02 August, 2021

Clinging To Populism

Subsidised rice and prohibition get a reprieve, but for how long?

Clinging To Populism

WHEN Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu hurriedly convened a special assembly session this fortnight to release a white paper on the state's financial situation, conventional wisdom was that the 11-month-old Telugu Desam Government would own up to its mistake of making false promises to ride back to power, and roll back the populist schemes. Pubs and clubs were getting all set to reopen their bars.

But Naidu sprung a surprise. "We are wedded to the implementation of all our electoral promises. There is no question of going back," he announced to thunderous applause from the treasury benches. He then did a double take: he said the white paper had been released because of the World Bank and announced a hike in the power tariff to the agricultural sector and an increase in the price of subsidised rice.

Critics and rivals were left stunned. The state had lost Rs 2,900 crore because of the Rs 2 per kg rice scheme and total prohibition that had been the late N.T. Rama Rao's election vow in 1994. Another Rs 500...

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