V.V. Lakshminarayana’s headline-grabbing moment came a few years ago. As the then CBI joint director, Lakshminarayana had arrested Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, now leader of Opposition in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, over several corruption cases. That was during the UPA’s second term. Much water has flown down the Godavari and the former CBI sleuth now seems poised to change sides and dive headlong into politics.
The news of bureaucrats—some with squeaky clean images—entering politics invariably piques much curiosity, more so in Andhra where another former IAS officer Jayaprakash Narayan had floated the Lok Satta Party to fight corruption in 2009, but failed to make a mark against the TDP. And like Narayan, Lakshminarayana too has left a secure job to try his hand at politics, ahead of the general elections due next year. Lakshminarayana, known for his focus on political corruption, probity in public life, accountability and transparency in administration, has handled several high-profile cases, including the Obulapuram mining case in which Bellary’s Reddy brothers (including Gali Janardhan Reddy) were among the accused, the Satyam Computers case and the Emmar Projects case.
Lakshminarayana, however, has kept his cards close to his chest so far, insisting he is yet to make up his mind. “Does one need to join political ranks to serve the people?” he asks. “Whatever the media has to speculate, they do have a right to do so. However, I can think of joining political ranks only if I fail to convince the government to redress the problems of farmers and growing unemployment.”
After taking voluntary retirement, he adopted a village in Maharashtra and seven in Andhra as part of his rural development mission. “I am travelling around to interact with the farmers, understand the issues they confront on a day-to-day basis and find solutions,” he says. “I shall convey what I gather from the farming community to the concerned authorities and governments at the Centre and the state, hoping they would act. I am a firm believer in Gandhian principles and my passion follows that of the great leader, who always advocated ‘gram swaraj’ as he believed India lives in her villages.”
Speculation is rife over the possibility of Lakshminarayana joining either the BJP or the TDP. CM N. Chandrababu Naidu sees an opportunity to entice him into his party fold to checkmate the YSR Congress and its leader Jaganmohan, seen by detractors as a symbol of ill-gotten wealth. Of late, however, the TDP has itself been mired in controversy over allegations of graft, earning the “champion of corruption” tag in popular discourse in Andhra Pradesh.
Moreover, TDP leaders have often pointed out that Lakshminarayana has been associated with the Sangh Parivar since his college days. “We have to wait and see whether he is part of Modi’s B-team and has a hidden agenda,” a senior TDP leader from Guntur district tells Outlook. “We need more time to figure him out.”
Lakshminarayana can either form his own party, or join the BJP, the Lok Satta, filmstar Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena or even AAP. “I shall take a call only after completing my mission. I have set to cover the seven adopted villages first and later the rest. I shall also explore all possibilities—joining one of the existing parties, based on their ideological commitment, or launching a new one,” he says.
According to Brigadier (retd) G.B. Reddi, the majority of political leaders are “misfits, woefully unsuited to hold high political posts”, while academician-turned-politician Prof P.L. Visweshwar Rao says, “When we find 35-40 per cent of people with criminal records entering Parliament or the assemblies, it becomes imperative for educated people such as bureaucrats, academicians and other professionals to enter the political arena, which, seen as the last resort of scoundrels, had been a taboo until recently.”
Lakshminarayana, however, insists he has no grouse against the current system or politics in general. “I am concerned about why the established systems are not working, where the faultlines are, and how they could be best addressed and redressed,” he says.
By M.S. Shanker from Hyderabad