On Monday morning, before the Andhra Pradesh Assembly session began, opposition leader Chandrababu Naidu led a ‘reverse walk’ to the Assembly building, protesting the ‘reverse regime’ of the YSRCP government. The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) was protesting the ‘reversal’ of development in Amaravati, the proposed capital, where most construction work has been stalled ever since the YSRCP came to power in May. Soon after being sworn in as the Chief Minister, Jagan Mohan Reddy alleged that major scams had taken place in projects across the state during the TDP’s term, including the capital project of Amaravati, and the Polavaram irrigation project.
“The destruction started at Praja Vedika and has continued till now,” Naidu said. He was referring to a building called Praja Vedika constructed next to the Naidu’s Undavalli residence on the Krishna riverbed. The building, which was constructed for holding party meetings and press conferences, was declared ‘illegal’ and razed by the Jagan government back in June. While the state continues to reel under a poor financial situation, for the past six months, the TDP and YSRCP have been blaming each other for the mess. In the time that it has been in power, Jagan government has pro-actively cancelled or stalled so many projects started during the Naidu regime, that it has been compared to Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu that have had a history of vendetta politics.
Nearly all construction projects in the Amaravati region have come to a standstill, with the Jagan government alleging that Naidu had resorted to insider trading and corruption during the construction of the capital. While a temporary Secretariat, Assembly and High Court was built before the new goverment was sworn in, along with seeded roads connecting various villages, many construction projects are stuck in limbo.
In July this year, the World Bank, which was expected to provide a loan of 300 million USD for the Amaravati Capital Region Development Project dropped out, soon followed by the the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) which withdrew a potential loan worth 200 million USD.
Amaravati has been mired in controversy, surrounded by allegations of land scam and flouting of environmental regulations. Many farmers and people's organisations have pointed out that the Amaravati project would create food insecurity, with constructions being built on fertile land. With these complaints reaching the World Bank, an inspection panel had been sent to Amaravati to probe into the allegations. While the World Bank claimed that it was the Government of India which had initiated the cancellation of the project, YSRCP leaders had claimed that the Centre was concerned over a foreign agency conducting an investigation in India.
In November, the government appointed a committee, headed by retired IAS officer G Nageswara Rao, to receive opinions and suggestions from people on the capital project. Urban Development Minister Botcha Satyanarayana has said that the status of the capital will depend on the expert committee report. The uncertainty has caused worry among the farmers who had given up their land under the TDP government’s Land Pooling Scheme (LPS), under which they had given up their land for the capital, in return for developed plots.
Recently, a start-up area project in Amaravati, which was meant to boost economic activity, was cancelled by the YSRCP government, claiming that it was not found feasible as it involves a huge investment from the state government.
Investment for the Indo-UK Institute of Health, which had proposed a 1000-bed hospital, was also withdrawn recently. Again, Botcha Satyanarayana blamed the TDP, alleging that the Naidu government had demanded bribes for providing expensive land at a lowered price.
In August, the YSRCP shut down the Anna canteens set up by the previous TDP government under Chandrababu Naidu. Anna canteens, named after TDP founder NTR and modeled similar to Tamil Nadu’s Amma canteens, provided subsidized food meant for the economically poor at a cost of Rs 5 per meal. Although the government had assured that the canteens would be reopened soon with a few changes, they have now been closed for four and a half months. At its peak, the canteen was serving food to over 2.15 lakh people daily.
Alleging corruption by the TDP, YSRCP government appointed a committee to audit the Anna Canteens. The committee reported in September that the canteens had allegedly misused public money worth Rs 53 crore. The committee also claimed that a large amount of money was spent on ‘beautification’ of the canteen buildings. The Anna canteens were a poll promise of the former Chief Minister and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu in 2014. However, he opened 204 canteens across 13 districts in the state only by 2018, a few months before the 2019 Assembly Elections.
YSRCP leaders had alleged that TDP used the scheme, launched on the eve of elections, to further its political interests by painting the canteens yellow (the colour of TDP's flag). Incidentally, the Andhra Pradesh High Court recently directed the YSRCP to avoid painting government buildings like panchayat offices and village secretariats in the colours of the party (green, white and blue), noting that it could influence voters.
When the canteens were shut, reports claimed that the YSRCP planned to rename them after ‘Rajanna’, after Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy’s father and former CM Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. The YSRCP government has renamed many schemes implemented by the previous TDP government after YSR, while the TDP government had named most of its schemes after NTR.
Jagan had announced that the contracts in the Polavaram project would be cancelled due to alleged irregularities, and called for ‘reverse tenders’, where more bidders would be encouraged to participate and the lowest bidder would be awarded the contract. The decision was taken despite advice against the move from the Polavaram Project Authority (PPA) and the Union Minister for Jal Shakti.
After cancelling the Polavaram contract awarded to Navayuga Engineering Company Limited, the government had called for re-tender of projects worth Rs 4,987 crore. The government has claimed that the savings from re-tendering add up to Rs 780 crore. Megha Engineering and Infrastructures Limited (MEIL) was awarded the hydel power project contract after quoting a price which was 12.6% lower than Navayuga, the government claimed. However, the TDP has in turn alleged that the YSRCP has shown unfair preference while awarding the contract, with Naidu calling the process ‘reserve tendering’ and not reverse tendering.
The Centre is funding the Rs 58,000 crore Polavaram project, which is being built across the Godavari river. While the previous government had claimed that the project would be completed by December 2019, the deadline has now been pushed to 2021. Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat recently mentioned in the Rajya Sabha that the project will be completed by December 2021 as per the revised tender floated by the state government, adding the caveat that the completion of the project will depend on how fast the state government settles the issue of rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) of families displaced by the project.
While Irrigation Minister for Andhra Pradesh Anil Kumar Yadav recently told media that the project funds will soon be released from the Centre, Shekhawat on the other hand has stated that the funds will only be released once the government submits the audit reports for the expenditure made before April 2014, when it was declared a national project. While Rs 5,130 crore was spent in this period, the state has only submitted audit reports for expenses worth Rs 3,000 crore.
Reverse tendering has also been followed in other government works, including housing projects for low-income groups funded by the Centre.
On Friday, Anil Kumar Yadav said in the Assembly that the government had saved upto Rs 1,400 crore because of reverse tendering in Polavaram and other projects.
Soon after the Polavaram contracts were cancelled, the government also decided to take back 412 acres allotted to the Machilipatnam Port Private Limited (MPPL) for the development of a deep-water port. Navayuga, which was asked to exit from the Polavaram, was also the lead promoter in MPPL.
Back in 2008, when Jagan's father Y S Rajasekhar Reddy was the Chief Minister of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, the project was awarded to a consortium led by MAYTAS Infra Pvt Ltd. Navayuga was inducted as the lead promoter of the project in 2009. Naidu laid the foundation stone for the port in February 2019, when it was announced that the port will be spread across 4,800 acres and was estimated to cost Rs 12,000 crore.
The government recently announced plans to begin the construction work on the port project by early 2020. A fresh Detailed Project Report (DPR) has been sought from a consultancy firm. Transport Minister Perni Venkataramaiah said that three or four banks are likely to grant loans to the tune of Rs 3,000 to 4,000 crore for the project.
Investments in Vizag
In November, the UAE-based Lulu Group withdrew its investment into a proposed Rs 2,200-crore project which was expected to provide many jobs to locals. The announcement came after the YSRCP government cancelled the allotment of land for Lulu’s proposed commercial complex, alleging corrupt practices in the procedure followed by the TDP. Minister for Industries Mekapati Goutham Reddy said that apart from the land being under dispute, there were also environmental concerns.
Several media reports have also suggested that the Reliance group had also backed out from setting up a huge electronic manufacturing project in Vizag. Goutham Reddy however rubbished the reports, claiming that Reliance has been asked to revise its proposal as the land allotted by the TDP in its case was also under dispute.
YSR Rythu Bharosa and other schemes
Many government schemes have been renamed by the YSRCP after CM Jagan’s father and former CM Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, replacing the legacy of TDP founder N T Rama Rao which the previous government had tried to establish. For instance, the YSR Rythu Bharosa-PM KISAN Yojana scheme provides an annual incentive of Rs12,500 for farmers towards input cost. A similar scheme floated by the TDP with lesser financial support was called ‘Annadata Sukhibhava'.
A farm loan waiver scheme introduced by the TDP government has also been scrapped, with YSRCP leaders justifying that it is compensated by Rythu Bharosa.