Friday, Sep 13, 2002
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By Dasu Kesava Rao
The Congress and the Left parties are demanding action against half a dozen Ministers for alleged involvement in Food for Work irregularities or other `scams'. The campaign became more strident after the Minister for Panchayat Raj, P. Srinivas Reddy, bowed out of office last week, a casualty of the `stationery scam' in which his relative allegedly bamboozled Panchayat Raj engineering department into buying crores of rupees worth stationery flouting all norms.
They said the Chief Minister brought pressure on Mr. Srinivas Reddy to quit `simply because he belonged to Telangana while other Ministers, facing more serious charges', were untouched. Apart from the long-pending demand for sacking of Kodela Sivaprasada Rao and P. Ramasubba Reddy on criminal charges, the Congress then trained its guns on the Energy Minister from West Godavari district, K. Subbarayudu, and the Minor Irrigation Minister from Kurnool, K.E. Prabhakar, for direct involvement in the diversion of rice under the Food for Work (FFW) programme in their respective districts. The Congress stepped up the heat with a series of agitational programmes and representations to the Governor.
In the face of the Congress onslaught and repeated assertions that he would not suffer inefficiency and corruption in the Cabinet, Mr. Naidu, it was expected, would crack down on some of his colleagues, prime on the list being Mr. Subbarayudu and Mr. Prabhakar. However, both retained their posts and portfolios.
For the record, the Chief Minister defended the Ministers saying he could not axe them just because the Opposition levelled charges. The Ministers were not involved in the FFW scam. It was a `non-issue', he said. At the Cabinet meeting, however, Mr. Naidu told Ministers he would no longer allow corruption or inefficiency to sully the image of his Ministry Government or the Telugu Desam. Too much need not be read into his defence of the Ministers on the FFW controversy. He was giving them another opportunity, perhaps the last, to mend their ways.
The Chief Minister had eased out eight Ministers who failed to measure up to his expectations in the November 26 reshuffle. He is not normally known to act at the height of a controversy, but only after it ebbs. That is his style. He does not want to be seen as bowing to pressure from the Opposition. For the same reason, he is believed to have deferred the move to drop some Ministers. The next reshuffle, sources close to Mr. Naidu say, may be early next year and will enable him to go to the polls in late 2004 with a strong team.
The Congress and the CPI(M) said yesterday's reshuffle exposed the `hollowness' of Mr. Naidu's claim of giving good governance, free of corruption.
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