The forced postponement of a Cabinet meeting proposed by the CM has escalated the tussle between the two.

 

Hyderabad: The ongoing proxy war between Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and his Election Commission (EC) appointed chief secretary L.V. Subramanyam continues unabated, dividing the top bureaucrats into two groups. As a result, the chief secretary has forced postponement of a Cabinet meeting proposed by the Chief Minister from 10 May to 14 May. Now, it has to be cleared by the EC.

The CM and the chief secretary haven’t met even once since the latter was appointed to the top bureaucratic post by the EC on 6 April, five days before the polling in Andhra Pradesh for both the Assembly and Lok Sabha seats. They are also not on talking terms and communicate only through some intermediary IAS officers for the last five weeks.

To bring under his control Subramanyam, a 1983 batch IAS officer, CM Naidu ordered for a Cabinet meeting on 19 May. He apparently wanted to discuss some urgent agenda like the relief measures following recent cyclone Fani, drought conditions in some districts and drinking water shortage in several villages in Andhra, besides violation of the business rules by some officials in the state.

An item on the violations by some officials of the business rules is believed to have been targeted against the chief secretary who so far hasn’t called on the CM. Not only that, the chief secretary also has issued instructions to other IAS officials restraining them from attending the review meetings held by the ministers. Due to Subramanyam’s orders, many ministers had to cancel their official meetings in the last one month.

All through this period, the chief secretary has been maintaining that he was simply following the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) of the EC and each and every order of the CM and the ministers would have to be referred to the EC or its nominee, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) in Amaravati. Subramanyam has been consulting CEO Gopalakrishna Dwivedi on these matters.

This has provoked Naidu and his ministers to allege that the EC had conspired against the TDP regime in Andhra and the CEO and chief secretary had become pawns in the hands of the BJP government at the Centre. Naidu also mentioned the non-cooperation of CEO and chief secretary in his memorandum to the EC in Delhi last week. The EC hasn’t yet responded to the charge.

The Cabinet meeting proposal from the CM is the latest point of conflict between him and the chief secretary. Though the CM’s office sent a letter to the chief secretary asking him to convene a Cabinet meeting on 10 May, the latter had called for details of the agenda.

The CM’s special secretary Sai Prasad had met the chief secretary and submitted a list of items for the agenda.  The, the chief secretary constituted a screening committee headed by him and identified only some urgent issues like cyclone relief, drought relief and drinking water problems for the agenda and dropped items like looking into violation of business rules by some officials. The revised agenda was sent to the EC through CEO for its final clearance.

Sources in the CEO office told this newspaper on Saturday that the EC is likely to clear the agenda for the Cabinet meeting on 13 May. “Once the clearance comes from Delhi, the chief secretary can convene the Cabinet meeting on 14 May,” said a senior official. As per protocol, the chief secretary will have to be present at the Cabinet meet. Then, CM Naidu and chief secretary Subramanyam will meet on 14 May.

Interestingly, as the item of violation of business rules by some officials has been dropped, it will have to be seen if the CM agrees to the revised agenda. If so, then the CM cannot initiate action against the chief secretary under the business rules. Otherwise, the CM would be overstepping the agenda and the chief secretary might not go with the decisions of the Cabinet, a peculiar situation indeed. The CM will also not be  able to review the progress of the Polavaram project and other routine administrative issues and order for release of funds to clear the pending bills to contractors, as these items don’t figure in the agenda. The opposition YSR Congress has alleged that the Cabinet meeting was meant to clear bills to the contractors close to the ruling party.

 

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