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Millennium Post

How did democratic values collapse?

To say the least, what happened during the Y S Rajasekhar Reddy's regime in Andhra Pradesh (AP) was accumulation of private ‘property as theft’, relocating the French experience of Proudhon’s time (1840s) in AP. When Proudhon wrote his book, What Is Property?, the French monarchs were robbing the state resources for palace building and luxury living. For him monarchical property appeared nothing but theft. The system of building capitalist property through exploitation was just coming into operation around that time. Having seen the future accumulation of capitalist private ‘property as exploitation’ Karl Marx built a theory of exploitation. Since then a normal understanding was that accumulation of capitalist property takes place through exploitation of labour power. The process of accumulation in this mode also takes lot of time. The kind of property that Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, the son of Y S Rajasekhar Reddy, accumulated within a short time of five years could not be done through the mechanism of capitalist exploitation of labour of people.

YSR ruled AP just for five years. The Congress party, in the state, was not built by him. Rather he was built as a leader by the Congress. But why did the state institutions collapse so badly to allow him to do whatever he wanted to do for the family and the state? Within just five years his family made wealth of about a lakh crore. Money was mobilised like water and was distributed through various channels like water. Private palaces were built for the family use. Thousands of acres of land was given to private industrialists. His family started various industries, media networks and money was mobilised into those companies from the industrialists who took land, minerals, water, power etc., from the state without giving any thing to the state. The state resources were just plundered.

The crucial point here is that Congress that was known for dissidence, the bureaucracy that was known as steel frame, the institutions of checks and balances that were built over a period of 60 years of democratic rule completely collapsed during those five years. Democracy in AP worked worse than monarchy. The state resources, like land minerals and water were given away to see that private property was built as theft. In the state secretariat the section officers seemed to have put up files the way the CM wanted them to be put up. The secretaries signed wherever he wanted them to sign. The cabinet approved whatever manner the drafts of the GOs he wanted. Individual ministers also signed whatever draft GOs he wanted them to sign. No dissent and difference of opinion was allowed to exist within the state structure. Media criticism was sought to be countered by the counter media.

No democratic state can function the way AP state functioned during that period. In those five years almost a monarchical state was in operation. One new mechanism YSR adopted was that he created an extra constitutional power in the name of political adviser to the chief minister. That institution was organising a muscle men authority that seemed to have used all methods of coercion for power distribution and resource mobilisation. This office was mediating between power brokers, party men, civil servants – including police officials and family members of YSR.

The appointments, postings of existing officials were managed outside the structurally accountable institutions. Perhaps, no minister, no secretary, no police official had retained the authority to decide in one’s own capacity and wisdom. All the powers had been transferred to extra constitutional authorities even within the secretariat. In the process YSR’s son also emerged as an extra constitutional authority more or less on the lines of Sanjay Gandhi during emergency. Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi were handling a national government which does not distribute land and other resources directly to people whom they wanted to. They were dependent on state governments. That is how they created Bansilals and Jagdish Titlers in those days.

The extra constitutional forces that YSR created were much more ambitious than Bansilal and Sanjay Gandhi. Because of that extra constitutional power after Indira Gandhi came to power in 1980 Sanjay Gandhi killed himself. Such an extra constitutional power with unlimited mobilisation of resources is also self destructive. YSR also got killed because of this kind of extra constitutional powers that were deciding everything that he should and should not do.

After these forces won the 2009 elections they assumed more powers. The whole law and order and security systems have been transferred to such powers. Normally the extra constitutional powers gain more and more powers and also accumulate wealth not on gradual basis. They gain it in a very short time. They acquire ambitions that create a psyche that they themselves should get into the formal power. Many monarchs who used social forces outside their court to run their power structures had faced this problem. They were killed by their own trusted agents. Of course, YSR’s death took place in a manner that cannot be assessed by any theoretical guess. But it was a known fact that the extra constitutional powers became more powerful than the real power itself during that period. And also when the extra-constitutional centers were more than one the competition among them will lead to more destructive and self-destructive process. That is what happened in AP.

One unusual thing that happened during the YSR period was that their Christian identity was put on the table quite openly – unlike Brahamananda Reddy and N Janardhan Reddy (who were also Christians) – who became CMs before him. But quite surprisingly YSR’s wealth accumulation does not show any Christian ethic. Jesus as a prophet never stood by the rich. Nor was he for tax evasion.

For a question whether one should pay taxes Jesus’ response was ‘to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s'. Jesus had hatred to ill-gotten wealth. He said in the book of Mathew, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven'. Payment of taxes to the state was made part of spiritual system by Jesus. and making wealth has to be done within confines of law. One is not saying that YSR did not distribute the state wealth to people at all. He did that much better than other CMs did. But in the process the loss to the state was far more serious than the gain that people got from the state during that period.

The only way to overcome the sin of illegal gotten accumulation is through distribution of it to the poor and needy. But the culture of philanthropy was never part of Indian ethic. We cannot expect such philanthropy from one YSR family. There are many such families in India.

Kancha Ilaiah is an activist and writer.
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