Only when knives were out for Jaganmohan Reddy’s AP, here comes a welcome news

29th November 2020

29th November 2020

Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy

A news caught my eye as I scrolled my newsfeed on the mobile even as the rising sun made its presence felt on the back of my neck last morning.  

It was a story of a considerable length by the Press Trust of India (PTI) where it had extensively quoted Rajat Bhargava, the Special Chief Secretary (tourism and culture) of Andhra Pradesh, on the State’s plan to spend some couple of hundred crores on tourism-related projects.

Now, frankly, Lambasingi fascinates me for its reputation as Kashmir of South is well-deserved (see image below). Gandikota is called Grand Canyon of India for good reason. And everyone gushes on Araku Valley near Vizag with its lush forests, beautiful waterfalls and sprawling coffee plantations. But 200-plus crores? In the times of Corona pandemic? When the States are reeling at GST shortfalls and a tight-fisted Centre? Wondering, if it was worth to hand its leash at the hands of New Delhi?

I immediately recalled a news item I had read about the alleged profligacy of YS Jaganmohan Reddy state government, in office for a year and half now. It was the finance minister of the erstwhile TDP government, Yanamala Ramakrishnadu shedding tears on the sorry state of finances. He had rolled out statistics and predicted that there would be reduction of 73% of state’s output. This was in September this year, amidst raging Coronavirus pandemic.

There is a reason Andhra Pradesh has stayed in my mind as a newsperson. It was in September only when I had done a story on the State and spoken extensively to Rajat Bhargava. It was to get his views after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had gushed on Andhra Pradesh being the best in implementing the Business Reform Action Plan in 2019. Andhra Pradesh had jointly got the highest score with Jharkhand as the best State in Good Governance Index (GGI) of Government of India. Bhargava, as Special Chief Secretary of Industries and Commerce then, was the man of the hour.

Bhargava had then shared with me the secret of AP’s climb which was in no small measure due to the dynamism of his chief minister, Jaganmohan Reddy. Some were extremely eye-catching initiatives which could all be read in this link to the piece. Bhargava was lucid on his vision and action and had passed on the word that it’s tourism which would now be under his stewardship.

Well, here I was, Saturday morning, reading about the hundreds of crores he planned to spend on improving the State’s tourism and drawing footfalls from around the country. It’s stop-and-go as far as rail or air transportation is concerned. States are still debating if they should go under a renewed lockdown. And the pandemic vaccine is at the doorstep but it’s still some months away before Coronavirus could become a thing of the past.

As luck would’ve it, by Saturday evening, India Today was out with its list of State of States 2020 which it had conducted in association with Marketing and Development Research Associates (MDRA). The assessment was done on some 13 critical parameters.

Well, I have no hesitation in admitting that my scepticism was unfounded. Tourism, under the command of Rajat Bhargava, is the most improved sector amongst all states of the country. Andhra Pradesh is also the most improved State in terms of economy over the last two years. Andhra Pradesh has secured 213.6 points out of 300 points and has easily outscored the smaller Telangana by over 10 points. And lest it be forgotten, Andhra was lying 11th in the table in 2018 when the TDP was in power. Bhargava, as industries and commerce secretary then, could rightfully claim some credit.  

I haven’t met Bhargava or Jaganmohan Reddy in my life but it makes me wonder if bureaucracy is really that bad and politicians are really no-gooders. There are some good hands in governance and they are not all from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Good work deserves applause and recognition from its citizens and media. And a healthy competition among states, as the cart is pushed in the GGI or surveys such as India Today’s, is most welcome.

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