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Southern States - Andhra Pradesh

Power tariff: Naidu flays Opposition

By Our Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD, MARCH 26. The Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, has charged the Opposition, the left parties in particular, with persisting with a `venomous propaganda' about the hefty hike in power charges while the latest revision averaged only 0.7 per cent.

``We have hiked the tariff on agriculture by only Rs. 21 crores. But our friends here have added `2' to it and went to town with the claim that we have raised it by Rs. 212 crores. What can be more venomous than this'' he said in reply to a special discussion on the issue in the Assembly on Tuesday.

Mr. Chandrababu Naidu said the opposition parties had whipped up fears that consumers would be burdened with 15 per cent hike every year, hoping to make bumper political harvest. But the truth was that last year, there was no increase and this year, the hike was nominal. Customer charges to a tune of Rs. 131 crores were also introduced for better services. The Congress had revised power rates 3 times in 5 years and the TDP Government 4 times in 7 years.

Trotting out figures liberally, he said that the State had come a long way from the position in Congress era (`there is just no comparison'), having added an unprecedented 3403 mw to the installed capacity in only 6 years and was poised to become surplus. This in the face of many constraints. Per capita consumption of power — a vital indicator of progress — rose from 345 to 505 units — ahead of many States. The tariff for agriculture or domestic sectors was much lower than in many other States. Days were when the budget session used to be rocked by 'power shortage' etc. No longer. The left parties had no issue these days, Mr. Naidu taunted.

In an articulate defence of the 'growth-oriented power sector reforms,' he asked his critics not to look at them in an isolated manner. ''You say reforms are a failure. Show me one country which has progressed without pursuing reforms. Everyone across the world with different ideologies and systems of governance are going for reforms. We take success as model, not Argentina.''

Mr. Naidu attributed the Orissa failure to bad planning and unrealistic approach, not because of reforms themselves. In Andhra Pradesh, the reforms process was on track and there was no danger of it getting derailed because ''our policies and decisions are sound.'' Reforms would soon start yielding fruit.

Referring to the demand for roll-back, he said absorbing a Rs. 45-crore burden was no big deal for the Government, but a deviation from reforms commitment would involve problems and might hinder flow of funds. On the free power for farmers issue, he said the TDP took a considered line despite lingering fears among his own partymen that the slogan might benefit the Congress. The TDP returned to power because it enjoyed credibility with the people while ''Rajasekhara Reddy garu has no credibility.''

This remark brought several Congressmen to their feet in loud protest and the Leader of the Opposition taunted Mr. Naidu about his credibility. People knew well how the Rs. 2-a-kg rice scheme, prohibition, and other schemes were diluted. Pre-election schemes like Aadarana, Mundadugu, Roshni, Girl-child scheme etc were given a quiet burial later. Dr. Reddy said he had won every election he had contested — 4 times each to the Assembly and the Lok Sabha — a measure of his credibility with the people. On the other hand, Mr. Naidu had lost as a Minister, too.

The Chief Minister reminded Dr. Reddy of his boast that he would quit politics if the Congress lost the polls. The Girl-child scheme was still in operation. Aadarana and other schemes were not diluted, but were being streamlined. Prohibition was relaxed because of burgeoning illicit liquor and only after convincing the people.

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