Adieu the king of mafias

first_imgThe long-drawn election process is over. Ignoring their sugar levels, supporters of Modi and BJP across the country are devouring laddoos to celebrate their massive success. And, forgetting their orders for laddoos and fireworks, nonplussed opposition parties are raising questions of EVM tampering. At the same time, in a stunning feat in Andhra Pradesh, Jagan Mohan Reddy rises like a phoenix to vanquish Chandrababu Naidu, who, being sure of retaining his post, was hopping from state to state to also play the kingmaker at the Centre. ‘Adieu, the king of mafias!’ people said in chorus. Also Read – A staunch allyHowever, it is also a cynical moment for many. With the national parties nowhere in the race and no other alternative, it is said in desperation that ‘it is a contest between the one who has come out of jail and the one who would go to jail.’ One way, it is true. In fact, it is the common refrain of every politician facing criminal charges, even serious ones, that they are politically motivated – be it Lalu, Jayalalithaa, or any other leader. While the cases linger in the courts, they enjoy the power and pelf. There is also a travesty of justice. In a petty matter of riot, Hardik Patel was disqualified from contesting because he was convicted, while those involved in serious cases, like Pragya, can contest as long as the trial drags on. Jagan, who is out on bail in CBI cases, has also repeated the refrain. Had there been a mechanism to dispose them of promptly, no one knows whether he could contest elections at all. Also Read – Cuban pathosAnyway, it is the winner who takes it all. Speaking against corruption, Jagan says, ‘God will punish if you are corrupt. It is a great script of God. Naidu had bought 23 MLAs from our party and it is the same figure of 23 that TDP has won now. He took 3 MPs from us and he is left with the same number in this election.’ If it is so, does he agree that God punished his father, Rajasekhara Reddy, with death in the helicopter crash, for the billions of rupees earned by him in grabbing government land? Will he also accept that sometimes God would blink his eyes, like in his own case, and in the cases of those powerful former ministers and others who were involved in scams like land-grabbing, Volkswagon, etc., and are now back with a bang under the banner of YSRC? Whether the statement of Jagan is spiritual or political, on record he has vowed to probe all allegations of scams of the previous regime. Be that as it may, one thing is obvious. It was only Jagan who was adequately equipped to take on Naidu in elections; no one else could. Hailing from a political family from Kadapa, he knows the intricacies of factional feuds and bomb politics very well. His grandfather died in an explosion. Recently, his paternal uncle, ex-MP, was killed with reasons still being ascertained. He has inherited a political legacy, experience, and enormous ill-gotten wealth from his father to match Naidu’s slush money and political wiles. Indeed, he was an even match, punch for punch; rupee for rupee. The revenge of his loss in 2014 burning within – he lost 46 seats with wafer-thin margins; this time he has not taken any chances. He walked 3600 kms to feel the pulse of people and prepared his manifesto, to counter the freebies given by Naidu as the elections were closing up. Sifted them to nine points – the Navaratnas, which are schemes for farmers and self-help groups of women, and for drinking water and irrigation; schemes for health, education, and pensions; and importantly, prohibition. Crowds were pulled for his rallies and road shows. Lured by money, biryani and liquor, workers happily deserted their daily jobs in shops and construction works to swell the numbers. As the election day was nearing, the second rung leaders were put into action, to compete with Naidu, to distribute cash – Rs 25000 per family, and also gold, silver, sports kits, etc; caste-based votes were also targeted by inducing their leaders. At the same time, unlike Naidu, who was indulging in rhetoric and harsh language, Jagan chose to maintain decorum during the campaign; perhaps it is his positive trait. It all worked well. In reality, even without so much strategising by Jagan, Naidu would have lost. His popularity has dipped so much that even his staunch supporters – the Telugu cine-world, campaigned against him this time. In all his actions right from choosing the capital to patronising several mafias, to splashing public money for a show of grandeur when the state is cash-strapped, he has proved himself a liability to the people. Standing as a symbol of grandeur, Naidu has unveiled a huge statue of NTR, whom he had unceremoniously backstabbed in the past. Tongue-in-cheek, people scoffed at him. Against the recommendations of the Sivaramakrishnan Committee, by converting precious delta lands, he began constructing a world-class state capital at Amaravathi, and engaged experts from Singapore. People were wary that in this new state starving for finances, a modest capital would have served the purpose, and that Indian experts could have easily built it, like the well-planned cities of Chandigarh, Bhubaneswar or Raipur? His intentions became too obvious – to help land-sharks and himself. It is alleged that he made a benami purchase of 14 acres of land through the Heritage group; spared it from land-pooling and insider trade was involved in capital selection. Even many temples have been demolished, angering people. And, every citizen, including the poorest, has to contribute in repaying the huge loans, although they will derive no benefit from this Taj Mahal, being built by our present-day Shahjahan, with special interests in Singapore and Dubai. In addition to helping the mafia of land everywhere, he has also been patronising those of liquor, mining and sand. Promoting liquor was certainly his nemesis. In a state where drinking evoked a social stigma; toddy-huts were seen only in the outskirts of the villages; the few liquor shops were carefully concealed from the public gaze in towns and cities, he has brought respectability to drinking. Belt-shops have mushroomed; there are one every 100 yards, prominently displaying their wares. As a result, hitherto non-drinkers began tasting it; occasional drinkers have become addicts, and regular ones turned drunkards. Aggravating the misery of the people of the lower strata, drunken men not only squander their daily earnings but also batter their women and children. The helpless women are forced to take up menial jobs, while children drop out from schools to join petty jobs or get into petty crimes. Lakhs of families are ruined, while liquor mafia is reaping the harvest. Therefore, the assurance of Jagan to phase this menace out has massively gone in his favour. Nexus with the mining-mafia has also worked for Naidu’s downfall. When the tribal people of Araku pleaded for his immediate attention to the illegal quarrying by the local MLA and others that were damaging their crops and was polluting the forests and atmosphere, he turned Nelson’s eye. Attempts were even made to crush their protests through devious means. When the Naxalites finally killed the MLA and the ex-MLA, Naidu accommodated their kin comfortably – one as a minister, and the other as a senior government officer, instead of probing deep into their illegal activity. One cannot plead ignorance when there is complicity. Then, NGT slapping a fine of Rs 100 crores on the state government for their indifference to the illegal extraction of sand from Krishna river-bed, is only indicative of the patronage extended to the sand mafia. Although SC has stayed the order, the fact remains that illegal sand extraction is a serious problem in several river-bed areas, affecting agriculture, fishing, etc. Naidu played cool since the fine would have to be paid by the tax-payers while the mafia continues with the operations. In spite of all the above, and many more, naively, Naidu has assumed that people are demented and would forget everything with his election-time sops and Vision 2029. How can they? Even his cash-for-vote scam during MLC election, his silence about SCS for Andhra for four years as long as he was friendly with BJP, are also fresh in their minds. His lavish spending of public money, even by patronising the illegally constructed Novotel Five Star hotel at Vizag is also everyday news. Stealing of private data of citizens to get the names of lakhs of hostile voters deleted is on top of their minds. Therefore, people have not wasted the opportunity; they massively voted for the one who has not been tested so far. They feel redeemed with Jagan’s post-election statement indicating his resolve to implement his Navaratnas. He said, ‘My aim is to win the 2024 elections. And for this, I will endeavour to earn the acclaim of people as the best CM in the country.’ Perhaps he will succeed in his mission. People who know him intimately for years vouchsafe for it since he is god-fearing and sincere. Jagan has also assured that his would be a corruption-free government. But, everyone knows that for this to happen, the state needs an autonomous institution that would tackle both political and bureaucratic corruption. If his intentions are real, he would create it forthwith. It should not end up as empty rhetoric, like that of Modi. People are closely watching. But, for now, it is Naidu’s turn to claim the ruse of political vendetta. (Dr. N Dilip Kumar is a retired IPS officer and a former member of Public Grievances Commission, Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)last_img read more

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