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  Books   25 Feb 2024  Book Review | A tale of two CMs who put Andhra Pradesh on the path of modernity

Book Review | A tale of two CMs who put Andhra Pradesh on the path of modernity

THE ASIAN AGE. | ANAND K SAHAY
Published : Feb 25, 2024, 12:53 pm IST
Updated : Feb 25, 2024, 1:22 pm IST

The other figure in focus in this book is Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, arguably the only “people’s CM” undivided Andhra Pradesh has known

What the national media grossly under-reported was that maximum farmer suicides, the highest in the country, took place when Naidu was at the helm. — DC Image
 What the national media grossly under-reported was that maximum farmer suicides, the highest in the country, took place when Naidu was at the helm. — DC Image

This is an interesting book, and in parts a fascinating one, by a top-rated senior journalist of Andhra Pradesh who has lived and reported the era that is the focus of his attention. In patches we see examples of close and acute political reporting, although the writer’s biases are plain to see. Currently, the author is the national media adviser to chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.

The language used against the TDP leader N. Chandrababu Naidu, who, according to this narrative, deceived or double-crossed his late father-in-law and TDP founder, N.T. Rama Rao, to rise to the top, is strong right through, although this near-denunciation derives from extensive secondary sources, such as citations from books and articles, including those written by Naidu’s allies at crucial junctures. There are occasional references to primary sources too.

Thus, there is basis for the view that is projected here, although in the national media, Naidu — when he was chief minister — was lionised for being an infrastructure man. He built impressive flyovers, roads and the like, made efforts that gave Hyderabad the moniker Cyberabad, and started work on establishing a new city as the capital of Andhra Pradesh after the state’s bifurcation.

What the national media grossly under-reported was that maximum farmer suicides, the highest in the country, took place when Naidu was at the helm. The health sector was extensively privatised and farmers took loans for treatment that they could not repay. The entrepreneur’s model of development, broadly speaking the World Bank model, which can bring glitter alongside great despair, became Naidu’s model.

Even so, he lasted in the saddle a long time. How did he manage that? This book does not seriously look into that question though it is worth a study. Nevertheless, the author highlights the role played by the run of the Telugu language media in showing the TDP leader after NTR as a larger-than-life figure. The part the mainstream media can play to destroy political parties and political actors or to build them up sky high, is hidden to no one today in light of the goings-on in the country’s national politics.

The other figure in focus in this book is Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, arguably the only “people’s CM” undivided Andhra Pradesh has known. YSR, as he was called, was an impressive politician indeed. He came up through campaigns and adopted the path of moving among the people by doing massive walkathons. He was equally adept in dealing with the imperatives of power politics. YSR threw his energies into raising farmers’ lives. This is going to be his capital for keeps.

His untimely death in a helicopter crash had saddened the nation, not just the people of his state. Te decline of the Congress in the state was precipitated after YSR’s passing. The national party could not retain the affections of his son. The story is told in these pages, though more granular writing was needed from history’s perspective. Not unexpectedly, the book has a section on the current Andhra Pradesh CM, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, whose positives are detailed at some length.

Some attention has been paid here to the arrival of NTR — a former Telugu film idol — on the scene as the leader of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which he founded single-handed to oppose the Congress which had become over-reliant on the high command culture, and was peopled with ever bickering stalwarts, some of whom had credentials which many others lacked, apart from each possessing the trait of being on the right side (in that era) of Indira Gandhi, who was hard to ignore by her friends or foes.

This book does look at the pre-NTR Congress period and seeks to explain the political causes behind the perennial Andhra Pradesh-Telangana schism which eventually led to bifurcation of the Telugu-speaking people, although the real playground of action is after the arrival of the TDP on the scene. A chapter on the regional-national dichotomy might have been of interest.

The Deccan Powerplay

By Amar Devulapalli

Rupa

pp. 207; Rs 395/-

Tags: ys jagan mohan reddy, ys rajasekhara reddy, n chandrababu naidu, nt rama rao, the deccan powerplay, amar devulapalli