During a single week, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy appointed 1,26,728 new government employees at newly instituted ward and village secretariats and Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao announced the firing of 48,140 striking road transport employees, both records for any government in Independent India as single-day hiring or firing numbers go.
The two Telugu CMs met Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week to seek additional Central funds for their welfare schemes, at a time when both states are flirting with fiscal risk.
Where Mr Reddy is pushing AP into an economic quandary, even perhaps a trap, Mr Rao is laying a strong foundation for an economically vibrant Telangana; counterintuitive as it might seem.
Mr Reddy, who has not focussed on growth, reforms or investments since coming to power, in a state without a capital, or an industrial base, has done everything that scares an investor — reserving 75 per cent of all jobs for locals, quashing power purchase agreements (PPAs) signed by the previous Telugu Desam government despite warnings from the Centre, imposing a reverse tendering process to renegotiate all government contracts, hinting at cancelling the new capital — Amaravati project — without pausing to see their impact, or heed to any counsel.
Mr Reddy, in a way, precipitated the road transport crisis in Telangana when he agreed to the demand of APSRTC unions to merge over 54,000 staff into the government. Their counterparts in Telangana hoped a little pressure would help get a similar deal. They declared a strike a few days before Dasara festivities, ignoring Mr Rao’s chilling warning that all striking employees would be fired.
Whereas Mr Reddy chose to pursue populist welfare schemes without the means to pay for them, risking destroying any investor interest at a time when the country’s overall growth is spiralling down — Mr Rao has chosen the harder path of reform, restructuring, discipline and hard decisions.
Where Mr Reddy is pursuing the next day’s headlines, Mr Rao is going after results for the next generation. While Mr Reddy will make more visits to Delhi, trying to sell titular sponsorship schemes to Mr Modi — yes, a YSR-Modi scheme for a fee was on offer — Mr Rao is transforming governance with plans to bring in a PPP model for RTC, privatising municipal administrative functions like maintenance of Hyderabad roads, a new revenue act which will include mass-firing of village revenue officers (VROs) to cleanse the land revenue system of institutionalised corruption.