Sunday, June 23, 2024

Unprincipled politics in AP power sector

K.R. Murthy

History is repeating itself in Andhra Pradesh. We have been witnessing the reversal of roles by YS family and Chandrababu Naidu as far as power sector is concerned.

Some twenty years back, Nara Chandrababu Naidu as the chief minister, who called himself CEO of the State, was very keen on implementing the power sector reforms. Besides unbundling of the Andhra Pradesh State Electricity Board, setting up meters to measure the power being supplied to farmers was on his agenda. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy of the Congress was at the forefront of the movement against power sector reforms. Naidu was the blue-eyed boy of the international reforms lobby and he featured on the cover pages of reputed magazines becoming poster boy of the reforms. He was reportedly implementing the agenda of the World Bank in order to get a hefty loan for restructuring.

The movement then was supported by nine Left parties. The Congress MLAs were on an indefinite fast at MLA quarters when a large procession led by communist leaders was marching to the Assembly. The police opened fire on the marches at Basheer Bagh and two persons died on the spot. There was a strong backlash against Naidu and his government. The reforms were implemented as far as unbundling was concerned and Genco and Transco were created. The distribution also was divided on the basis of zones but the privatisation of the distribution companies could not be taken up in view of the public ire. One of the major reforms that was kept pending was metering of farm power.

There was a strong argument in favour of metering farm power. It was explained that the transmission losses and the losses due to inefficiency and lack of proper maintenance of the power sector network was being included in the farm power bracket showing more power to the farm sector than the power actually supplied. Naidu pointed out that measuring farm power was necessary even if the government gave the power for free. With Basheer Bagh incident, Naidu had developed cold feet and could not move forward in the path of reforms. Soon after, there was an attack on Naidu’s  convoy at Alipiri in Tirupati on his way to Tirumala in which he escaped miraculously with minor injuries. After staying at Ruya hospital in Tirupati overnight, Naidu returned to Hyderabad where he received a stream of visitors to enquire about his health. He thought that the public sympathy for him would help him win the third term as chief minister and convinced the then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for early elections to AP Assembly as well as the Lok Sabha. The public opinion on Naidu’s nine years rule was so overwhelming that it overtook the sympathy wave that was supposed to be there. He lost the 20004 elections paving the way for YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) to become CM.

More than fifteen years later, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy (JMR), son of late YSR had become the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh and decided to follow the Central government’s suggestion to organise meters to measure the power being supplied to farm sector.  Chandrababu Naidu has taken a position he was opposing earlier. He has been trying to mount an agitation to prevent the introduction of the meters. JMR, who has established himself in over a year as a welfare chief minister is trying to install meters for farmers while CBN who tried to follow the World Bank guidelines and did away with prohibition, subsidised rice and power is clamouring for supply of free power to the farmer without measurement. The TDP has been organising road shows opposing the introduction of farm power meters. This reversal of roles is in keeping with the politics of convenience. CBN has to explain his stand without attracting the accusation that he is indulging in unprincipled and populist policies.


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