Krishna Rao and Harsha Kumar were dominating affairs of the factory

There are significant political overtones to the large-scale destruction and arson that took place in and around Regency Ceramics on Friday in this tiny town, a part of Puducherry.

The factory, which is in existence since nearly 30 years, has been facing labour problems for the past five years, mainly because of interference by two heavyweights of the Congress party. The political landscape of this town, which has rich natural resources, is dominated by former Puducherry Minister and now Opposition MLA Malladi Krishna Rao, a staunch supporter of former A.P. Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

He was said to have been instrumental in encouraging the management of Regency Ceramics to establish its factory in Yanam. As a result, the management frequently sought his advice in settling labour issues as well as interacting with the Puducherry government.

His dominance was often challenged by Congress MP from Amalapuram, G.V. Harsha Kumar, a known critic of YSR. He was unanimously elected as honorary president of the workers' union of Regency Ceramics. The functioning president was M.S. Murali Mohan who used to seek Mr. Harsha Kumar's guidance in negotiations with the factory management. It was clear that Mr. Krishna Rao on one side and Mr. Harsha Kumar on the other were dominating the affairs of the factory till the day the trouble broke out.

Both the leaders had differences over other issues too, including drilling operations by oil companies along the coast of Amalapuram, Kakinada and Yanam. About one month ago, Mr. Krishna Rao along with his ‘political disciple', Congress MLA from Mummidivaram (Andhra Pradesh), Ponnada Satish, and hundreds of fishermen surrounded GSPC onshore plant and agitated against spillage of oil as it was causing extensive damage to fishing activity. During the consultations, the GSPC agreed to spend Rs.400 crore for development of the coastline, including Yanam. This again became a source of political conflict between Congress leaders in Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh. Asked about his feud with Mr. Krishna Rao over the developments in Regency Ceramics, Mr. Harsha Kumar said he did not have differences with individuals but was only interested in safeguarding the interests of factory workers.