The decision of Telangana CM Kalwakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) to demolish existing structures in the secretariat and build new ones at a cost of Rs 400 crore is likely to result in a political backlash, especially as KCR blames the Centre for not granting financial support to fulfil his grandiose dreams. Many political opponents are questioning the wisdom of such expenditure when the Andhra Pradesh government has vacated the buildings. How can one justify the need for additional structures in the secretariat when the erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh was functioning from the same complex with two times more staff, and when Telangana’s debt has gone up by 9.5 per cent in the past financial year to over 22 per cent of the state GDP, according to the Reserve Bank of India.
Can a CM squander scarce financial resources to satisfy his personal belief in Vaastu? Soon after the state bifurcation, when KCR rode to power, he did not use the CM’s official residence, and chose to build a new Vaastu-approved residence. The new home was reportedly built at a cost Rs 36 crore, yet KCR mostly functions from his ‘farm house’ on the outskirts of the city.
While supporters of KCR in the government justify the construction of the new complex, the Opposition Congress and other activists call it “absurd” considering the financial crunch—and especially as construction of houses for BPL families is on hold due to lack of funds. “Since the formation of undivided Andhra Pradesh in 1956, the Congress or Telugu Desam governments have been run from the old premises,” says senior Congress leader Marri Shashidhar Reddy. “Now, the government has no money to pay salaries to its employees, but the CM wants to raise new structures as per Vaastu? Whose money is it? Is it not of taxpayers like you and me?”
Reddy adds that KCR has also turned a blind eye to education and healthcare. “If this is not Tuglak Raj, then what else can it be?” asks another Congress leader, V. Hanumantha Rao. “The money could be spent better in improving infrastructure in hospitals, building new educational institutions in rural areas, ensuring timely reimbursement of scholarships to all eligible SC, ST and BC students.”
KCR’s close confidant, TRS member Palle Rajeshwar Reddy, however, dismisses the criticism. “Our leader has a different vision,” he says. “He wishes to make the new secretariat aesthetically and architecturally better. Besides, the secretariat must have world-class facilities as it is the nerve centre of administration. Moreover, to provide better administration, it should have better ultra-modern communication facilities.”
Asked about the state’s finances being in the red, he says KCR is an able administrator and knows how to handle finances better than the Opposition, which “messed up things when they were in power, which resulted in several parts of the region staying relatively backward”.
Meanwhile, the high court agreed to hear pleas against the demolition of buildings in the secretariat from June 28. It didn’t, however, stop the government from going ahead with the stone-laying ceremony the day before that date. “I am confident that the court will not allow KCR government to go ahead with demolition as I contended that investment on new structures is waste of public money,” says senior Congress leader Jeevan Reddy.
Observers are waiting to see how the situation unfolds, and how the KCR government justifies its latest decision despite having assured earlier that there would be no demolition.
By M.S. Shanker in Hyderabad