Andhra Pradesh is in need of a government that works not a dysfunctional arrangement where Ministers, scheming overtime to make their overlord Chief Minister, have no time or mind for governance. Shockingly, from day one 76-year-old Konijeti Rosaiah, sworn in as Chief Minister following the death of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in a tragic helicopter crash, was faced with non-cooperation from his Cabinet colleagues. It is not just that Ministers owing allegiance to YSR’s son, Jaganmohan Reddy, showed no interest in work; they were brazen about undermining the Chief Minister’s authority and leadership. Only when the Congress high command adopted a no-nonsense attitude and made it clear that the leadership issue was not a matter for political bargaining did many of the YSR loyalists agree to carry out their constitutional obligations. Even so, Ministers continue to spend more time discussing the leadership issue with YSR’s close aide, K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao, than in doing government work.
Quite understandably, the Congress high command is in no mood to give in to such pressure tactics and crown Mr. Reddy whose formal political experience is all of four months as a Member of Parliament. At the same time, the party leadership does not want any sort of rebellion on its hands in the weeks leading up to crucial Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, and Arunachal Pradesh. Chief Minister Rosaiah thus finds himself suspended in Trisanku swarga. Without the full backing of the high command, he is in no position to discipline the mutinous Ministers. A YSR loyalist himself, he does not want to be seen as standing between Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy and the Chief Minister’s gaddi. He is consequently tentative in decision-making, and reluctant even to relocate himself to the official chambers of the Chief Minister in the Secretariat. Despite his vast experience in governance, he is unable to get things moving in this politically supercharged atmosphere. Mr. Rosaiah does not have the mass base of YSR but with firm support from the party high command, he should be able to tackle the most pressing issues of South India’s largest State: drought, the price rise, naxalite activities, and the swine flu challenge. The State Assembly is still in the first half-year of its term, and 36-year-old Mr. Reddy’s vaulting ambitions can wait. Andhra Pradesh needs steady, clean hands to steer it towards development. Mr. Rosaiah certainly looks like the man for the moment. Meanwhile, Mr. Reddy, as an elected M.P., can be given an opportunity at the Centre, perhaps as a Minister of State, to develop his political and governance skills and to show his mettle. He must realise that time is on his side.