Chandrababu Naidu has called for a cabinet meeting at 1030 am on 10 May. Officials of the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister’s Office have sent the communique to the Chief Secretary, requesting him to make arrangements for the same. But it won’t be a surprise if it turns out to be more of a Telugu Desam meeting with only ministers present and the bureaucrats giving it the skip.
Why is Naidu risking embarrassment by convening such a meeting?
Because he is working to a plan.
One, he wants to draw the line for the Election Commission.
“The EC’s job is to conduct elections, not to interfere in day-to-day matters of administration. We have to draw a line, who takes care of governance. The CM will be blamed if things go wrong,” points out K Rammohan Rao, senior TDP leader.
The TDP political leadership wants to assert the powers of the CM. It argues why should officials be scared to attend a cabinet meeting called by the CM. They won’t lose their jobs if they do, they point out.
Former Andhra Pradesh chief secretary IYR Krishna Rao who is now a BJP member, however disagrees with Naidu.
“It is not mandatory for the cabinet meeting to be held by an interim kind of government. Cabinet meeting is required only when there is an agenda which requires cabinet decision. Under the present circumstances, no policy decisions can be taken. At best they can review progress of work,” points out Rao.
The TDP’s grouse is that even review of progress of work of important projects like Polavaram irrigation project and Amaravati capital region was frowned upon by the EC. On Monday, when Naidu visited Polavaram, hardly any senior bureaucrat turned up to receive and brief him at the project site.
Two, the CM wants to target LV Subrahmanyam, the chief secretary appointed by the Election Commission and show him as anti-Naidu. The day Subrahmanyam was appointed, Naidu had referred to the EMAAR land case in which the IAS officer was named along with Accused number one, Jaganmohan Reddy. His intention was to state that a pro-Jagan tainted bureaucrat had been posted in the crucial post. What Naidu left unsaid was that Subrahmanyam had been acquitted by the High court and he himself had promoted him as Special chief secretary, though superseding him to the top bureaucratic post by making his junior AC Punetha the chief secretary.
For the last one month, there has been bad blood between Naidu and Subrahmanyam. The latter called Naidu a “CM without powers”. The CM was miffed with the Chief Secretary not attending even his meeting to review the preparedness of the administration for Cyclone Fani which affected north-coastal Andhra.
As per rules, the chief Secretary is expected to seek permission from the EC whether to attend the cabinet meeting or not. It is for the EC to take a call. In a related development, a few IAS officers reportedly met at a hotel in Vijayawada to discuss the CM’s diktat that all those officers who are not on poll duty should attend review meetings.
Three, taking umbrage at the Intelligence chief not allowed to report to him, Naidu has asked if the IB chief and the NSA do not brief the Prime Minister any more. The aim is to show the EC as a constitutional body that is batting for the BJP and targeting those who are politically opposed to the party.
During Cyclone Fani, the MCC was relaxed in the coastal districts of Odisha much ahead of Andhra Pradesh. This ensured Naveen Patnaik was in a position to sit with his bureaucrats and review the cyclone preparedness a good 48 hours before the cyclone struck while Naidu could not. Sources say that is because while Odisha’s request clear was specific, Naidu had mixed up the request with a litany of complaints and allegations he had leveled at the EC which needed more time to reply.