Kommineni Srinivasa Rao

All political parties agree that Polavaram project is the lifeline of Andhra Pradesh. Chief Minister Chandrababu goes so far as to claim that the project was his dream and that he is responsible for whatever progress has been achieved on it.

However, the criticism Chandrababu Naidu is facing is that project continues to remain a pipe dream and that it is the people of the state who are at the receiving end.

Chandrababu Naidu has been acting as though the Model Code of Conduct during elections, does not apply to him. Polavaram is one such instance. A week ago, the TDP supremo said that he conducted a review of the project from his house.

He refused to heed the words of those who told him that the election code was in place. Chandrababu Naidu followed this up with a visit to the project site. He knows as well as anyone else does that nothing could change in a week when it comes to the construction of the project.

In spite of this, Chandrababu Naidu went ahead and conducted his review of the site. Some key officials however stayed away, and that is a different story altogether. What Chandrababu Naidu did at the project was to make an announcement that water would not be released this year and that supply of water would be possible next year.

It is very likely that he may not be in power after May 23, but the TDP chief went to Polavaram only to give the impression that he reviewed work on the project and to convey the message that the Centre had not been cooperating in the matter. Chandrababu Naidu did not pay attention to Polavaram after he came to power in 2014.

Instead, diverting water from canals (completed during the time of Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy), for Pattiseema, he used yellow media megaphones to propagate news that he had achieved something spectacular.

Journalists and political observers cautioned him not to sacrifice Polavaram project, which would prove to be a boon for the state, in the name of Pattiseema. Water is the lifeline of the citizens of Andhra Pradesh and would serve them in irrigation and fulfil their drinking water supply needs, analysts told him.

Back then the chief minister Naidu did not bother to pay attention to Polavaram project. The TDP chief was never quite interested in major projects. Till he was in power (2004), his party MLAs, Erra Narayanaswamy and Vaddi Veerabhadra Rao, staged protests against Polavaram.

Chandrababu, in those days, was quite certain that Polavaram would not be completed. However, once Dr YSR came to power, he expedited the construction of Polavaram project. It may be pointed out that TDP men used to block the process of land acquisition for the digging of canals.

In spite of many hurdles, Dr YSR ensured that the project got completed to a large extent and secured the required permissions. It is for this reason that the Union government recognised it as a Central project at the time of the division of the state.

In fact, the Centre was supposed to complete the project, but Chandrababu Naidu who was then an ally of the BJP in the NDA government, insisted on AP government completing it. Subsequently, he enhanced the project cost to Rs.58,000 crores in the name of land acquisition and compensation to the displaced.

However, the Centre did not agree to this. As a result the onus of bearing this expenditure fell upon the state government. The Centre’s counter to a petition filed by Congress MP KVP Ramachandra Rao in court saying that the Union government should fund Polavaram, reflects poorly on AP. The Chandrababu government did not contest the Central government’s counter-affidavit.

KVP Ramachandra Rao says that the Centre will now fund about 50% of the project cost, as per his assessment. Had Chandrababu stated that it was the responsibility of the Centre to take up the entire process of rehabilitation and that he would help as needed, the situation would have been vastly different.

Instead after the Central government released Rs. 7000 crores, Chandrababu Naidu demanded Rs.4000 crores additionally, though there were discrepancies in utilisation of funds, according to the Centre. The TDP government spent Rs.30,000 crores trying to buy votes through populist schemes like Pasupu-Kumkuma and Annadata Sukheebhava.

If only Chandrababu Naidu had spent such huge amounts on the completion of Polavaram project, as also other important projects, things would have been rosier for him and the state. He did not do this and instead took up the project which was supposed to have been completed by the Centre, promising to finish it by 2018.

Minister Devineni Uma asked Leader of Opposition in Andhra Pradesh assembly, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, to write this date down in his newspaper implying, Sakshi. Come 2019, Chandrababu Naidu, his minister and party leaders started the propaganda that water would be released after July. Now, Chandrababu Naidu says that it would be possible only in 2020.

In reality it may take longer than that. The TDP chief seem to be more preoccupied with giving the impression that he was actively working on the project then devoting any energy to it in the real sense.

Moreover, spending more than Rs. 400 crores on this publicity exercise by transporting people to Polavaram is an immoral act without precedent. Similarly, he spent crores of public money on spillway, gallery, gate, foundation-laying and other ritualistic exercises.

PM Modi described Polavaram project as a monumental symbol of TDP corruption which was like an ATM for Chandrababu Naidu. Former MP Arun Kumar expressed his anguish at the caving in of land and fissures which appeared in the project region. He pointed to the underlying threats of proceeding in an unscientific manner with regard to the completion of the project.

It is the responsibility of the government to dispel the fears of the people. Let’s hope that the incoming government would complete the project soon and ensure the prosperity of the people of the state.

Also Watch: Polavaram Is Lifeline Of Andhra Pradesh