Veteran novice

Print edition : December 31, 2010

NALLARI KIRAN KUMAR REDDY never served as a Minister before becoming the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh on November 25.

The 50-year-old stands out in stark contrast to his predecessor Konijeti Rosaiah, who was a veteran in governance and in politics. In what would easily be a record for any State in India, Rosaiah presented as many as 16 budgets as Finance Minister and Chief Minister.

The only notable highlight in Kiran Reddy's political curriculum vitae is his 18-month-long stint as the Speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly. He had also served as the ruling party's Chief Whip earlier. Former Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy was obviously pleased with his protege when he picked him up for the post of Speaker.

Hailing from a political family and representing the rural constituency of Pileru in Chittoor district, Kiran Reddy, however, is not a run-of-the-mill politician. An alumnus of the elite Hyderabad Public School, he is an accomplished cricketer.

As wicketkeeper-batsman, he led the State Under-22 team which included the likes of former Indian captain Mohammed Azharuddin. He also played for Hyderabad in the Ranji Trophy tournament in the early 1980s and attended the Hemu Adhikari national camp for promising cricketers.

His detractors accuse him of having a mild streak of superciliousness and unilaterism in his style of functioning. This is what landed him in hot waters in the selection of Cabinet colleagues and in the allocation of portfolios.

A bitter rival of Telugu Desam Party president N. Chandrababu Naidu, one of his political goals was to see the latter's defeat from the Kuppam Assembly constituency. (Both hail from Chittoor district.) Their bitterness went to the extent of Chandrababu Naidu refusing to escort him to the podium after his election as Speaker, a tradition observed unfailingly in Andhra Pradesh.

Kiran Reddy does not agree that he is a novice in the complexities of governance or planning. He was part of YSR's brain trust, which comprised a small group of Congress leaders and MLAs. We would go to the field, identify the people's aspirations and needs, draft a proposal, and submit it to YSR. Arogyasri, the health insurance scheme for the poor, was one such. YSR finetuned and implemented them in consultation with his advisers. We always remained in the background, Kiran Kumar Reddy told this correspondent.

S. Nagesh Kumar

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