Telugu Desam MP from Anantapur J C Diwakar Reddy, happily basking in the sunny weather in Paris where he is vacationing, may be wondering at leisure what the hullabaloo over his behaviour at the Visakhapatnam airport last Thursday is all about. After all, he had reached the airport half-an-hour before the scheduled departure of the flight. But the IndiGo staff there had refused him a boarding pass for being late. He may be thinking, “How could they? Who do they think I am!” That was in fact his key argument during his rampage at the otherwise quiet airport.
He had done it earlier too, in October last, at the Gannavaram Airport in Vijayawada. Back then, chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu himself had reportedly intervened and put him on the next flight. In his mind, he could well be the righteous Amarendra Baahubali. Didn’t he enforce the plastic ban in Anantapur a few months back, going so far as to shut down shops and pocket the keys of several?
Battle-hardened in the badlands of Rayalaseema, he’s the master of all that he surveys in Anantapur district. A six-time MLA, he had defected to the TDP from the Congress ahead of the 2014 elections to make it to Parliament. Though he himself has never been charged with any crime, his followers have been, in murder cases no less. His brother, Prabhakar Reddy, who runs the family business Diwakar Travels, is equally volatile. Deepak Reddy, TDP MLC and Prabhakar’s son-in-law, now behind bars in a land grab case in Hyderabad, also has a chequered history. He had once declared assets of over `6,000 crore.
What drives these leaders to behave the way they do? “What typically drives them is a lust for power, prestige, status, and authority. These ‘objects of admiration’ not only gratify their need for self-aggrandisement by feeding their oversized ego. They also provide them with compelling evidence to confirm their sense of superiority to others — probably their most coveted need of all,” reasons Leon F Seltzer, psychologist and blogger for Psychology Today, writing on why narcissism is so rampant in politics. The key factor at play among narcissistic politicians, he says, is their exaggerated sense of entitlement and belief that they “deserve” to game the system.
This crop of politicians have of late been giving headaches to Naidu. The chief minister, who is on a mission mode to show concrete results in the run-up to the 2019 polls, was understandably upset with Diwakar’s antics and bemoaned that colleagues like him were tarnishing the party’s image and undermining his efforts. But Diwakar is the least of his worries at the moment.
The TDP will be tested before September in the bypoll for the Nandyal Assembly seat, which fell vacant following the death of Bhuma Nagi Reddy, who won it on a YSR Congress ticket but later switched loyalty to the yellow party. Nagi Reddy’s daughter Akhila Priya, inducted into the Cabinet, has successfully extracted party nomination for cousin Brahmananda Reddy for the bypoll. In the process, TDP constituency incharge Silpa Mohan Reddy, who had been waiting to get his “rightful’ reward, defected to the opposition YSRC - making the battle that much harder for Naidu. A loss ahead of the general election could deflate the party.
As if it wasn’t enough, the last month saw a war of sorts spiraling out of control within the TDP in Visakhapatnam. Roads and Buildings Minister Ayyanna Patrudu accused the police and revenue officials first of working hand in glove with the land mafia to tamper with land records in two mandals — Kommadi and Mathurawada. He later upped the ante, pointing fingers at politicos, indirectly accusing his Cabinet colleague and HRD minister G Srinivasa Rao. The land scam is indeed frightening. Records of as many as 265 acres of government land and five acres of private land have been tampered with - a fact acknowledged by the government.
Caught on the backfoot by Ayyanna Patrudu, Srinivasa Rao shot off a letter to the chief minister demanding a CBI probe much to the chagrin of the latter. With the Opposition and even ally, BJP, joining chorus, the State government relented and on Sunday, constituted a special investigation team (SIT). Whether the SIT will get to the bottom of the scam is anybody’s guess.
In an interview with TNIE on the occasion of the completion of three years in office, the chief minister reasoned that like voters, his party leaders too had expectations and expressed his resolve to weed out undesirable elements after conducting public surveys. But it could be too little too late in the day, if his ambitious colleagues have their way.
Deputy Resident Editor, Andhra Pradesh