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Polavaram project caught in political cross-fire as YSR Congress Government prepares to take charge

Ch R S Sarma Visakhapatnam | Updated on May 29, 2019 Published on May 29, 2019

YS Jaganmohan Reddy, YSR Congress President   -  THE HINDU

The handing over of the project to the Centre at this stage may lead to inevitable delays, it is apprehended, as no national irrigation project is proceeding at any great pace

As YSR Congress leader YS Jaganmohan Reddy is all set to take charge of Andhra Pradesh (AP) as the Chief Minister on Thursday, uncertainty looms large over two key projects in the state. They are:

1. The construction of the new capital, Amaravati

2. The ongoing mega irrigation Polavaram project on the Godavari in West Godavari district

Some of the comments he made at a media conference in New Delhi, after his landslide victory last week, have given rise to speculation over the future of the projects.

He alleged that a huge scam was perpetrated by the outgoing Chief Minister, N Chandrababu Naidu, and other Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leaders in the construction of Amaravati, the new capital.

He also alleged that there were large-scale malpractices in the construction of the Polavaram project and hinted that he did not mind if the Centre took over its construction and completion in a time-bound manner.

He also said that a probe would be conducted into the allegations of wrong-doings on the part of the outgoing chief minister as well as the other TDP leaders. He added that appropriate action would be taken in this regard.

Jaganmohan Reddy said that many of the contracts awarded by the TDP Government would be re-viewed and re-opened, taking recourse to reverse tendering process.

Polavaram project

The mega Polavaram project on the Godavari, pending for several decades after Independence, was finally taken up by the late Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, when the Congress was in power. He was the then Chief Minister and the father of YS Jaganmohan Reddy.

Later, it was included in the AP Re-organisation Act, 2014, as a national project.

It was mentioned clearly in the Act that the Union Government would bear only the cost of the irrigation component of the multi-purpose project and the not the power component. Further, it was also stated that the amount (approximately Rs 5000 crores) which had been spent on the project by the AP government at the time of bifurcation, would not be reimbursed.

After the TDP-BJP alliance came to power in 2014 at the state and central levels, the construction of the Polavaram project continued. The execution of the project was entrusted to the state government under the supervision of the Polavaram Project Authority.

Despite the pending completion of the Polavaram project, the TDP-BJP government took up the Pattiseema lift irrigation project on the Godavari to divert Godavari waters to the Krishna delta.

The opposition YSR Congress Party then alleged that that Pattiseema lift irrigation scheme was a huge scam meant only to enrich some TDP leaders and contractors. There was a huge row but the state government had proceeded with it.

Subsequently, from 2014 to 2018, the alliance continued. Approximately Rs 7,000 crores was released for the project and the work on the project continued. This was despite some tension between the TDP and the BJP over Polavaram and other state-relates issues.

But, in 2018, the TDP walked out of the alliance. They had alleged that the BJP was not honouring the promises made to the state and not implementing the provisions of the AP Re-organisation Act, 2014. The party also said that the flow of funds to the project was stopped by the Union Government. The state government went ahead and spent roughly Rs 4,000-5,000 crores on its own and the project cost estimates were also revised to more than Rs 55,000 crores.

For nearly a year, since the TDP-BJP break-up, both the YSR Congress leaders and the BJP leaders have been making allegations of large-scale corruption in the execution of the Polavaram project. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself had alleged, at an election rally in Rajahmundry (situated 25 kilometres (km) from Polavaram), that the Polavaram project has become some sort of ATM for the TDP government.

There is some speculation that the new YSR Congress Government may be more than willing to hand over the execution of the project to the Union Government, as it is a national project.

This came after the change of government at the state level as well as the statements made by BJP leaders and YSR Congress leaders, especially the recent remarks of Jaganmohan Reddy.

It has also been speculated that new Government does not want to walk into the quagmire of Polavaram.

The handing over of the project to the Centre at this stage may lead to inevitable delays, it is apprehended, as no national irrigation project is proceeding at any great pace.

The early completion of the Polavaram project is absolutely vital for the growth of the state after bifurcation but it has been caught in the political cross-fire. According to the outgoing TDP Government, roughly 60-65 per cent of the irrigation component of the project has been completed so far and the power component has not been taken up so far.

Published on May 29, 2019
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