Kommineni Srinivasa Rao

Union minister Gajendra Shekhawat's remarks on Polavaram project's contracts are a bit astonishing. The Andhra Pradesh government has cancelled the contract given by the TDP regime to Navayuga company on nomination basis. The YSRCP government took this decision based on a report submitted by a committee of experts. The panel stated that the violations and corruption during the TDP era amounted to a staggering Rs. 2300 crores. The committee has also faulted the Chandrababu government for handing out mobilisation advances of Rs. 724 crores even before the power project was initiated.

It is in this context that chief minister YS Jagan Mohan took the decision to go in reverse tendering and scrapping the existing contract. He also directed officials to initiate work on the project by the first of November. In any case, work cannot be taken up now on account of rains and the resultant floods.

Meanwhile, Union minister Shekhawat made a couple of odd observations in parliament. Strangely enough, he made no reference to the corruption related to Polavaram and said that there was no probe into the issue. Moreover, he commented that scrapping the Polavaram contract was unfortunate! He is reported to have wondered whether this would delay the project.If he indeed had any such concerns, Shekhawat should have spoken to Prime Minister Modi. It was Modi who, at the time of elections, described the Polavaram project as something of an ATM in the eyes of the TDP leadership. Did he not mean that the TDP government looted the project to the maximum extent? State BJP leaders also said that the new government should write to the Centre on the corruption in Polavaram and that they would expose the corruption in Polavaram. Experts have estimated the irregularities to have been in the range of Rs. 2300 crores.

The question is, what action has been taken? Were Prime Modi's accusations idle ones? Shekhawat may not be aware of the controversy around the scrapping of the contract during Nitin Gadkari's time. Is it Shekhawat's contention that the corrupt in this case, should be allowed to go scot-free? Does the minister intend to convey the message that any government can hand out contracts amounting to hundreds and thousands of crores on nomination basis?

Is this what the BJP meant by its fight against corruption? Chandrababu is perceived as a crafty manipulator of people as well as institutions. He is reputed to have created two factions in the Congress, one in his favour and another, opposed to him. Similarly, he had his backers in the BJP and quite unexpectedly, distanced himself from the ruling party at the Centre. After his humiliating defeat in the April 11 elections, some of Chandrababu's close associates moved into the BJP. They are seen acting as his men in the national party. While the BJP leader in charge of AP, Sunil Deodhar said that Chandrababu would go to jail, Sujana Chowdary, who joined the BJP recently, insisted that there were no cases against the TDP chief. This only goes to show that Chandrababu's coterie is active in the BJP.

It would have been better if Union minister Shekhawat had informed himself of the corruption in Polavaram and the involvement of TDP leaders before commenting on the issue. There is no harm if a contractor is appointed a month later.

It is important now for YS Jagan to take some firm measures on this and not allow the matter to turn into a contentious one. The YSRCP government should ensure that work on Polavaram is completed by 2021.

People like former minister Devineni Uma have been making irresponsible statements which are best ignored, stating that contracts are being scrapped so that they can be given to a community. In making these baseless allegations, he forgets how the TDP government had handed out contracts on nomination basis in the most parochial, casteist manner. Why did the Chandrababu government take up a central government project in the first place? Why did it neglect it in the first two years?

The onus is now on the new government in AP to complete the project as YS Jagan has planned.

Also Read: Chandrababu’s Amaravati Saga