While lack of central funds was the reason for the TDP’s exit from the NDA, how much has the state govt been able to do with what it had? ThePrint finds out.
Vijayawada/Amaravati: It was Ugadi (Telugu New Year’s Day) in 2014, and Telangana had just been carved out of Andhra Pradesh. Chandrababu Naidu made a promise to the people of what remained of Andhra — that as chief minister, he would accelerate development and make it a world-class destination akin to Singapore.
Four years later, again on Ugadi, Naidu stood in front of his people with folded hands, seeking another chance to allow him to fulfil all his promises. Assembly elections are to be held in 2019.
The weapons at his disposal today are the rhetoric of Telugu pride, and the assurance that he tried very hard to deliver on his promises – which was why he allied with the BJP government at the Centre, so that he could get funds. But having been “cheated” and “betrayed” by the BJP, Naidu says he is left with no choice but to look for funds elsewhere, and for that, he needs another term.
In his Ugadi address to the people of Vijayawada, Naidu portrayed himself as a fighter who has been beaten down, but is not out yet – the reins are still in his hands.
“Four years ago, I left all my comforts in Hyderabad and came here to build this state and functioned out of a bus. I have used technology to build a state earlier, and I am committed to making a world class capital city (Amaravati, about 50 km from Vijayawada). We will need money from the Centre. But I will not allow the BJP to play politics here like it did in Tamil Nadu,” Naidu thundered.
But how much have Naidu and his party actually managed to achieve? ThePrint travelled to the state to analyse.
Key promises made in the TDP manifesto in 2014
• Waiver of farmers’ crop loans.
• Nine hours’ free power supply to farmers for agriculture.
• Waiver of loans taken by groups for the development of women and children in rural areas (DWCRA).
• Rs 1,000 pension to Scheduled Tribe people above 50 years of age.
• Free education to Muslim girls.
• Marriage assistance of Rs 50,000 for poor Muslim girls.
• Old age pensions to be enhanced from Rs 250 to Rs 1,000.
• Unemployment allowance to be increased from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 per month
• Mahalakshmi scheme, which would give Rs 2 lakh to each girl child by the time she is married.
• Free laptops to students pursuing higher education.
Status check on the promises
Crop loan waiver: This was the first file signed by Naidu when he assumed power. Rs 24,000 crore worth of farm loans are being waived by the TDP, with help from the Centre.
On 8 March this year, the government allocated Rs 4,100 crore for this scheme for 2018-19. The TDP says it has covered 80 per cent of farmers who had taken loans below Rs 50,000, and the others would be covered if it comes to power again next year.
There are, of course, gaps in its implementation. For instance, Resu Mary of Bodhilingapalem village has been struggling with an ailing daughter who has been hospitalised due to the recent outbreak of diarrhoea in the Guntur region. She had hoped that Naidu’s government would not just compensate her for the land acquired to build Amaravati, but also provide a crop loan waiver.
“Nothing has happened so far. I am in such a state now that I had to pull my children out of a private school and send them to a government one. Naidu has cheated us by making false promises,” she says.
Loan waiver for self-help groups: The state has so far allocated Rs 10,000 crore for waiver of loans for DWCRA groups.
There was chaos soon after the TDP came to power, as self-help groups stopped repayment of loans in the belief that the state would close them. Many of them complain that their loans have still not been waived, and they are unable to get new ones because of non-repayment of the old ones.
Sushma from Uddandarayunipalem village in the notified area of Amaravati blamed Naidu for not delivering on his promises twice over. “He (Naidu) said he would waive farmer loans — that has not happened. Women’s self-help groups were also supposed to get their loans waived, but that has not happened either. Why make a promise that you can’t keep?” she asked.
But now, the government is working towards fixing this problem as well. In the budget for 2018-19, the state has set aside Rs 1,000 crore for interest-free loans to these SHGs.
Another scheme to woo women voters was announced in January this year. “The state government has come up with an ambitious package that ensures a minimum Rs 10,000 monthly wage to every family that has a woman in self-help groups,” said Nara Lokesh, Naidu’s son and minister for information technology and panchayati raj.
Free power supply: Farmers have been provided nine hours of free power supply, at a cost of Rs 3,000 crore to the exchequer.
Pension scheme: “We have given Rs 26,000 crore towards pensions for the aged, the handicapped and widows,” said Dinakar Lanka, a spokesperson of the TDP.
Polavaram project: One of Naidu’s biggest promises is the proposed Polavaram dam over the Godavari river. Since the TDP’s breakup with the NDA became public, the project is being pushed at a frantic pace, with Naidu repeatedly assuring that it would be completed on time.
Finance minister Y. Ramakrishnudu has allocated Rs 9,000 crore to the project, which has been beset with problems since its inception.
Amaravati: Naidu’s dream capital city of Amaravati, being built on the banks of the river Krishna, has also run into trouble. Battling various problems over design, environmental clearances, land acquisition of 33,500 acres through a unique land pooling scheme, and snapping ties with the Singaporean firm constructing the capital, Amaravati is more of a nightmare than a dream right now.
The state assembly was built very quickly, and the seat of power shifted from Hyderabad to Vijayawada to Amaravati as early as December 2015. Government officials have worked in makeshift offices and in cramped dusty spaces. But the work is far from over — the high court, various government offices, as well as an entire city with residential and commercial spaces is yet to be built.
Following this, the cumbersome process of handing land back to farmers will begin.
Discontent building in Rayalaseema
The Rayalaseema region has begun to feel shortchanged, and has already begun clamouring for a separate state. The largely arid and poverty-riddled swathes of Rayalaseema are yet to see development, with none of the promised universities, industrial corridors or water resources in place.
The TDP, however, denied this. “We have completed 28 water projects in Rayalaseema,” Lanka said. “We have completed Pattiseema (lift irrigation project) as an interim project, so that there would be water there. That is why now, despite rainfall deficit, we are comfortable. We have completed the first river interlinking scheme in India and the 130 TMC of water that we have saved from the Krishna, we have diverted to Rayalaseema.”
Can Naidu deliver in one more year?
With a renewed ‘Telugu pride’ and ‘aatmagauravam’ (self-respect) pitch, Naidu seems to have won over voters, who understand that the grandiose dreams and plans of the TDP chief are likely to take longer to become reality.
Voters like Madhav Rao are willing to give Naidu a second chance to resurrect himself and deliver on his promises. “For the past four years, he (Modi) kept saying he will give, but we got nothing. Now we have no money, we’re left with nothing. But Chandrababu will do it without anyone’s help. Chandrababu is like God for us. He will bring fantastic development,” he emphasised.
Naidu’s past track record – of being the architect of modern Hyderabad and its flourishing economy – works in his favour. For the people of Andhra Pradesh, it’s a reminder that Naidu is one person who can deliver on grand election promises.