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Jagan ‘Jayalalithaa’ Reddy: Amma’s Legacy in Andhra Pradesh

Jagan’s control of sale of alcoholic beverages in Andhra is similar to a decision Jayalalithaa implemented in 2003.

Updated
Opinion
4 min read
Jagan ‘Jayalalithaa’ Reddy:  Amma’s Legacy in Andhra Pradesh
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In his first four months in office, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSJ aganmohan Reddy’s actions against his predecessor and TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu has had observers, and newspaper reports, draw a parallel between the young first time CM of Andhra and the late AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa of Tamil Nadu!

Comparisons to the way J Jayalalithaa targeted her rival the late M Karunanidhi a decade ago were more pronounced after one of Jagan’s first decision was to raze down a building built by the Naidu government, the ‘Praja Vedike’, in July.

In 2001, Jayalalithaa had ordered the midnight arrest of M Karunanidhi and in 2012 she converted a new secretariat building commissioned by Karunanidhi, when he was Chief Minister, into a super-specialty hospital.

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Jayalalithaa Style Takeover of Liquor Shops

The similarities, however, don’t seem to have stopped with alleged vendetta politics. The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minster’s recent decision after which the State government took control of all retail and wholesale sale of alcoholic beverages in the State is also similar to a decision J Jayalalithaa implemented in 2003.

In Jagan Reddy’s case, prohibition is a key election promise.

The Andhra Pradesh government is arguing that it is moving towards total prohibition in the State in a phased manner. This is similar to what Jayalalithaa had suggested, except that far from moving towards prohibition, government control of liquor only became a star revenue earner for Tamil Nadu in the last two decades.

J. Jayalalithaa.
(File Photo: IANS)

TASMAC (Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation) which took over all whole and retail sale of alcoholic beverages in the State has grown from a revenue of 3,639 crores in 2003-4 to nearly 27,000 crores now.

In fact, State control of alcoholic beverages has led to several allegations of corruption and procurement from distillery units owned by politicians. However, it has been a massive money spinner for the State. This has ensured that there is no move towards total prohibition.

Is Total Prohibition the Way Forward for Andhra Pradesh?

Given this example in neighboring Tamil Nadu, the question is which way will Andhra Pradesh go?  As is the case in Tamil Nadu, government control of alcoholic beverages will be a revenue spinner for Andhra, but will it mean a certain move towards total prohibition?

In the case of Bihar, Nitish Kumar had enforced prohibition without the State taking over retail shops and running the business for a period of time or a phased closure.  The only States in India to have total prohibition are Gujarat, Bihar, Mizoram, Nagaland and Bihar was the latest to join that list in 2016.

While total prohibition has strong positive impact especially amongst lower socio-economic groups, enforcing it is an enormous challenge. Black markets usually control the supply under total prohibition and prevalence of spurious liquor may increase.

In Jagan Reddy’s case, prohibition is a key election promise and the State take over of sale of alcoholic beverages is accompanied by strict control and regulation of sale. The government will even hire women constables at the grass root level to monitor the sale of alcoholic beverages. He is keen to ensure that his government’s image as guardians of the poor and one that delivers on its promises is projected.

Much of Jagan’s decisions seem aimed at fueling his image as a revolutionary champion of the State.
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Serious Hurdles on the Road to Prohibition

But, the road towards total prohibition will come with serious financial, political and enforcement challenges and its not clear how the Jagan Reddy government will move forward.  This is especially true for Andhra Pradesh as Jagan’s agenda to spend enormous amounts of money on health care and other social initiatives makes the financial implications of total prohibition enormous.

In the end, what he has gone ahead with is total State control of the sale of alcoholic beverages and this does not necessarily mean a move towards prohibition. In fact, the legendary N T Rama Rao had enforced total prohibition in a united Andhra Pradesh, but that was later undone by his son in law N Chandrababu Naidu due to financial consequences.

This is not the only decision taken by the new Jagan Reddy government that may be difficult to implement. His decision on enforcing 75% job reservation for those from the State had also raised concerns with industry. In effect, much of these decisions seem aimed at fueling his image as a revolutionary champion of the State and not necessarily ones that have been studied from an economic and implementation point of view.

(The writer is an independent journalist. He can be reached @TMVRaghav . This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)

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