Elections in Andhra Pradesh are being held on April 11. But there is a difference between the general elections in the country and the elections in AP. These elections in the residual AP are the second after the division of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. The first elections in 2014 were held on the agenda of division of the State, the provisions or lack of them in the Reorganisation Act, and the manifestos of different parties.
The TDP won the election with a wafer-thin majority of 1.6% votes. The BJP sided with the TDP, promising to help it in the reconstruction of the State. Much water has flown under the Krishna barrage in the last five years on the functioning of the TDP government. A great deal of political changes has also taken place. So what should be the agenda at the end of five years? Naturally, it should be the review of the reconstruction of the State by the TDP, its success or failure.
Issues of Contention
The main issues of contention were balancing the economy, construction of capital, Polavarm project, division of institutions, establishing national institutions, feasibility study and clearance of state infrastructural projects, and industrial development. In addition to these were popular schemes like loan waiver, Dwacra and providing employment to youth. So at the end of five years, it should be the review of this agenda and evaluating the performance of the TDP government. In effect, it is a referendum on the functioning of the TDP government.
But it is not happening so. The TDP is not talking much about them. It is simply targeting the BJP, YSRCP and even the TRS to make them responsible for its non-performance. This strategy is simply because it was not able to do much on those promises because of its unpragmatic and unsustainable politics. Basically, the state was not ready to undertake such presumptuous projects like world-class infrastructure, as it was just one of the many States in India with a heavy revenue deficit Budget.
Projects a Non-starter
The Centre’s insouciant support to it for the best part of the five-year term, without ground level feasibility in the name of its political alliance, has compounded the issue. The State government was not able to garner much of what it publicised and hoped for FDI. The Centre was not in a position to help in the grandiose plan. So the alliance broke and the political war of attrition started.
If we scan the agenda of 2014, we will know how its schemes were either non-starters or poor performers. The financial management of the State government is an area of serious concern. The AP government received almost double the central taxes and grants compared with Telangana in the five-year term. It also received Rs 30,000 crore as deficit grant, the highest by any State divided.
Yet, it has not matched its revenue and expenditure and still has the deficit Budget in its Vote on Account for 2019-20. It has also taken loans in excess of debt-GDP ratio going into excess of 29% as against 25%. In addition, the government is also said to have taken huge loans outside FRBM with government bonds or through SPVs to run the show. So, despite the assistance from the Centre as part of the Reorganisation Act, AP still could not balance its Budget because of its financial mismanagement.
The capital city project came a cropper. It was a nonstarter. Not even a single permanent government building is completed. On the contrary, about a lakh acres of prime agricultural land was made to go to seed. With all the 90-plus conditions imposed by the NGT, even if the government manages to get the funds, it is next to impossible to execute the project. Actually, there is no project in place. The design of the city has not been finalised even after five years. It is simply a case of the end of a pipe dream. The scheme is going to be a drag on the State in future also.
The TDP through its unscrupulous politics has messed up the Polavaram project. It was a sumptuous gift given by the Congress to AP. It was like a blank cheque to the State. But the greedy politics of the TDP chief has put the project in jeopardy. He took its execution into his own hands for obvious reasons and messed up the whole project. Its estimates were hiked, its R&R was made controversial. The TDP government’s spending on it became questionable and it could not respond to the queries of the Central government, which was fully funding it. So in a way, it was stalled in its tracks because of the inefficiency or political machinations of the State government.
There were 10 national institutions like IIT, IIM and AIIMS sanctioned as part of the APRA. The Centre had no reservations about them. The State government was not very enthusiastic in providing necessary land and utilities for them, as they were not very lucrative in its view. The progress is very tardy. Both the Centre and the State are not revealing the progress.
Airports, sea ports and other infrastructure projects like railway zone and steel plant have turned controversial and are even facing delays because of the State government’s vested interest in them. Several populist schemes like establishment of industries, loan waiver, Dwacra loans, employment schemes and unemployment dole-outs too have not lived up to the expectations. But there is an attempt to show a make-believe success of some schemes.
The TDP government has failed in all areas. The State has stagnated because of its failure. The general election in the State is a referendum on its performance.
(The author is a freelance journalist)