Chandrababu Naidu arrived home late on Tuesday night to find that bulldozers and hammer-wielding men, almost one hundred of them, had reduced Praja Vedika where he used to convene official and party meetings, to rubble. His immediate worry would be that YS Jaganmohan Reddy would be setting his sights on his home, located adjacent to Praja Vedika, next.
The background to the demolition saga
Jagan and his party, the YSR Congress have maintained since their days in the opposition that several buildings, including Naidu’s rented residence and the Praja Vedika annexe built next to it, were constructed in violation of environmental norms on the Krishna river bed. A case is pending in the High court regarding the alleged illegal structures.
What’s more, Jagan also alleged that the Praja Vedika reeked of corruption. A building that ought to have cost Rs 5 crore to construct, found its cost escalated to Rs 8.9 crore.
Soon after he lost power, Naidu wrote to Jagan requesting that he be allowed to retain Praja Vedika so that he could meet people in his capacity as Leader of Opposition and hold TDP meetings there. The CM never responded to the letter.
In a surprise move, Jagan decided to hold the conference of district collectors and SPs at Praja Vedika since it is a government property. And in a dramatic manner, the CM announced that it will be the last such meeting to be held there, ordering Praja Vedika’s demolition soon after the meeting got over on Tuesday evening.
To look at this development merely as an act of Jagan against corruption and illegal structures would be wrong. It is politically very significant. What Jagan wants to convey is that Naidu blatantly violated rules as CM for his benefit. By demolishing it, ignoring Naidu’s personal request, Jagan has sent out a strong message about what his attitude towards his predecessor is going to be. In fact, at the conference, the CM also pointed out how close to Naidu’s home, illegal sand mining takes place.
It is war, no doubt about it
Though Jagan would like to gift wrap it as a war against corruption, it is in fact, a war against Naidu. Understandably Naidu is livid. He asks if Jagan will also uproot and demolish YSR statues that have sprung at every road junction across Andhra Pradesh. His colleagues point to Bhavani Island and ask if Jagan will take similar action against structures constructed by a Hindu seer. The CM is a devotee of this seer and these structures, the TDP alleges, too are along the river bed.
Former Finance minister Y Ramakrishnudu called the orders to smash Praja Vedika “Tughlaq-like”. TDP spokesperson Lanka Dinakar said public money had been used to construct Praja Vedika and a probe could have been ordered to verify if it was unauthorised instead of wasting exchequer money by demolishing it.
Jagan vs Naidu
All these years, Jagan was taunted by Naidu and his colleagues as a man who had to attend court every Friday in connection with his corruption cases. Which is perhaps why during the two-day conference, Jagan’s emphasis was on having zero tolerance to corruption. He wanted to drive home the point that the Naidu regime was corrupt and the Praja Vedika move is Jagan’s way of saying that Naidu’s criticism was a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
After Andhra minister Anil Yadav asked Naidu to see the writing on the wall and move out of his residence, Naidu is reportedly considering the same to avoid further humiliation and embarrassment.
Andhra politics, it looks like, is going the Tamil Nadu way.