Former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s arrest on Saturday came in controversial circumstances. The state CID alleged that the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo is linked to the ₹550-crore State Skill Development Corporation scam. Corruption charges need to be investigated, and as per due process. However, the timing and manner of the arrest raise questions. Assembly polls are due in Andhra in a few months. The TDP is the main rival to the ruling YSR Congress Party. Both the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), besides influential state player Pawan Kalyan, condemned the arrest and accused the government of flouting norms. The course the probe takes will also influence pre-poll coalitions in Andhra, which sends 25 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
The perception that the arrest is linked to vendetta politics is borne out by the state’s political history. The state’s ruling party has traditionally weaponised corruption allegations. Chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy was booked on corruption charges and jailed for an extended period. During Mr Naidu’s term, several cases were filed against Opposition leaders. After winning office in 2019, Mr Reddy was hostile to the TDP, and also sought to dismantle what he perceives as Mr Naidu’s legacy. His opposition to building the state capital in Amaravati is one such example. But in the process, governance has taken a hit. It is the citizen who has to bear the price of these battles.