Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Naidu - the man who thought globally, but lost locally
Ch. Prashanth Reddy
VANQUISHED & VICTOR: Mr Chandrababu Naidu at his residence and (below) the Congress leader, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, with a bouquet on Monday. - A. Roy Chowdhury
Hyderabad , May 11
MR N. Chandrababu Naidu, arguably the most high-profile Chief Minister Andhra Pradesh has ever had, might have been surprised at the dismal performance of his Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in the 2004 elections to the State Legislative Assembly.
However, the landslide victory of the Congress has not come as a surprise to many considering the fact that around one-fourth of the State's population still suffer from chronic food insecurity and the employment growth under his regime had recorded a drastic decline.
Besides unemployment, the anti-incumbency factor, continuous failure of monsoons, inadequate power supply to the farm sector, increase in the power tariff, shortage of drinking water and discontent among Government employees have contributed to the defeat of the TDP that ruled the State for the past nine years.
Mr Naidu, who was popularly known as the CEO of Andhra Pradesh, put the State at the forefront of economic reforms but failed to realise that faster growth through economic reforms would not always be accompanied by a faster rate of poverty reduction.
According to a study made by economists Prof C.H. Hanumantha Rao and Dr S. Mahendra Dev, of the Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS), the work participation rates in the State declined significantly in both rural and urban areas in the 1990s.
"Thus, the expectations of increasing employment opportunities due to economic reforms have not materialised."
Added to his woes was the stepped up campaign by the Congress, which had promised free power to farmers and people living below poverty line using one electricity bulb for lighting.
The 1,600-km padayatra undertaken by the Congress leader, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who is the strong contender for the Chief Minister's office, also seemed to have rallied people behind his party, which remained in the opposition during the last two terms.
The emergence of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) dealt a major blow to the TDP's electoral prospects in the backward Telangana region.
Outside of Andhra Pradesh, it was referred to as the "most happening State" during the regime of the media-savvy Chandrababu Naidu but the CESS economists have pointed out that the State had not been able to step up the GDP growth rate in the post-reform period and its distance from fast-growing States such as Maharashtra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat had widened on account of weak social and economic infrastructure.
The infrastructure that had been developed in the State was also largely focused on IT at the cost of the industrial sector.
According to Mr S.S. Raju, President of the Federation of AP Small Industries Association, 40 per cent of the 1.25 lakh SSI scale units in the State have become sick.
Speaking to newspersons after the declaration of the election results, Dr Rajasekhara Reddy alleged that Mr Naidu had never bothered when the plight of the farmers was "going from bad to worse".
He said that 3,000 of the 4,000 farmers who committed suicide in the country hailed from AP.
The communist parties, on other hand, accused Mr Naidu of virtually adopting the World Bank's agenda while ushering in structural reforms.
On the whole, there is a general feeling that Mr Naidu, while trying to think globally, forgot to act locally.
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