Congress’ Hamletian dilemma in Andhra Pradesh

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The Congress is like the Prince of Denmark in Andhra Pradesh. Its Hamletian dilemma relates to whether it should praise the late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy or disown him completely as a “corrupt” chief minister.

On one hand, the CBI has mentioned YSR by name as `the perpetrator of the offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act’ in the case relating to son Jagan’s disproportionate assets and on the other, the Supreme court has issued notices to six ministers in YSR’s cabinet and eight IAS officers questioning them about the 26 controversial government orders.

Now if it defends the ministers and the GOs, it ends up defending YSR and by extension, Jagan. If it accepts that the GOs were faulty and with an intent to cheat, then the ministers get into trouble and by default, the powerful six can also declare Kiran Kumar Reddy’s innings in power.

In a nutshell, the Congress is in a lose-lose situation.

Admittedly, there is a rat race to appropriate YSR’s legacy. But it is important to note that his legacy has two faces. One, that of the populist welfare schemes the former chief minister launched and two, the politico-contractor raj that he encouraged and is at the heart of the corruption charges. The CAG report has alleged large-scale misappropriation in land deals and the tentacles of the liquor syndicate, again encouraged during the YSR regime, are now coming to light. YSR’s welfare programmes camouflaged the corruption in his government and I am sure, if he was alive, he would have got exposed. Just look at the 2009 assembly election results. The fact that he scampered home with a margin of less than ten seats over the half way mark, is proof that anti-incumbency was reasonably strong.

The problem is both the Congress and Jagan want only the positive and discard the negative. But this is a package deal – buy one, get one free. So far it is advantage Jagan since he was not in a position of power when his father was CM in the first term, even though it is common knowledge that he was an off screen politician. Since the Congress is in power, it has to answer for much of what YSR did when he was heading the Congress government.

The other big problem for the Congress is that the financial position of the state hardly gives it elbow room to implement YSR’s welfare schemes and try to take credit for it. In fact, the planning itself for these schemes by YSR was so faulty that even if he was alive today, he could not have given nine hours of free power to farmers and implemented the fee reimbursement scheme in its original form. The Jalayagnam scheme is totally lopsided as undertaking so many projects at the same time wasn’t a sensible thing to do. The CAG report slams it saying the contractors got undue benefits. The scheme, to my mind, was made primarily to ensure the contractors made money.

So the best course for the Congress now would be to go into silent mode on YSR and allow the Telugu Desam to attack YSR and Jagan. Because if it disowns YSR and attacks him, it loses the positives of his welfare policies, whose legacy, in any case Jagan has successfully appropriated. If it defends him, people will ask how is Jagan corrupt when YSR, his ministers and officers are clean.

(K Nageshwar is a political analyst and an Independent MLC in the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council)

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