There are many parameters to assess the performance of a government. Economic surveys and CAG reports help us gain a bird’s-eye view of the progress achieved. As he completes half of his tenure, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s report card isn’t outstanding but neither is it poor. An objective analysis shows his greatest success was in handling the Covid pandemic and implementation of welfare schemes such as Amma Vodi (incentivising mothers to send their wards to school) and YSR Aarogyasri (health insurance for all).
On the other hand, his government’s record of managing finances, its penchant for controversies and beef with the judiciary could be seen as negatives. From an economic standpoint, the GSDP growth rate was 12.73% in 2019–20 and the advanced estimate for 2020–21 was −2.58% at constant prices and 1.58% at current prices—which the economic survey released earlier this year termed significant in the context of the global slowdown and Covid-19. Similarly, it found Amma Vodi helped BPL families during this critical time. The CAG report tabled in the Assembly last week, though, red-flagged off-budget borrowings and unsustainable debt. The state has borrowed around Rs 3 lakh crore since the YSRC came to power but then it argues that it has only availed of the FRBM Act relaxation given by the Centre. The CAG acknowledged that the state has fared better than others in terms of expenditure on social services.
Critics have slammed the government for its fiscal profligacy. Their argument holds water in normal circumstances. In extraordinary times like these when many have lost jobs, how the government should respond is a debatable question. Going forward, however, the government will have to roll back some schemes to bring expenditure under control. There is simply no other way. The three-capital issue is another major challenge in Jagan’s remaining tenure. He has pulled back for now in view of the legal tangles but bringing it again is an uphill task. He could also do well to rein in his cadre to avoid incidents like the attack on the TDP office. The strong tend to be aggressive but in resisting the urge lies real power and that alone can command respect in a democracy.