YS ReddyThree gone, two to go, and most of what Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy has to show by way of performance gravitates towards damning controversies and scurrilous cover-ups. On May 14, to commemorate the completion of three years in office, the chief minister has convened a rally in Hyderabad where he,YS ReddyThree gone, two to go, and most of what Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy has to show by way of performance gravitates towards damning controversies and scurrilous cover-ups. On May 14, to commemorate the completion of three years in office, the chief minister has convened a rally in Hyderabad where he and his ministers will take a fresh oath to work harder towards fulfilling the promises made during the Assembly elections. Christened Rededication Day, it comes across as yet another superfluous, signature-style posturing to set right in the next 24 months all the wrongs of the last three years.Aggressive and gritty, Reddy for now is concentrating on fending off charges of nepotism. Friends, relatives and Congress activists have been pampered with large stretches of prime land at throw away prices to later sell these and pocket rich dividends, it has been alleged. Even as these rumours gain credence, fresh allegations have surfaced implicating the Government of pressuring the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority to change the alignment and contour of the Outer Ring Road skirting the city. The motive, according to the whispers doing the rounds, is to again allow enterprising Congress supporters purchase land flanking the radial road from unlettered farmers and other gullible sellers for a pittance only to make handsome profits later. The Government, too, has acquired land from the farmers at prices far below the market rates.NO ACTION TAKENRecommendations by judicial inquiry commissions initiated by the Reddy Government have largely failed to elicit any action.A. GOPAL RAO COMMISSION September 2004advertisementInvestigated the motive behind the murders in Anantapur over a period of 15 years. Scope widened to include the murder of ex-TDP minister Paritala Ravindra. Submitted report in March 2006. Ravindra’s murder, it concluded, was a fallout of personal enmity and non-political acrimony. No action taken.VAMAN RAO COMMISSION October 2004Probed allegations pertaining to academic and administrative affairs of the Andhra University and the role of its then vice-chancellor Y.C. Simhadri. Submitted report in March 2005. Endorsed the vice-chancellor’s decision to suspend four employees but the Government chose to reinstate them. Admonished the university’s Executive Council members, but none resigned.A. VENKATARAMI REDDY COMMISSION June 2005Looked into the entire gamut of temple land allotments since 1995. Submitted report in May 2006. No action taken on the report that confirmed sale of temple plots and wilful encroachment on temple land. Three deputy commissioners, one assistant commissioner and eight executive officers were suspended. One of the deputy commissioners has retired while the other two were reinstated under the directives of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.T.H.B. CHALAPATHY COMMISSION October 2005Around 10 months after it was initiated to probe alleged irregularities in the selection of BHC Agro (India) as consultants for the Kuppam drip and sprinkler irrigation project, allegations of misappropriation in payment of consultancy charge to the company emerged. Questions were raised as to whether the company possessed the requisite technology, knowledge and capability. Also under the scanner were the pros and cons of importing heavy duty machinery from Israel at a huge cost and whether it was being put to proper use. Justice Chalapathy, on a token salary of a rupee a month, is to present his report by April 30.Still smarting from the rap from farmers that cost him his chair after nine years in power, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu has seized this opportunity to strengthen his ties with the sector. Notching up the pitch of the campaign, the TDP in September last year had forced Reddy to agree to judicial inquiries into the mounting allegations.But he is yet to act on that promise, inexplicably delaying appointment of the requisite retired high court judges. Instead, the chief minister has tactfully shifted focus to the controversial allotment of government land worth Rs 1,000 crore to the US-based sports event management group, IMG Bharata Academy, during the TDP rule. The land was allegedly sold for Rs 50,000 an acre. As intended, the move has temporarily dislodged Naidu from his high pedestal.On the sidelines, Eenadu, the largest circulated Telugu daily, is at the receiving end of Reddy’s wily countermoves delivered oh-so-subtly. Strident in its criticism of the ruling party, its rather shrill campaign was initially brushed aside by Reddy as a right enjoyed by the media in a democracy. The indulgence was short-lived. The indignation singed its owner and Chief Editor Ramoji Rao. V. Arun Kumar, a Congress MP and staunch Reddy loyalist, picked up the gauntlet and wielded the Right to Information Act to ferret out details of how Rao had accumulated huge sums in different financial entities, including a certain Margadarsi Financiers incorporated as an Hindu Undivided Family concern. Stunned, Rao tried to stall any detailed inquiry by seeking court intervention but failed to prevent investigators from collecting its books to pore over its accounts. “All this is a convoluted attempt to attack the freedom of the press and stifle democratic rights,” says Naidu. Unfazed, Reddy argues that “being a newspaper owner does not give Ramoji Rao the right to commit any irregularities”.advertisementWork in ProgressAs for the allegations against his Government and those in his coterie of acquiring land at cheap rates, Reddy has ordered three separate judicial inquiries. “The Government has nothing to hide and has, therefore, agreed to the separate judicial inquiries. Further, if anyone is found guilty they will not be spared,” he asserted. Candid but hardly convincing, considering that of the six judicial commissions announced since Reddy took over as chief minister, only two have submitted their findings and recommendations, all of which have ever since been confined to paper.Of the three proposed inquiries, the first would probe allotment of 487.20 acres of government land in Reddy’s home district, Kadapa, to RaghuramCements, a company in which the chief minister’s son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy is a director. No sooner had the state Cabinet approved of the sale at Rs 1,00,000 an acre, as recommended by the Chief Commissioner of Land Administration (CCLA), that rival parties kicked up a storm alleging that the Reddys were influencing the terms. The company retaliated by offering to consider buying the land in an auction rather than through direct sale, taking into account the prevailing market price of Rs 25,000 per acre for the best portions and the Government’s decision to fix the base price at Rs 50,000. The Government has accepted the proposal. Jaganmohan was appointed a director of Raghuram Cements-promoted initially by TDP Rajya Sabha member C. Ramachandraiah-on December 1 last year, not long after the Government sanctioned the lease of several acres of land for limestone quarrying to the company earlier in March. The ruling party gave the go-ahead after cancelling the previous lease to Gujarat Ambuja Cements as it had failed to set up the proposed factory more than five years after allotment of land on July 11, 2000 by the TDP ministry.Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan CampYet another judicial probe will be conducted into the alleged embezzlement of funds to the tune of Rs 40 crore doled out by the Centre for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). Allotted for improving Government schools, the unutilised amount that had been returned to Hyderabad is believed to have been siphoned off by a former schoolteacher and advertising agency owner, Sarasa Devi, in connivance with a SSA staff member N. Subramaniam. To the Government’s chagrin, Devi tried to wriggle out on the pretext of her association with Suryapratap Reddy. Sureedu to close friends and associates, Suryapratap has been Reddy’s private gunman for more than three decades and is currently attached to the Chief Minister’s Office. This, despite the Department of Vigilance and Enforcement issuing as many as eight notices since 2001, cautioning the Government about siphoning of funds.Encroachment of 969 acres of Government land at Nadergul in the eastern suburbs of Hyderabad reportedly by Congress activists will be thefocus of the third inquiry. One of the accused is a close associate of the chief minister’s Public Affairs Adviser K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao. Reddy’s initial order for an inquiry into the ownership, possession and alienation of the land by the CCLA invited a roar from the TDP, forcing him to order a judicial probe.advertisementThe Government now has to identify and appoint the retired high court judges, frame the terms of reference and, perhaps, set a deadline for the reports. No doubt it is in the interests of the Congress and Reddy to get the inquiry reports out ahead of the polls and, if there is nothing damaging in the findings, to make them public. “The attitude of the TDP poses the main problem,” says Reddy. “It is finding it difficult to play the role of a responsible Opposition. If we do anything, they say it is corruption. If they do anything, they say it is development. Even if I cut my head and place it on the table for the sake of development, the TDP will say there is something fishy about it.” But neither Reddy’s protestations nor the findings of the inquiry commissions may bail out the ruling party already faced with the spectre of anti-incumbency in the next general elections. “If we return to power, we will probe, review and cancel all land deals entered into by the Congress Government. None of it was fair and were only intended to help Congress leaders and their relatives,” says Naidu.Undeterred, the chief minister is banking on project Jalayagnam to do the trick. “We have created an additional ayacut of 12 lakh acres for irrigation in three years compared to 10.59 acres during the nine years of TDP rule,” says Reddy. Agrees G.R.S. Rao, chairman of the Centre for Public Policy, Hyderabad: “He is trying to do in five years what normally takes 10 to 15 years. But he has not backed it with adequate political and administrative systems.” With water available for irrigation, the chief minister is optimistic of wooing a majority of the voters in the countryside. Now, if only the monsoon in this and the coming year shows munificence in keeping his hopes afloat.