Politics Part-time, Business Full-time!

By Amarnath

India Today carried a report “Andhra Industrialists turning to politics to protect their interests” and reported on the myriad businesses sitting Andhra MPs/MLAs are engaged in, that directly benefit from their positions of power. Besides the well known businesses of YS Jaganmohan Reddy, N Chandrababu Naidu and Lagadapati Rajagopal, the magazine named others mentioned below.

MPs in businesses

– T. Subbarami Reddy – heads multi-crore industrial group, Gayatri Group of Industries

– Eluru MP Kavuri Sambasiva Rao – owns Progressive Constructions, which is involved in large- scale infrastructure projects across the country.

– Guntur MP Rayapati Sambasiva Rao – heads Transtroy Constructions, which is involved in similar multi- crore road projects.

– Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, Congress MP from Ongole, is associated with United Breweries Group and is also chairman of Balaji Hotels, headquartered at Chennai.

– Khammam MP N. N. Rao, TDP’s parliamentary party leader, owns Madhucon Group of companies – involved in irrigation projects, highways and granite units near Bellary in Karnataka.

– Nellore MP Mekapati Rajamohan Reddy and his MLA- brother Mekapati Chandrasekhara Reddy are also big- time contractors in the name of KMC Constructions.

– Narasaraopet MP Modugula Venugopal Reddy is associated with Ramky Group, an infrastructure company.

State ministers in businesses

– T. G. Venkatesh of Kurnool is a big industrialist who runs Rayalaseema Paper Mills and Rayalaseema Alkalis

– Galla Aruna Kumari is the wife of Ramachandra N. Galla, chairman of Amararaja Group of Industries.

MLAs in businesses

– Former minister P. Ramachandra Reddy – owns PVR Constructions

– Adala Prabhakar Reddy – heads APR Constructions

– Balineni Srinivasa Reddy – granite business

– Adinarayana Reddy, G. Srikanth Reddy and Gurunath Reddy – various contracts and sub- contracts in irrigation and road works.

Uninterrupted power to this elite, especially for the MPs who have been around for decades in politics, have emboldened them to bend and break laws, especially in real-estate and government sponsored irrigation and infrastructure projects. They amassed the riches, the very base of which now threatens to be eroded by ‘losing political control’ over the golden goose – Hyderabad. Few days ago, Swaminathan S A Aiyar wrote in The Economic Times:

“Vast amounts of land around Hyderabad have been grabbed in questionable ways. In a new Telengana, many existing landowners — including major industrialists — may lose enormous tracts of land worth thousands of crores. Illegal land grabbing has till now been very lucrative, but may become the kiss of death after Telengana’s creation. All Indians love land, but in Andhra Pradesh it is a veritable passion . Coastal Andhras have engaged in an orgy of land speculation in the last decade. This passion for land ultimately caused the fall of Ramalinga Raju of Satyam: He lost his company because of his forays into real estate, through Maytas and other channels.”

Only yesterday, TEHELKA carried an article saying “The Congress core committee is caught between the melodrama of the Telangana faction and the hardened business interests of the united Andhra faction that is staunchly opposing dividing the state. One of them is Kavuri Samba Siva Rao who heads a construction company with major investments in Hyderabad.”

About ‘Inefficient’ Telangana leadership and ‘Efficient’ Andhra leadership

Again, I heard the same argument that the ‘backwardness’ of Telangana is because of the ‘inefficiency’ of its political leadership. So, conversely the argument says that the Andhra leadership is ‘efficient’. While this is a very superficial and silly argument at best and a purely chauvinistic statement at the worst, now that it is so oft repeated, I ponder it over. Below are some questions, some of the ‘efficient’ leaders (read ‘those who oppose Telangana’) put up in Loksabha.

Conflict of interest of Andhra MPs:

According to India Today’s article ‘Business of the Day’, here are some of the questions the Andhra MPs posed in Lok Sabha and how the queries are intended to directly benefit their private businesses.

Sambasiva Rayapati Rao MP from Guntur asks

“Whether the NHAI has recently sought comments of various stakeholders on hybrid models to implement highway projects. If so, the details thereof along with the views of the various parties involved.”

Mr. Rao owns the Jayalakshmi Group of companies which deals in tobacco, yarn, export of spices, production of electricity and construction of roads.

Kavuri Sambasiva Rao MP from Eluru asks

“Whether the Government proposes to empower the NHAI to extend working capital loans to road developers to help them tie over credit crunch and maintain speedy implementation of road projects.”

Mr Kavuri as a builder is engaged in construction of major projects on irrigation, road, power and multi-storied urban housing complexes.

Rajagopal Lagadapati MP from Vijayawada asks

“Whether the Central Government proposes to give some concessions to small power units generating 25 MW of power. If so, the details thereof; and if not, the reasons for not giving concessions.”

Mr Rajagopal is the founder chairman of the Lanco Group which has interests in construction, power and property business. Member of CoPU, his Group’s client list includes the NHAI.

Naama Nageswara Rao MP from Khammam asks

“Whether the Government proposes to start eight-lane access control express highways. If so, the details thereof along with the locations where the expressways are proposed, state-wise and national highway-wise.”

Mr Rao is Non-executive chairman of Madhucon, his Group has the NHAI and Indian Oil Corporation on its client list. He is also a member of the Committee on Public Undertakings.

Well, if this and the skill showed by YSRs and Chandrababus in building business empires is ‘efficiency’, neither Telangana nor anyone in the rest of India would seek it. They are better off being ‘inefficient’.

How a larger state benefited the plutocrats

The real conflict of interest for these MLAs/MPs come not just when they ask questions that directly benefit their businesses but when they sit on the parliament’s standing committees related to finance, business and industry. As per the parliament’s website, these committees are supposed to be “a path-breaking endeavour of the Parliamentary surveillance over administration. With the emphasis of their functioning to concentrate on long-term plans, policies and the philosophies guiding the working of the Executive, these Committees will be in a very privileged position to provide necessary direction, guidance and inputs for broad policy formulations and in achievement of the long-term national perspective by the Executive.” So here are the businessmen sitting on the same committees that frame ‘policies and philosophies’ that guide their businesses. This is worse than stock market insider trading!

As of now, Kavuri Sambasiva Rao, Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, KVP Ramachandra Rao, Nama Nageshwara Rao named above are all on the parliamentary standing committees on Finance, Estimates, Public undertakings, Industry etc and at the same time they are ‘on record’ running businesses related to same areas/sectors. The conflict of interest in case of these members is so glaring that, in the past, chairman of one such committee seem to have asked them why they should not be asked to withdraw from certain meetings, as the issue on the agenda was directly related to their business.

Every time there is a cabinet expansion, there is a hue and cry in media about how Andhra Pradesh is ‘discriminated’ against in its share of ministries. The point is that the MPs in question are enjoying it better on these committees milking them for their own businesses. And looking at the membership in these committees, AP got more than its share. In fact these politicians are leveraging the power of coming from a state that is producing 42 MPs purely to amass riches for themselves. They fear a demerger would end that clout and they would be left without any bargaining power to sit on these committees.

And folks who argue how ‘efficient’ Andhra political leadership is should wonder why none of them bothered to be on board of 21 member Lok Sabha standing committee or the 10 member Rajya Sabha committee on Agriculture, especially when a huge percentage of Andhras are employed in Agriculture.

Will the Andhra plutocrats let go of Telangana?

Highly unlikely. it is clear they are trying every trick in the book. They have previously successfully blackmailed the top leadership of BJP and now are doing the same with Congress, with their money bags. Only an uncompromising fight on part of Telangana advocates will force the central leadership of Congress to yield to the demand. It would happen only if the power of masses gets more threatening than the moneybags.


Amar Nath is a software engineer based in US. He blogs at:

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