Coronavirus assumes political overtones in Andhra Pradesh

Gali Nagaraja

Vijayawada: With the ruling YSR Congress and the opposition Telugu Desam Party adopting diametrically opposite stands overextension of lockdown, the coronavirus pandemic has assumed political overtones in Andhra Pradesh.

At a videoconference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi a few days ago Chief Minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy pitched for relaxation of lockdown, saying the virulence of virus in his home state was not as alarming as in the other states. He proposed to limit the lockdown to the areas identified as “hotspots” instead of slapping it all over the state “needlessly.”

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But Andhra Pradesh like any other state across the country continues to reel under the lockdown for a second spell from April 14 to May 3 in line with the PM’s call. Reddy asserted that only 45 mandals have been the virus-affected in his state. The Chief Minister said extension of the lockdown for any longer meant a debilitating impact on the state economy and rabi operations in the state.

The TDP however raised a pitch for extension of the lockdown period in sync with the dominant mood of the ruling NDA at the Centre. The TDP’s former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, offering his suggestions seeking to prolong the lockdown period. Before Naidu spoke to the PM over phone, a TDP-backed think tank called Global Forum for Sustainable Transformation (GFST), submitted an eight page note, buttressing the PM’s decision on the lockdown.

The Jaganmohan Reddy is accused of focusing more on Panchayat Raj elections and less on the spread of coronavirus. The BJP state president Kanna Lakshminarayana joined chorus with TDP, alleging that the YSRC government is intentionally playing down the incidence of corona cases to make way for the elections for urban and rural bodies. Jagan has been reportedly pushing for the elections even after the State Election Commissioner N. Ramesh Kumar deferred the process, citing the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic. The government sacked Ramesh and appointed V. Kanagaraj, former judge of the Mardas High Court, as his successor overnight by promulgating an ordinance.

Ramesh Kumar’s apprehensions over the gravity of the Covid-19 Pandemic have come true with the positive cases touching 500. A couple of doctors, each from Nellore and Kurnool, are among the nine persons who succumbed to the virus infections across the state as on April 14. At least 20 health workers, including doctors, of a corporate hospital in Nellore who treated the infected doctor have been quarantined. The doctor’s widow, pharmacist in his clinic and driver were subjected to isolation with corona positive symptoms after his death in a hospital in Chennai, according to information. This indicates the vulnerability of health workers for want of adequate personal protective equipments (PPEs). A doctor attached to an area hospital in Uttarandhra’s Narsipatnam and Nagari Municipal Commissioner were suspended for raising their concerns over the lack of protecting equipment for the frontline workers battling the coronavirus.

In the race between the two dominant regional parties to be on the good books of the Prime Minister, Naidu is seen by his party ranks as scoring a point over Jagan by managing an audience with Narendra Modi. Chandrababu has been sparing no efforts to build bridges with the NDA after facing a debacle in the elections in 2019. The TDP chief is apparently in need of some breather from the blitzkrieg from his hawkish rival Jagan. Naidu made it clear that his party committed a strategic mistake by antagonizing the NDA on the demand of special category status for AP, resulting in the electoral reverses. Subsequently, he stated that his party had kept the Congress at a distance, sending overtures for a patch-up with the BJP.    

Kurnool and Guntur alone accounted for nearly 50 per cent of the positive cases reported in the state.

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