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‘Holier than thou’ politics in AP

The evil of black money with its political connections in Andhra Pradesh has become a hot topic in the public discourse, following a missive fired by Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking withdrawal of high-value denominations such as Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 from circulation. In the same breath, Naidu made a controversial reference to a  Hyderabad-based HNI (high networth individual) who declared his income of Rs 10,000 crore under the Prime Minister’s Income Disclosure Scheme (IDS), by dropping a broad hint: “One can easily perceive what is in possession of ill-gotten wealth?” This is clearly an oblique reference to his arch-rival YS Jaganmohan Reddy who in turn turned the tables on the CM by writing a letter to the PM with a request to disclose the HNI in question. Naidu is understood to have raised the bogey of black money obviously to acquire a “holier than thou” image in the public. He even explicitly admitted that the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes are liberally in use to purchase votes during the elections. The Naidu-Jagan slanging match inadvertently brings to the fore the politics in the State that has become murky and tainted with the impact of black money while raising the hackles of civil society. No one in politics is a holy cow and almost every party is guilty of surviving on black money,” observes M Padmanabha Reddy of the Forum for Good Governance. Black money has been excessively used to fund the political parties, purchase tickets and voters during the elections and it is an open secret, he adds. Observers cite the 2014 General Elections and the recent Rajya Sabha elections as a classic case for the nefarious role of black money. A former minister of TDP said the cost of each vote touched Rs 1,000 during the previous election. “Politics went into the control of corporate giants and black money hoarders after the elections have become expensive. In the whole process; politics lost credibility in public mind,” he lamented. In an interview to this writer sometime back during the 1999 General Elections, Naidu himself admitted that politics in the undivided state then was getting corporatised rapidly. “We are forced to let winning horses with money power take a plunge into politics as the number game that matters finally. When my rivals are fielding rich people, I am helpless but to adopt the same procedure,” was his refrain. The role of black money during the recent Rajya Sabha election dominated the public discourse following allegations of sale of seats, each ranging more than Rs 70 crore. Incidentally, Union IT Minister Y Srujana Chowdary of the TDP and the YSRC’s Vijayasai Reddy, both leading industrialists, elected to the Rajya Sabha, were involved in cases of economic offences. Analysts observe that the trend of elections becoming commercialised began in the mid-term polls in the late 90s. The 2014 elections witnessed a disturbing trend with top IRS and IAS officers taking a plunge into the fray from the reserved constituencies after massing wealth while in service. In some cases, the in-service babus encouraged their spouses to get into the election arena by raising funds from corporates by using their power. The State has earned the dubious track record of having sent four MPs with such a background to the Parliament in the last election. According to experts, real estate boom unleashed by the bifurcation of the State marked by rich prospects of rapid urban growth and industrialisation comes in handy for black money to park itself in realty, apart from gold. The widening mismatch between market and government values in registration of land deals harbour black money.  There has been a growing disquiet over the increasing poor-rich gap caused by black money. “Black money erodes government’s tax receipts and  finally affects the welfare programmes. As a result, economic security of the poor is at stake,” sums up Professor C Ramachandraiah of the Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS). When politics itself is a villain of the piece it is unwise to expect a lasting solution from the very politics with respect to black money,” he avers.

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