Though Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy is well-entrenched as the leader of the Congress in the State, but when it comes to issues of governance, a performance appraisal of his government may not yield high scores
Well into his third year in office, Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy has shown his rivals within and outside the Congress party in the just-concluded Assembly session that his government and he are no pushovers, politically.
But, it is from here that the test for the 53-year-old leader lies. He is indeed well-entrenched as the leader of the Congress in the State, but when it comes to issues of governance, a performance appraisal of the Kiran Reddy Government may not yield high scores.
An example is his ill-conceived and unpopular decision to steeply jack up power tariff at a time when households are simply not getting power and people are reeling under higher petrol/diesel prices, stiff VAT and service tax on almost every commodity and service.
Concepts like collective functioning of the Cabinet, cohesiveness in planning and the quality of administration seem to have been jettisoned.
Hardly the baggage that a party in power can afford to carry when the Assembly and the Lok Sabha elections are round the corner. But, the positives first.
Quibbles over the numbers notwithstanding, winning the no-confidence motion turned out to be a walk in the park for Mr. Kiran Reddy.
In a House where members’ political loyalties change like the weather wane, polling 142 votes was creditable for the Congress.
Among other advantages such as causing division in the Opposition’s ranks, the exercise helped Mr. Reddy purge nine dissidents from the party by seeking their disqualification as MLAs.
However, this is no big deal in an election year beyond the point that wheat and chaff stand separated.
What went largely without much comment was the fact that this is the second successive session of the Assembly, after the one in December, convened specially to pass the SC/ST sub-plan, that has gone off uneventfully, by and large.
To boot, Mr. Kiran Reddy and Speaker Nadendla Manohar have together managed to put in place Standing Committees for in-depth scrutiny of the budgetary demands, away from the glare of publicity and political posturing associated with debates on the Assembly floor.
Then, his open detractors like D. L. Ravindra Reddy and P. Shankar Rao have fallen silent while his behind the screen critic like APCC president Botcha Satyanarayana is ensnared in making the Hobson’s choice of which post to retain - Transport Minister or the PCC post.
Telangana MPs, Ministers and MLAs have surprisingly chosen to adopt a low profile and stopped attacking Mr. Reddy. This is perhaps in realisation of the fact that the general elections are too close for the Centre to take a call on Telangana and open a Pandora’s Box nationally. TRS president K. Chandrasekhar Rao himself declared that he did not expect the UPA II Government to concede separate Telangana.
Luck and some fortuitous circumstances have indeed played a part on how these politics developments have panned out. But, administration is a different cup of tea where experience, team work, firmness and a sense of fair play matter. Mr. Reddy displayed some of these skills in his government’s handling of the aftermath of the Dilsukhnagar blasts, in putting Akbaruddin Owaisi behind bars on charges of giving hate speeches and in foiling T-JAC’s ‘Sadak bandh’ of the Hyderabad-Bangalore National Highway.
Yet, rank amateurism was on display when the government comprehensively mishandled the issue of presenting the Agriculture budget in the Assembly, unsure whether it was a policy document or a budget.
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had some harsh words to say about the Congress government’s poor use of allotted funds on capital works, resulting in staggering escalation of project costs without achieving the desired results.
All eyes on Kiran
Capital works are only one area of neglect. There is overall deterioration in the quality of services, especially in urban areas, and rise in crimes like rape and robbery. Having consolidated himself politically, at least for the time being, Mr. Kiran Reddy would now be watched closely on how far he delivers on governance.