Old habits seem to die hard for Chandrababu

  • Agriculture and farmers take backseat in new AP
  • Looks like CM has not lost faith in IT industry
  • Aggressively pitching for big players in technology and industry

(P Ravi)

Andhra Pradesh, November 23: All the poll promises made to the farmers are yet to see the light of the day. No major pro-agriculture reforms or resolutions have been taken in Andhra Pradesh; instead the large number of power projects being planned along the coast line (see the 2011 graphical representation of the projects); some already in implementation stage; are going to cause further displacement of farmers. Further the SEZs; the industry corridors and not to mention the capital zone coming up in Guntur and Vijayawada are bound to drastically affect agriculture; further weakening the landless farmers and big farmers. Food crisis is looming large, say experts. Further with the promise of a new capital, many agricultural land owners in the vicinity have already plotted their farm land to convert it into commercial land. The government is further making an attempt to convince others to give up agriculture and contribute their land to build a new capital.

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CM Chandrababu Naidu, on the other hand is aggressively trying to attract investors, industry big wigs and software giants to set up shop in Andhra Pradesh. While overall development is the key; Naidu is getting back to his old ways by only concentrating on technology and industry. No wonder, he is being treated royally where ever he is extending his hand; for, his fame as the corporate CM has not faded. He is known to give enormous sops to industrialists and make it extremely attractive for the corporates who had earlier tasted the advantages of being in Naidu’s state. He also made it to the cover of the international magazines, back then, before he lost his office in 2004.

His defeat was attributed to his singularly industry friendly approach and his concentration on Hyderabad even as he ignored the rest of the state, especially rural AP and agriculture. YS Rajasekhar Reddy, who had toured all the villages during (the famous 1400 km padayatra in 2003 that was later emulated by his son YS Jagan), had struck a chord with the villagers and farmers who brought him to power. And he kept his promise of free power and free health care even after he became the chief minister. And the farmers repaid by bringing him back to power the next term as well. And what a victory it was. Congress under his leadership won 156 seats, a little less than the 185 it held earlier and 33 out of 42 Loksabha seats. The win was solely attributed to his farmer and agriculture friendly policies. Even as there was much more that needed to be done to reform farmers and agriculture in the state; the larger picture hardly mattered at the ground level.

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Coming back to now, Naidu seems to have gotten back to his old ways. He is raiding Karnataka and Tamilnadu in a bid to attract $2 billion in IT investments over the next five years to Andhra. He also wants to create 50 lakh tech jobs, take broadband connectivity (1000 mbps or gigabit) to every village, and make at least one person e-literate in every household. To boost entrepreneurship, he plans to create one-million sq ft of incubation space by 2019. He met senior executives at Cisco, Flipkart, First American Corporation, ITC Infotech and ABB among others, selling his dream of a Singapore state.

Corporates and IT industry especially, find Naidu charming and going by his track record of attracting them; his counterparts in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Jayalalitha and Siddaramaiah are on tenterhooks. And they are cribbing about unfair tax exemptions AP is enjoying, which is also giving an edge to the state.

So far so good, but by strategically ignoring farmers and agriculture, Naidu may not be setting the right precedent, especially in view of the general sentiment that he will be the harbinger of change for better in AP.

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