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KK Reddy's appointment a slap in the face for Jagan

Last updated on: November 27, 2010 17:15 IST

In addition to the financial and governance challenge in the state, Andhra Pradesh Governor K K Reddy has to contend with one other -- Jaganmohan Reddy

At 77, former Andhra Pradesh chief minister K Rosaiah can be forgiven for being impatient and irritable. What is mystifying is the gracelessness of his party, the Congress. You make a man, clearly not up to the task, chief minister. He goes through a struggle, his party sniping at him all through.

Then you call him to Delhi and tell him he has to resign the following day, taking advantage of the fact that he has no group or lobby to call his own. This is after he has submitted 15 budgets under several chief ministers, has been totally loyal to both the chief ministers with whom he has worked and the party.

He smiles and puts in his papers, without demur. This happens two days after he attends a huge felicitation by his community -- small and not particularly powerful in Andhra Pradesh politics, the Vaishyas -- at Vijayawada. Here he thanks his community for everything it has done for him, and promises them all manner of things. When someone in the audience asks him a question about the finances of the state, he says, "You would better not ask that question. If I tell you, you might have a heart attack".

Rosaiah has been a conservative if unimaginative finance minister. When YS Rajashekhar Reddy went about emptying state coffers on schemes that won him a lot of goodwill but ruined state finances, it fell to Rosaiah as finance minister to warn him mildly that the money was running out. Reddy paid little attention.

Then Reddy died and when Rosaiah became chief minister, as unobtrusively as he could, he began tweaking some schemes and scaling down others. A scheme to finance education for backward class students announced by Reddy went kaput as there was no money to pay the colleges running the scheme.

The Indiramma Illu homes scheme -- homes built by the poor themselves with cash subsidies from the state government -- was one of the most popular ones launched by YSR. But the money ran out and today there are empty shells, half built houses all over Andhra Pradesh as beneficiaries have had to abandon construction because the state's share of funds hasn't come.

YSR announced the schemes; Rosaiah found the money. When he became chief minister, he shut down some of them and postponed a decision on some others. In 2009, YSR announced an increase in free agricultural power from 7 to 9 hours. Rosaiah ignored this. No new hydroelectric projects were announced. Reddy had announced an increase in the Rs 2 a kg rice scheme from 25 to 35 kg per family. Rosaiah postponed the decision - it would have put an unbearable strain on the state's finances. All this just served to strengthen YSR's son Jaganmohan who shrieked that his father's legacy was being dismantled by a pretender.
Rosaiah's successor is a man selected by Delhi, certainly not for his qualities of governance -- simply because he hasn't had any experience at it. Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy is the son of a well-known Congress politician from Chittoor, Rayalaseema, Amarnath Reddy. KK was plucked out of the arid badlands scoured by the clash of competitive Reddy feudalism and sent to Hyderabad where he grew up. Though not particularly articulate, the Reddy faction that his father commanded urged him to enter politics after his father died to protect the family silver.

Though his father and YSR were rivals, YSR tried not to extend that rivalry to the son -- but found his own son protesting fiercely every time Kiran Kumar's name was proposed for ministership. So KK became chief whip of the Congress Legislature Party from 2004 to 2009; and later, Speaker of the assembly. He is wealthy, but in Hyderabad lingo, not 'super rich' (his affidavit proclaimed he owns property amounting to Rs 8 crore and no business interests). He is married to money.
KK has contested state elections five times and has lost just once. He is considered a smooth behind-the-scenes operator: soft-spoken but intelligent. He has some powerful backing at the centre: not just the AP governor but also some Union ministers supported his elevation to chief minister. It is also no secret that he's going to need every bit of help he can get.
This is because in addition to the financial and governance challenge in the state he has to contend with one other -- Jaganmohan Reddy. With his appointment, Delhi has as good as slapped Jaganmohan Reddy on the face. The Reddy community was backing Jagan Reddy to the hilt. Now, it could split.

In the true tradition of the Congress, KK is in Delhi awaiting the high command's directive on forming his council of ministers. If things go his way, his deputy chief minister could be a YSR groupie, D Raja Narasimham, considered close to Jaganmohan. Obviously Jaganmohan is not going to keep quiet.  That's when the fun and games will begin.

Aditi Phadnis