Friday, December 1, 2023

Ratna Column: Economic offences now a weapon to settle political scores

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Present-day politics in Andhra Pradesh bears striking resemblance to what has been happening in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere in the country. The rivalry between the two main political forces has assumed a vindictive nature with the filing cases for alleged economic offences. The sensational arrest of former chief minister and president of Telugu Desam Party N. Chandrababu Naidu, in connection with a case involving the alleged misuse of funds to the tune of Rs. 371 crore under a scheme of the Skill Development Corporation during his rule in AP (2014-19) reflects this trend.

No doubt YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy, who came to power with a resounding victory in the 2019 elections, has taken over the reins of AP as the political successor of his late father and former combined AP chief minister Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy. But the arrest of Chandrababu Naidu has drawn differing views from the public and political circles. It is quite natural for a party in power to put its rivals in troubles for political mileage. Chandrababu Naidu may have viewed Jagan as a neophyte in politics. There are strong reasons for it. Chandrababu and YSR, once friends as members of the Congress, became ministers during the Congress rule under the stewardship of both T. Anjaiah and Bhavanam Venkatram Reddy. During those days of their friendship, Chandrababu used to visit YSR’s residence in Road no. 10, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. Jagan, then a school-going kid, used to fondly call Naidu ‘uncle’. Naidu, then minister for cinematography, used to lavish affection on the kid of his close friend YSR and used to give him free tickets of newly released Telugu films. Nearly four decades later, that boy has become the arch-rival of Naidu and is now showing him a political film with unexpected twists and turns.

During the regime of the Congress, both at the Centre and in the erstwhile combined AP, then MP YS Jaganmohan Reddy was charged with economic offences like money-laundering and violations of several laws following his exit from the Congress party. After forming YSRCP, Jagan became a formidable force, attracting sizeable cadre of the Congress.

Today, in residual AP, two regional parties viz TDP and YSRCP, are engaged in a game of one-upmanship. It is a different matter that Jagan was framed for several economic offences committed during his father’s regime and that resulted in his spending 16 months in jail.

Economic offences have now become a weapon to settle political scores. Today the cadre of YSRCP are celebrating the political denouement in an ugly manner, with Chandrababu lodged in jail. People are drawing a parallel between the present-day happenings in AP and the political picture in Tamil Nadu, where the DMK and the AIDMK are known for indulging in politics of a vindictive nature.

At the end of the day, facing serious charges may not be a minus point at all in today’s politics. Despite facing serious charges in 11 CBI cases and six ED cases, Jaganmohan Reddy stormed to power. Lalu Prasad Yadav managed to become a key figure in the ruling alliance in Bihar ever after serving jail term for his alleged involvement in fodder scam. Similarly, corruption charges could not alter the political fate of both Jayalalithaa and M. Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu.

It may not be good for an ideal democracy to encourage tainted characters in public life. Still, electors may be facing a dicey situation when it comes to choosing the right candidate in AP. Here again the culture of freebies comes into play with the ruling party having the chance to make the most of it. It all boils down to making electors corrupt with corrupt politicians having the last laugh at the hustings!

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