HYDERABAD: Chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy was at the receiving end at the state cabinet meeting on Monday when transport minister Botcha Satyanarayana confronted him with questions as to why he was letting the Anti-Corruption Bureau raid the offices of liquor syndicates and residences of excise department officials.
Satyanarayana, who suspects that the ACB was being used by the chief minister only to make him fall in line since he has interests in the liquor trade, made no secret of his doubt. He wanted to know whether state-wide raids by the ACB were intended to settle political scores with those with whom the chief minister does not have cordial relations.
Botcha was joined by ministers Vatti Vasanta Kumar (tourism) and Mopidevi Venkata Ramana Rao (prohibition and excise) who argued with the chief minister that the raids were lowering the image of the government and the credibility of the ministers as the opposition parties were alleging that they were in cahoots with the liquor mafia.
Satyanarayana wanted to know why the vigilance wing in the excise department was not given the assignment of checking violation of rules and laws by the liquor syndicates and why the ACB had been asked to go after them. "It is very surprising that the ACB should be asked to organise the raids throughout the state. It might be a fact that the ACB had nabbed a syndicate member in Khammam but it appears it was taken as an excuse and the ACB was asked to conduct raids across the state to create problems to the ministers," he said. He and other ministers said they had reason to believe that it was done to settle political scores with some persons. "In the process you have brought bad name to the government. On whose instructions is the ACB conducting the raids?" Botcha asked.
the chief minister remained unruffled when the ministers were arguing with him. He told them that the ACB was doing its job and that no specific instruction were given to it.
The cabinet discussed the increase of VAT from 4 to 5 percent which caused heartburn to traders across the state. Meanwhile, the chief minister directed the three-member cabinet sub-committee to look into the matter and also to see what best can be done in giving relief, particularly to traders. He justified the increase in VAT, saying it was done as per the norms of the central government. He asked officials not to harass traders and to collect it in phases
Sources revealed said several ministers were worried over reports that the Congress did not fare well in the just concluded byelections in Telangana and in Kovur in Nellore district. They wanted the party to announce the candidates for the next 17 Assembly bypolls .