Vijayawada: What would you do if you were the head of government of a state reeling under a financial crunch, a sluggish economy, few investments and you have announced a slew of welfare measures that would sooner than later push the state to the brink of a downgrade? You speak of austerity measures to your Cabinet colleagues and then go ahead to reward your loyalists, hiring them as advisers on all kinds of sundry subjects burdening the state’s exchequer further and give them a Cabinet rank too.
AP Chief Minister, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, has appointed more than half a dozen loyalists, some working with his private companies, as government advisers, most of them with a status equivalent of a cabinet minister.
The advisers are paid a monthly salary of `2.5 lakh to `3.8 lakh each, besides other perks in the form of house rent, support and vehicle allowance, adding up to an additional `2 lakh. All this while, Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy has been advocating austerity to those around him, citing poor coffers of the state. Notably, four of the advisers are from a single vernacular media house.
The first of such advisers to be appointed was Ajeya Kallam, a former bureaucrat who retired as chief secretary of the state. He was appointed as principal adviser to the CM and is considered rather powerful in the CMO.
It was followed by the appointment of another former bureaucrat, M. Samuel, who was designated adviser to government on implementing the Nava Ratnas welfare schemes. Both Mr Kallam and Mr Samuel, detractors say, share Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy’s religion or caste, besides being trusted loyalists, who helped draft the YSRC election manifesto.
Subsequently, Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy, a former journalist, who worked as editorial director of a media house known to follow the YSRC party line to the hilt, was appointed adviser, public affairs, and holds an additional charge of political secretary to the CM. Mr G.V.D. Krishna Mohan, another journalist who worked with the same Telugu media group that runs a newspaper, a TV channel and an online portal, was appointed as adviser for communications.
Mr Mohan, before joining as adviser to the government, was heading the media wing of the YSRC party.
Mr Devulapalli Amar, another senior journalist, who ran a popular discussion show on the TV channel owned by the same media house, was appointed adviser for national media and inter-state affairs. He was allowed to open offices in Amaravati, Hyderabad and New Delhi.
Mr K. Ramachandra Murthy, another senior journalist who held a high editorial role in the media group close to the Chief Minister, was appointed adviser with a role to frame public policy.
Interestingly, Mr Talasila Raghuram, who was appointed programmes coordinator in the CMO, was also given cabinet rank. Mr Raghuram was associated with the YSRC as a programmes coordinator, before his elevation.
Mr Venkata Ramani Prasad, a retired bureaucrat, has been appointed as adviser for finance and resource mobilisation. Mr Srinath Devireddy and Mr J. Vidyasagar Reddy were appointed as advisers to information technology and electronics, and communication respectively to advise the government on technological issues.
Mr K. Raja Shekhar Reddy was appointed as an adviser to frame the IT and electronics communication policy. Krishna G.V. Giri was appointed adviser for industrial promotion. Mr Peter T. Hassan was appointed as an adviser for investment, promotion and external relations.
What do these advisers do? Are they bringing value for the money and perks being paid to them by the taxpayers during a time of financial duress? Does a democratic mandate mean a license to reward political loyalists to enjoy the spoils? These are questions the people of Andhra Pradesh will seek sooner or later....