Hyderabad: In the run-up to state and parliamentary elections in Andhra Pradesh, the Congress party might have to pay a heavy price for frequent power cuts, which have left a large numbers of farmers in the state disgruntled.
“It (Congress) has failed in ensuring uninterrupted, quality power supply to farmers. As against the promise of 12 hours of free power supply, it now admits of providing only seven hours supply,” said Nagam Janardhan Reddy, a former state minister and leader of the main Opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
The state will elect a new assembly and send 42 representatives to Parliament, with polling scheduled on 16 and 23 April.
The Congress party is in power in the state, having won all of the 294 seats in 2004 assembly elections. The party, which also leads the ruling United Progressive Alliance in New Delhi, has 29 members in the Lok Sabha from Andhra Pradesh.
Promises unfulfilled: A 21 March photo of Andhra chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy (R) releasing a Congress election campaign CD. PTI
Farmer families play a crucial role in influencing outcomes in the majority of assembly and Lok Sabha seats. They constitute 34.5 million of the state’s total 56.6 million voters and play deciding roles in some 225 out of the 294 assembly seats and about 36 out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats, according to V. Subba Rao, president of Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangam, a farmer lobby group affiliated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Admitting that the state government is unable to supply free power uninterruptedly, Congress spokesperson Tulasi Reddy said: “We strongly believe that the farmers will be happy that the Congress government resorted to power cuts in industrial and domestic sectors and ensured power supply to agriculture even during early summer season dominated by increased demand for power.”
Struggling to meet a demand of about 250 million units a day, power utility Transmission Corp. of Andhra Pradesh Ltd (APTransco) is able to supply only up to 210 million units. The state has an installed capacity of about 12,423MW that includes the capacities of Andhra Pradesh Power Generation Corp. Ltd, Central power utility NTPC Ltd and a few private sector producers.
“Of this installed capacity, there is no generation from hydel capacity as the reservoirs are dried up in summer, while a large part of private sector power capacity of some 1,000MW is lying idle for years for want of gas supplies, adding pressure on supply side,” said Sutirtha Bhattacharya, chairman and managing director of APTransco.
TDP’s Reddy accused the state government of forcing farmers to incur losses of about Rs7,000-8,000 every season on motor repairs on account of poor quality, low-voltage power supply.
“In the name of free power, the Congress government is now making farmers to lose heavily with damages to motors,” he said.
Reddy’s party is promising free power to farmers for nine hours.
The Congress government has completely neglected restructuring of the power sector in the state by improving power generation capacities and effectively addressing transmission and distribution losses, said K. Nageswar, an academician and a member of the legislative council, the upper chamber of the state’s legislature.
“The government failed in realizing that the rate of energy demand is always higher than the growth rate of the economy, especially in the energy-intensive economic model,” he said.
“Problems of an agriculture economy need to be handled through a multi-dimensional approach, whereas the Congress government addressed one aspect and neglected many others,” Nageswar said. “Power supply is just one aspect of the agriculture economy and farmers want quality supply of seeds, pesticides and fertilizers, apart from remunerative prices for their agricultural produce, where the Congress government failed badly.”