CEO of the state of Andhra Pradesh. Today, the brand image of this CEO of the state lies battered and bruised. Chandrababu Naidu has lately been describing himself as a ‘saviour’ of democracy. In opposition rallies and protests he claims he is out to ‘save’ democracy. The problem with him is that he refuses to look at his own backyard. The TDP government today is synonymous with casteism, corruption, and defections and in a fresh item added to the long list of his misdeeds, the massive deletion of names from voters’ lists and manipulation of electoral rolls, as Leader of the Opposition in Andhra Pradesh legislative assembly and YSR Congress party president YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and other YSRCP leaders have pointed out. The Central Election Commission is reported to have taken a serious view of this manipulation of electoral rolls in Andhra Pradesh.
Over the years, Chandrababu’s misdeeds did not come under the scanner as much as his political rivals back then had hoped and the cases against him have still not reached their logical conclusion, as YSR Congress Party leaders regularly point out.
The TDP fought the 2014 elections in alliance with the BJP and actor turned politician, Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena. After Chandrababu Naidu came to power winning by a whisker (1%) and took charge of the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh, instead of focusing on development of the new state, what did the TDP government do? Ignoring the recommendations of the Sivaramakrishnan committee, it zeroed in on Amaravati for the new capital.
Was the selection of Amaravati as the new capital of AP done through a transparent process? As the Leader of Opposition in AP legislative assembly and YSR Congress Party President YS Jagan Mohan Reddy pointed out at the India Today Conclave on Saturday, Chandrababu Naidu and his henchmen turned the capital city selection and construction into a massive real estate venture. The process was an extremely opaque one, to start with.
At first, the entire state was led to believe that the new capital city would be located in other places. Even as people went on a wild goose chase, Chandrababu his proxies and cronies made sure that they had large tracts of land in the capital city area, as YS Jagan repeatedly pointed out. The YSRCP chief also revealed that Chandrababu made sure that land owned by his family members or proxies and cronies was kept outside the purview of land pooling. Farmers found themselves at the receiving end and got a raw deal.
Did Amaravati help brand Chandrababu in any way? If anything, it hugely dented his image. Polavaram project is another prime example of how brand Chandrababu took an irreversible beating. Despite being turned into a major tourist spot at tax payers’ cost by Chandrababu Naidu, he will find it impossible to explain the charges of corruption against him levelled by PM Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, other BJP leaders and all the opposition leaders in Andhra Pradesh led by YSRCP with regard to Polavaram project. The project was supposed to be a Central government project, but Chandrababu insisted that Polavaram be handed over to the state government. From the selection of contractors to the escalation of project estimates, the entire project has become a case study in corruption, according to analysts and technical experts.
As for the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, his repeated U-turns on the subject of Special Category Status (SCS) to the state, the less said the better. He had claimed that Andhra Pradesh got a better deal than any other state in the country and more funds compared to others. Chandrababu also hailed PM Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for the special package given to AP claiming that it was better than SCS to the state. The TDP government threatened those demanding Special Category Status and YSRCP activists and leaders were arrested for staging protests demanding SCS. It may be recalled that Leader of opposition in Andhra Pradesh assembly, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy was arrested on the runway of Visakhapatnam airport when he went there to lead a protest for SCS.
Overnight, Chandrababu wants to give a new look to his brand and decides to call himself as a champion of SCS to AP! In the bargain, he has only made a laughing stock of himself and his party across the state and the entire nation. Who does not know about the many U turns he took on this subject?
Chandrababu goes around the country preaching the virtues of democracy. Wherever he goes gathering a number of opposition leaders with him, or attending rallies hosted by them, he claims that democracy is in danger and he is out to save it. Nothing could be farther from the truth or more ironical. Indulging in horse-trading, this so-called, self-proclaimed ‘saviour’ of democracy lured 23 MLAs of the YSR Congress party over into the TDP and made four of them his cabinet colleagues. Is this an act of someone who is trying to ‘save’ democracy? It is a clear and brazen violation of Constitutional norms. Chandrababu has been thumbing his nose at the Constitution with the Speaker looking the other way.
With rising levels of desperation, Chandrababu Naidu has now resorted to massive exercise of deletion of names of voters considered to be sympathisers of YSRCP, as YS Jagan and other party leaders pointed out. The scale on which this is being done has reportedly shocked the Election Commission as well. This systematic deletion of voters’ names and addition of bogus voters into the electoral rolls using technology has shocked the intelligentsia of the state and has left analysts befuddled. Survey teams equipped with tabs fanned out to various villages in districts across Andhra Pradesh on the pretext of seeking responses to questions regarding benefits of TDP government welfare schemes. The minute they learn that an individual is likely to cast his or her franchise in favour of YSRCP, the name is deleted from the electoral rolls. The entire exercise is said to be controlled and monitored by IT Minister and Chandrababu Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh, as YSRCP leaders repeatedly pointed out,
In a latest development, a software company in Hyderabad, IT Grid was booked on charges of data breach. It was reported that this firm had created an app for the TDP called Seva Mitra. Telangana police and UIDAI authorities are probing as to how his small private entity could get access to information of all the citizens of Andhra Pradesh, which constitutes a data breach. As for the Chandrababu Naidu government, instead of acting against officials responsible for passing on information which is private in nature with respect to individual citizens, it is out to harass the whistle-blower, settled in Hyderabad, Lokeswar Reddy. The victim of AP police harassment approached the Cyberabad police for protection.
What do all these aspects of Chandrababu Naidu’s governance say about his misrule? The charges of corruption against him are extremely serious and would need a thorough probe. His undemocratic ways as exemplified by the instance of 23 turncoat MLAs of YSRCP in his party highlights his respect or the utter lack of it, for the Constitution. Using technology to delete voters’ names and manipulate electoral rolls is a criminal act which merits grave punishment which would serve as a lesson to all political leaders in the country. One hopes that justice would be rendered in this case and the criminals duly punished, however high and powerful they may be. It is for the Central Election Commission and the investigating agencies to take the matter forward and bring the criminals to book, exposing their dark, vile deeds to subvert democracy.