Thursday, 26 May 2005

Information Technology aids spread of HIV!

May 26, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 25: It may sound strange, but rapid growth in information technology and frequent travel by software experts is affecting the tuberculosis/HIV control programme in the country.
Individuals, particularly youngsters, who travel frequently across cities are in a way helping the spread of a new strain of tuberculosis which is more dangerous than the native ancient Indian strains, according to a research study by the city-based Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics and Ondokuz Mayis University Medical School of Turkey.
Transmission of "Beijing strains" of TB is facilitated with "recent economic activity due to a boom in the information technology and communication sectors, where affordable air-travel has facilitated frequent movement of especially younger population, across cities," the study pointed out.
The spread of Beijing strains is slow but gradual and health planners and experts fear that they will "out-compete" the ancestral types found in India for over 10,000 years. The Indian native strains are less virulent and docile as compared with the Beijing strains. And this is a troubling news for health planners.
"The outcome could be hastened as India is witnessing a steep rise in the number of human immunodeficiency virus cases," said Dr Niyaz Ahmad of the CDFD and Hakan Leblebicioglue of OMUM School in the study published in BMC Genetics, a prestigious international scientific journal.
The study warned that synergy of TB, lead predominantly by the Beijing strains, with HIV, threatens a series of outbreaks in several years to come. "With fast spreading HIV, local advantages due to ancestral bacilli, in terms of adaptation, and possibly `reduced virulence' might be ruined. HIV through depleting the host immune cells disregards any such advantages".
India is long known to harbour reservoirs of the ancestral TB strains, which continue to predominate throughout the population. The TB bacteria, M. tuberculosis is a millennia old pestilence that continues to trouble people in the country. India also has TB bacteria diversity.
Stating that the ancestral strains bear seemingly important benefits for the TB control programs in India, the study noted that "more importantly, as a result of their adaptive evolution, the pathology triggered by them may not be lethal. The Indian strains disseminate less rapidly than the modern types like Beijing strains.
"Although Beijing strains are not an immediate threat, there is a danger that they might predominate in due course if their dissemination dynamics change with enhanced HIV transmission," the scientists said.
Of late the Beijing strains have been reported in different parts of the country with Mumbai reporting as high as 30 per cent of the total TB cases.
"It has been widely believed that India with its vast human resource in healthcare, with DOTS coverage penetrating almost countrywide, and a large national TB control program, is all set to tackle the pestilence. We caution, to prepare for the threat of institutionalised outbreaks perpetuated by newly emerging and expanding strains in synergy with HIV, that is probably looming large," they cautioned.

Sunday, 22 May 2005

Anantapur factions: political equations undergo sea change

2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 22: The political and electoral equations in the faction-hit Anantapur district have undergone a sea change ahead of the crucial by-poll to Penukonda Assembly constituency with the Congress luring important TD functionaries into its fold.
Several Telugu Desam activists, who are bound to play a crucial role in the June 2 by-election necessitated by the murder of TD legislator Paritala Ravindra, have switched their loyalties to the Congress after the EC announced the poll schedule last month.
At least two dozen local leaders, besides Anantapur strongman and former minister S Ramachandra Reddy, left the Telugu Desam in the past 10 days, changing the political scenario in keenly-contested Penukonda segment, which has always witnessed violence before and after the polling.
According to sources, the Congress with the active involvement of two ministers, has succeeded in mass defections from Telugu Desam at the grass root level. The Congress leadership allegedly lured TD men with promises of government contracts or withdrawal of police cases.
The TD lost some important functionaries in the series of faction attacks during the last one year while some have been lodged in jail in connection with different incidents of violence. Still others have left the party to join the Congress. Some TD functionaries are at large fearing arrests by the police.
Though Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy has decided to keep himself away from electioneering as part of his "faction-free campaign in Rayalaseema", the Congress leadership has succeeded in inflicting heavy damage on the rival Telugu Desam through a "tacit political game". The TD leadership fell into the gameplan of the Congress but before it could realise its mistake, much harm had been done to its cadre.
The violence on May 13 during the nomination rally of TD candidate Paritala Sunita has further pushed the Telugu Desam to the wall. Political defections increased after the incident as police started raids on villages and rounding up of TD activists involved in the incident.
The Telugu Desam, however, received a shot in the arm after Election Commission ordered the transfer of faction leader Maddelacheruvu Suri from Anantapur jail to Visakhapatnam prison and kept Rayalaseema IG RP Meena off the poll duty. The Congress leadership is now in a jittery over the development if the remarks of Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy that "winning is not important for the Congress" are any indication.
In the aftermath of the EC order, both the Congress and the Telugu Desam are playing the caste card to woo voters. While the TD is banking on BC votes, the Congress is eyeing on upper caste votes. The Congress scored a point with Ramachandra Reddy, an influential BC (Kuraba) leader, joining its fold.

Sunday, 15 May 2005

YSR Vs Babu: Reversal of Roles

2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 14: A year has passed since bitter political rivals YS Rajasekhar Reddy and N Chandrababu Naidu swapped their roles in State politics.
Even after taking over the reins of the State, chief minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy continued with his pet mass contact programme, going to people almost on a weekly basis for a first hand assessment of their problems. Rajasekhar Reddy, who created a record in State politics by travelling on foot about 1600 km while in Opposition, is carrying on the tradition, albeit by a helicopter.
On the other hand, Chandrababu Naidu kept himself away from people visiting districts only occasionally. This is in contrast with Chandrababu Naidu the chief minister, who used to helihop quite regularly even to remotest of villages.
Here is a brief look on their roles on various issues during the past one year.

1. Irrigation:

YSR's role: Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy faced initial hiccups in his mega Jalayagnam mission. He has to face a series of legal battles delaying the start of the irrigation projects. YSR has become the first chief minister in the past 50 years to launch work simultaneously on 30 and odd irrigation projects.

Babu's role: Leader of Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu created hurdles for the Congress government. His Telugu Desam opposed the procedure of allotment of tenders alleging largescale financial irregularities. The TD leadership failed to offer any concrete suggestions to the government during the weekly debates on irrigation projects, except levelling charges against the YSR government.

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2. Agriculture:

YSR's role: Provided free power to 95 per cent of farmers. Waived off power dues. However, the government failed to contain suicides, sale of spurious seed and substandard pesticides and fertilisers. Government yet to fulfill its promises on Seed Act and Farm Mission. The recommendation of Farmers' Welfare Commission not accepted in toto.
Fails to provide remunerative prices for agriculture products. Prices hit 10 year low.

Babu's role: As leader of the Oppostion Babu did not offer any constructive suggestions to the Congress government to contain suicides. Babu stage "satyagraha" and visits market yards a year after keeping silent on farmers' problems. Babu, who opposed compenstion for farmers for nine long years, now demands that YSR pay ex-gratia to the kin of farmers who committed suicide.

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3. Health:

YSR's role: No health minister for the past one year. Yet to fulfill the pre-poll promise of withdrawing user charges in government hospitals. The all-important health sector received a raw deal. However, recruits about 1000 doctors for rural areas.

Babu's role: Babu, who introduced user charges in hospitals, now wants it to be withdrawn. The TD supremo did not make a strong case for the long-neglected health sector either in the State Assembly or outside except for a few statements that government hospitals are not maintained properly. Still boasts of giving the modern Gandhi Hospital to the State.

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4. Law & Order:

YSR's role: Law and Order touches its nadir during the past 12 months. The number of violent incidents go up. Faction politics raise its ugly head after a long time in Rayalaseema.

Babu's role: He finds himself in the dock for letting loose his partymen on the rampage. First, the TD activists took the State to ransom following the murder of party MLA Paritala Ravindra. Thousands of vehicles and property worth several crores were damaged in arson and looting. Even during the filing of nomination papers by TD candidate and Ravi's wife Sunita, TD activists hurled stones at and clashed with the police, forcing the latter to open fire killing six persons. One ASI was lynched by the mob. On both the occasions Babu defended his partymen saying the violence was spontaneous.
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5. Maoists:

YSR's role: YSR created a history of sorts by inviting Maoists for talks. Initially the government did not insist on laying down of arms as a pre-condition for the peace talks. But when the process began, the government made its mind clear to the Maoists that they should not carry arms. A series of encounters by the police and violent attacks by Maoists led to the cancellation of the talks process.

Babu's role: Babu kept quiet all through the year without opening his mouth on the crucial talks. The Telugu Desam's repeated stand on the talks was that it was for the government to take decisions.
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6. Populist schemes:

YSR's role: Though he scrapped Janmabhoomi, YSR continued the programme in a new format with his Prajapatham, Rajiv Pallebata and Rajiv Nagarabata. YSR has been at the doorsteps of people almost on a weekly basis during the past one year.

Babu's role: Enconched himself at NTR Bhavan without moving out of the city. He fought for people's cause only on a couple of occasion. However, he kept himself busy fighting with the government on issues pertaining to the Telugu Desam activists and leaders, be it faction killings or arrests.
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7. Reforms:

YSR's role: YSR has been following in Babu's footsteps as far as economic reforms and borrowings from the World Bank are concerned.
Yet to fulfill the pre-poll promise of reviving units closed during the Babu's regime. Gave nod for removal of employees in several departments and continuance of contract system.

Babu's role: Has been silent thus far.

YSR-JC rift: Babu opens old wounds for political gains

May 16, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 15: Opening old wounds in an attempt to create a rift in the Congress leadership, former chief minister and Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu has come out with a booklet containing the choicest epithets exchanged by Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy and Panchayat Raj Minister JC Diwakar Reddy way back in 1993.
Though 12 years have passed since YSR and JC indulged in the political diatribe and patched up subsequently, the Telugu Desam supremo quoted both the Congress leaders verbatim in the booklet. On Chandrababu Naidu's instructions, NTR Bhavan staff has done considerable research to pull out the quotes from old newspaper clippings.
Chandrababu Naidu, who is apparently unhappy with the strong words of criticism used against him by Rajasekhar Reddy at the "Rededication Day" meeting held on Saturday, hurriedly got published a booklet on the "failures" of the Congress government on various fronts. Though out of context, the TD supremo included a chapter on the old feud between Rajasekhar Reddy and Diwakar Reddy.
According to NTR Bhavan sources, the TD supremo's strategy is to reopen old wounds so that he could cause a rift in the cordial relations between the two senior Rayalaseema leaders. Chandrababu Naidu has been devising strategies to put the YSR government in the dock and the TD booklet is the latest in the series. Earlier, the TD leadership used the same strategy, though unsuccessfully, against TRS president and Union Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and the APCC before the Assembly elections.
Just gloss over this. Rajahmundry, October 19, 1993: Diwakar Reddy: "Out of power YS has lost mental balance". Hyderabad, November 24, 1993: "YS is a drunkard, full of vices and perpetual dissident. He grazes grass for money".
November 25, 1993: Rajasekhar Reddy: "Diwakar Reddy is a big illicit liquor dealer in the State. There's no law and order because of him and his brother in Anantapur. He runs 12 buses by paying tax for one bus".
Senior TD leaders MV Mysoora Reddy, Ummareddy Venkateswarlu, Kadiam Srihari and Kambhampati Ramamohan Rao released the TD's booklet.
They accused the YSR government of turning the State into a "desert" during the past 12 months. "It is not yedadi palana but yedari palana - not one year's rule but desert rule", Mysoora Reddy said.

Friday, 13 May 2005

Babu becomes "farmer-friendly", sheds tears for ryots

May 13, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 12: In his first-ever public demonstration for the cause of farmers after losing power a year ago, former chief minister and Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu on Thursday staged "satyagraha" virtually shedding tears for the kin of ryots who committed suicide.
Chandrababu Naidu squatted on the ground chatting with the wives of victim-farmers and consoling them as some of them could not control their tears. He took a boy from one of the women and put him on his lap as he patiently listened to their woes. He then went round the satyagraha camp and met farmers receiving from them complaints on non-payment of compensation by the Congress government.
"Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy is celebrating his one year in office on May 14. The Congress is turning the event into a public function. What has the government achieved in the last one year to celebrate the event? I was in power for nine years. Never did I celebrate such an event", Chandrababu Naidu said amidst slogans of "we want justice".
Though Chandrababu Naidu is known for organising strong protests against the Congress governments when NTR was in power, it is for the first time that he is attempting to present a "down-to-the-earth" look before people, particularly farmers. Incidentally, it was the same Chandrababu Naidu who turned down the Congress' demand, when he was in power, for compensation to farmers who committed suicide. The argument he put then was that compensation would further incite them to commit suicides.
Women stood before Chandrababu Naidu to pour out their woes and inform him how the Congress government had "neglected them". A woman complained that Congress leaders had turned down her plea for compensation as she did not vote for the party. Another woman told Chandrababu Naidu that a Congress legislator from Nalgonda district had refused to visit mortuary after he came to know that her husband was not a Congress activist. Some of the women alleged that revenue officials were asking for bribes to process the compensation.
Ironically, Chandrababu Naidu kept the victims waiting for more than two hours as he arrived late at the venue. The satyagraha and rally was scheduled to start at 11.30 am. The women with children were kept near Ambedkar Bhavan near the Tank Bund as Chandrababu Naidu was scheduled to flag off the procession.
As the TD supremo did not turn up even after two hours, the local TD leaders took out the procession. Chandrababu Naidu joined them at Indira Park and conducted the rest of the agitation in NTR's style.

"Caste" politics in Maoist movement in Andhra Pradesh

2005
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 13: The ongoing controversy on Maoist emissary Varavara Rao's letter to party State secretary Ramakrishna on the "dubious role" of co-emissaries Gaddar and Kalyana Rao has taken a new turn with former revolutionary leader KG Satyamurthy giving a "caste" dimension to the whole episode.
"Varavara Rao's letter is a major conspiracy to keep Dalit revolutionaries Gaddar and Kalyana Rao away from the CPI (Maoist) central committee meeting scheduled to be held soon. Varavara Rao and other upper caste leaders in the Maoist movement do not want either Gaddar or Kalayana Rao to participate in the crucial meeting being secretly planned somewhere in forests. This is nothing but to preempt these two Dalits from occupying top positions in the new set up, following the merger of People's War with the CPI (Moists)", says Satyamurthy, who co-founded the PW in early 80s along with Kondapalli Sitaramaiah.
Stating that there's a "standing committee" in the party, Satyamurthy wondered what had prevented the Maoist leadership to refer Varavara Rao's allegation to it. "If the party is really free of upper caste lobby, then the matter would have been referred to the standing committee. How could you condemn two Dalit leaders without investigating into the allegations. You are the accuser, prosecutor and hangman. This is unfair", he told this correspondent.
According to Satyamurthy women and Dalits have always been at the receiving end in the erstwhile PW and now Maoist set-up. This is not the first time that Varavara Rao has made someone in the party scapegoat. "Varavara Rao simply thrives on revolutionary politics. He does not want to go underground. He also does not want to go to jail", he pointed out.
Earlier, addressing a press conference Satyamurthy said the Moaists had lost moral right to be called themselves revolutionaries. "They have killed the mother of a police sub-inspector in Chilakaluripet. They are killing innocent people in the name of informants. What they are following is not revolutionary movement but terrorism. They are not Maoists, they are terrorists and militants", he alleged.
Satyamurthy later in a chitchat with this reporter said the Maoist movement had gone astray. There's no recruitment policy. "Those who leave home and are willing to hold guns are recruited in the party. The trouble lies with the present philosophy of Maoists", he said.
Asked if he had any suggestion for resumption of peace talks, Satyamurthy shot back, "earlier it was fancy to talk about revolution. Now it has become fashion to talk about peace talks. The government should stop State repression and Maoist should stop their militant violence and terrorism. Then only we will have peace", he pointed.
He found fault with Varavara Rao for withdrawing as emissary of Maoists for talks.

Friday, 6 May 2005

Farm suicides in Andhra Pradesh

2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 6: As Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy gets ready to celebrate his one year in office next week, as many as 2840 suicide deaths by farmers and weavers stare at him.
Rajasekhar Reddy's claims of "farmer-friendly" government in the State notwithstanding, seven farmers committed suicide everyday on an average since he took the reins of the State on May 14, 2004. In all 2565 farmers and 270 weavers ended their lives during the past 12 months exposing the lopsided policies and wrong priorities of the Congress government and its failure to provide remunerative prices to ryots.
The government failed to implement even the recommendations of the Farmers' Welfare Commission headed by economics professor Jayati Ghosh. Rajasekhar Reddy simply washed off his hands by referring some of the recommendations to the Central government. He even did not bother to do homework on the recommendations of the panel.
Nine farmers committed suicide since May 1 this year. Even on May 5, two farmers ended their lives unable to bear the loss they suffered due to lack of remunerative prices for their produce.
Karimnagar district recorded the highest number of farm suicides with the toll touching 301, followed by Medak with 230, Warangal with 210 and Mahbubnagar with 207 deaths. The break-up of farm deaths district-wise is: Srikakulam (14), Vizianagaram (7), Visakhapatnam (34), East Godavari (27), West Godavari (30), Krishna (65), Guntur (141), Prakasam (81), Nellore (65), Chittoor (89), Kadapa (64), Anantapur (137), Kurnool (144), Mahbubnagar (207), Ranga Reddy (134), Medak (230), Nizamabad (192), Adilabad (122), Karimnagar (301), Warangal (210), Khammam (81) and Nalgonda (189).
The State government, however, claims that only 777 of these deaths were related to farm debts. The three-member panels set up by the government have successfully eliminated beneficiaries to bring down the over all suicide toll from 2565 to just 777. The government is yet to pay compensation to even those who passed the "litmus test" of GO 421 on farm suicides.
As many as 244 farmers committed suicide within 15 days after Rajasekhar Reddy was sworn-in as the chief minister. The toll touched its peak in September 2004 with 345 deaths. In August 343 and in October 342 farmers ended their lives. The trend, however, slowed down from December 2004 with 172 suicides reported in that month. By January suicides came down to 151. It came down to 143 in February and went up to 148 in March. In April this year 146 suicides were reported from various districts.
Rajasekhar Reddy's political bete noire and predecessor N Chandrababu Naidu has prepared a database on farm and weaver deaths in the State. NTR Bhavan is maintaining a computerised list of suicides village-, mandal- and district-wise. It has also created a database on the reasons behind the suicides, the extent of land held by farmers and the debts they had incurred.

Babu fails as leader of Opposition

May 6, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 5: Telugu Desam supremo N Chandrababu Naidu may have excelled as chief minister for nine long years but has failed as leader of Opposition during the past 12 months.
Chandrababu Naidu completes one year in Opposition on May 14 and the performance he has put in since losing power is politically dismal, if the Telugu Desam's poor report card both inside and outside the State Assembly is any indication. The TD also failed to cash in on the lapses of the Congress government during this period. He did raise many issues but failed to take the fight to its logical conclusion, be it on irrigation projects or faction killings in Rayalaseema.
According to NTR Bhavan sources, as many as 10 factors worked against Chandrababu Naidu affecting his performance as the leader of the Opposition in the State. The TD supremo, who earned the dubious distinction of being the most heli-hopped politician Andhra Pradesh had ever seen, is now enconsed in NTR Bhavan hardly moving out of the city. He left Hyderabad only on four occasions to take up "people's cause" in the past 12 months whereas his bete noire Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy has moved closer to people though his weekly "batas" and prajapathams.
First, Chandrababu Naidu is faced with a peculiar political problem with his party legislators. Of the 46 TD MLAs, 20 are new without any political background. The remaining 26 are too senior to follow Chandrababu Naidu blindly. He did not succeeed in maintaining a balance in the Telugu Desam Legislature Party, which was reflected in the recent Budget session of the State Assembly. The TD benches had to eat the humble pie on every occasion they raised an important public issue, for the simple reason that the TDLP lacked floor coherence and proper political coordination. Consequently, Chandrababu Naidu had to fight a lone and toothless battle against the Congress government's wrong policies.
He also did not put across his united Andhra stand quite clearly. The TD did not take the opportunity to put TRS chief KCR in the dock on his "continued promises of delivering Telangana within three/six months". Its fight on GO 610 was also nominal.
Chandrababu Naidu's choice of six general secretaries has also worked against him. The general secretaries are interested more in excercising their powers rather than bringing about unity in the warring district factions. The TD district leadership has also abandoned Babu after the May 2004 Assembly defeat. "Though he is willing to tour districts, the local leadership is not ready to receive him. This is the reason why he has to put off his planned district tours. The former ministers are yet to come to the terms that they are no longer in power", a close confidant of Chandrababu Naidu told this correspondent.
Chandrababu Naidu did not succeed in producing concrete documentary evidence to corner the Congress government on irregularities in irrigation tenders. The party representatives attended four open forum meetings and except for levelling charges and using abusive language, they failed to produce anything in evidence to prove the accusations.
The TD supremo maintained good relations with the BJP and other NDA partners as chief minister. He has lost his political clout at the national level during the past 12 months. Chandrababu Naidu is also faced with dissidence from senior leaders while TDPP president K Yerran Naidu is ruling the roost in Delhi, much to the former's chagrin.
The YSR government faltered on more than half a dozen occasions and the TD leadership did not raise to the occasion to put the Congress administration in the dock.

Chandrababu Naidu fails as Opposition leader

2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, May 5: Telugu Desam supremo N Chandrababu Naidu may have excelled as chief minister for nine long years but has failed as leader of Opposition during the past 12 months.
Chandrababu Naidu completes one year in Opposition on May 14 and the performance he has put in since losing power is politically dismal, if the Telugu Desam's poor report card both inside and outside the State Assembly is any indication. The TD also failed to cash in on the lapses of the Congress government during this period. He did raise many issues but failed to take the fight to its logical conclusion, be it on irrigation projects or faction killings in Rayalaseema.
According to NTR Bhavan sources, as many as 10 factors worked against Chandrababu Naidu affecting his performance as the leader of the Opposition in the State. The TD supremo, who earned the dubious distinction of being the most heli-hopped politician Andhra Pradesh had ever seen, is now enconsed in NTR Bhavan hardly moving out of the city. He left Hyderabad only on four occasions to take up "people's cause" in the past 12 months whereas his bete noire Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy has moved closer to people though his weekly "batas" and prajapathams.
First, Chandrababu Naidu is faced with a peculiar political problem with his party legislators. Of the 46 TD MLAs, 20 are new without any political background. The remaining 26 are too senior to follow Chandrababu Naidu blindly. He did not succeeed in maintaining a balance in the Telugu Desam Legislature Party, which was reflected in the recent Budget session of the State Assembly. The TD benches had to eat the humble pie on every occasion they raised an important public issue, for the simple reason that the TDLP lacked floor coherence and proper political coordination. Consequently, Chandrababu Naidu had to fight a lone and toothless battle against the Congress government's wrong policies.
He also did not put across his united Andhra stand quite clearly. The TD did not take the opportunity to put TRS chief KCR in the dock on his "continued promises of delivering Telangana within three/six months". Its fight on GO 610 was also nominal.
Chandrababu Naidu's choice of six general secretaries has also worked against him. The general secretaries are interested more in excercising their powers rather than bringing about unity in the warring district factions. The TD district leadership has also abandoned Babu after the May 2004 Assembly defeat. "Though he is willing to tour districts, the local leadership is not ready to receive him. This is the reason why he has to put off his planned district tours. The former ministers are yet to come to the terms that they are no longer in power", a close confidant of Chandrababu Naidu told this correspondent.
Chandrababu Naidu did not succeed in producing concrete documentary evidence to corner the Congress government on irregularities in irrigation tenders. The party representatives attended four open forum meetings and except for levelling charges and using abusive language, they failed to produce anything in evidence to prove the accusations.
The TD supremo maintained good relations with the BJP and other NDA partners as chief minister. He has lost his political clout at the national level during the past 12 months. Chandrababu Naidu is also faced with dissidence from senior leaders while TDPP president K Yerran Naidu is ruling the roost in Delhi, much to the former's chagrin.
The YSR government faltered on more than half a dozen occasions and the TD leadership did not raise to the occasion to put the Congress administration in the dock.

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