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CM in amid ‘CEO II’ hopes in Andhra

Guntur, June 8: Nara Chandrababu Naidu today took oath as the first chief minister of residuary Andhra Pradesh, its hopes of an economic turnaround pinned firmly on his past industrialisation record.

He was off the blocks straightaway, signing five key files at the ceremony itself to mark decisions that, ironically, will lighten the government’s pocket by thousands of crores.

But if the social sector was the focus today, the Telugu Desam Party leader wasted no time reminding all about the investment laurels he had earned at the helm of a united Andhra Pradesh between 1995 and 2004.

“What I have done for Hyderabad I shall repeat in Seemandhra,” he said, using the regional name instead of the new state’s official moniker, which remains “Andhra Pradesh”.

Hyderabad had turned into an IT hub during Naidu’s previous two stints as chief minister, when his business acumen and governance style had earned him the tag of “CEO of Andhra Pradesh”.

His party won this election riding popular confidence in his ability to network with the Centre and global investors to make up for the loss of Hyderabad to Telangana (the city will remain a joint capital for up to 10 years, though).

Naidu, 64, was sworn in at a mega event off National Highway 5, on a field between Vijayawada and Guntur, in an area where the state’s new capital is expected to come up.

“It will be the world’s best-planed city, loaded with ultra-modern facilities. I have plans to introduce bullet trains to Chennai and Hyderabad,” Naidu told reporters.

Nineteen other ministers took the oath at the 7pm-9.15pm event, whose preparations had necessitated a two-day traffic shutdown. Among them were two deputy chief ministers from the Backward Classes — China Rajappa and K.E. Krishnamurthy — as Naidu had promised.

Among the guests were 15 Union ministers, six chief ministers — from Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Odisha, Punjab and Goa — BJP veterans L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.

But Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and YSR Congress president Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy — the likely leader of the Opposition in Andhra — stayed away despite personal invites by Naidu.

Naidu had skipped Rao’s June 2 swearing-in citing an allegedly cursory invite. Jagan had dubbed today’s event “a waste of public money”.

Some 300 business representatives — mostly overseas Telugus from the IT industry — came, as did several film stars.

Naidu has inducted two BJP members, Manikyala Rao and Kamineni Srinivas, in his cabinet hoping it will help attract funds and projects to the new state.

Among the three women in the cabinet is Paritala Sunitha, wife of late Desam politician Paritala Ravi, one of the real-life characters who inspired Ramgopal Varma’s blood-soaked celluloid saga of revenge, Rakta Charitra.

Vivek Oberoi, who played the lead, attended today’s event along with fellow film stars NTR Junior and Pawan Kalyan, chief of the Jana Sena party and brother of actor turned Congress politician Chiranjeevi.

The files Naidu signed had to do with:

A committee to review loan waivers to farmers and women’s self-help groups (burden: Rs 54,000 crore);

A Rs 1,000 monthly pension to the aged and widows (burden: Rs 350 crore a year);

A bottled mineral water scheme, the NTR Sujala Sravanti, at Rs 2 per 20-litre can (project cost: Rs 1,600 crore);

A special task force to raid all illegal wine shops and destroy their liquor stocks (loss of revenue: Rs 4,500 crore a year):

Raising the retirement age for government employees from 58 to 60 (burden: Rs 1,800 crore a year).

Telangana House

The Telangana Assembly will start business from tomorrow with a five-day session to elect the Speaker and other functionaries. Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan will deliver his address to the new House, which is expected to lay down the K. Chandrasekhar Rao government’s economic and social policies.

Tomorrow morning, the governor Narasimhan will administer the oath of office to senior congress MLA K. Jana Reddy as the protem Speaker. Reddy will induct the remaining 118 MLAs.

The Speaker’s election is scheduled for Tuesday. Since it has the majority with 63 MLAs, the TRS can get its candidate elected on its own. Sources said Madhusudhanachari, an MLA from Warangal, is the front runner.