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Time for action

A.K. Sabharwal

A second-chance is a rare occurrence, particularly in politics. Few leaders and parties have been given such opportunities. We must add Nara Chandrababu  Naidu and the Telugu Desam Party to that exclusive list. Mr. Naidu has just won a clear mandate from the people of Seemandhra, the residuary state resulting from the bifurcation of the great state of Andhra Pradesh. He is expected to take office as chief minister in the second week of June, once the bifurcation becomes official on 2nd June.
Clearly, a lot has changed in the 10 years that Mr. Naidu and the TDP have been out of government. The biggest change, of course, is that Mr. Naidu will be chief minister of a much smaller state, compared to the united Andhra Pradesh. Secondly, as chief minister he will need to find ways to create jobs for the millions of youth in the state. He will also need to design policy that would kick-start infrastructure development.
This newspaper believes that Mr. Naidu has the advantage of starting with a fairly clean record. His reputation as a doer, when he had been chief minister from 1995 to 2004, will also hold him in good stead. But first Mr. Naidu needs to manage expectations, which were pushed sky-high during the height of the poll campaign. Such expectations, and poll promises, like the move to waive the loans to farmers, conservatively estimated at Rs. 42,000 crores, will hobble the new government even before it begins to start the daunting task of restoring Seemandhra to fiscal health and an economic growth trajectory.
In VIS view, Mr. Naidu and his government need to provide strong incentives to industry to attract investment in the infrastructure sector. Seemandhra has the second longest coastline in the Union, with nearly 1,000 km. The government should design a policy that will encourage the private sector to build several ports, through the Public-Private Partnership route, which Mr. Naidu pioneered in his earlier avatar. The airport at Visakhapatnam, which is already handling several international flights, can be the designated international hub for Seemandhra. Simultaneously, Mr. Naidu should work to upgrade and modernize the airports at Tirupati and Vijayawada to handle international flights.
At the same time, the new government of Seemandhra should come up with a policy that will encourage the setting up of small and medium-sized manufacturing companies, which can be the engines for the creation of jobs. All the policies will need to be clear, with an unambiguous signal from Mr. Naidu’s government that there will be policy stability and an even-handed and fair approach to private sector investors and their concerns, if any.
More importantly, on the government side, Mr. Naidu will need to use his substantial skills of persuasion to get the Central government, of which the TDP is an important component, to release the funds under the special package announced by the earlier UPA government. The special package will ensure that Seemandhra would have adequate funds to set the state on a firm and sustained part to economic growth in the state.
Mr. Naidu and his party were given the mandate to govern the residuary state of Seemandhra. The mandate was unequivocal. So there is little time to waste on finger-pointing and name-calling. Mr. Naidu must resist the temptation to grandstand and denounce his political rivals. Seemandhra is his to govern, and govern it well. VIS wishes Mr. Naidu and the new government the very best as it begins its innings. The time for action is now!

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