The demolition heat has finally reached the doorsteps of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.
The new government, headed by his bete noir Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, has served Naidu with a notice to vacate his rented residence on the banks of Krishna river in Vijayawada.
The authorities have pasted a demolition notice on the main gate of Naidu’s villa on June 28 (Friday), asking the owner of the luxurious house Lingamaneni Ramesh, a leading real estate businessman, to reply within a week.
Also Read: No end in sight for Naidu’s woes in Andhra
Naidu had taken the house on lease in 2016 and subsequently, his Telugu Desam Party government built a convention hall “Praja Vedika” adjacent to it in 2017. The swanky convention hall, constructed at a cost of Rs 8 crore, was being used by Naidu to hold official and party meetings.
The premises has a swimming pool and a helipad.
The notice by the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) comes a day after completing the demolition of “Praja Vedika” on the ground that it was an illegal structure.
YSRCP’s political vengeance
Though the demolition drive is ostensibly aimed at removing ‘illegal structures’ that have come up on the riverbed in violation of the environmental laws, the political message behind the move has not gone unnoticed.
It is being widely seen as an act of vengeance because Naidu and his party leaders, while in power, had often dubbed Jagan as the ‘most corrupt politician’ of the state and mocked his ‘weekly court appearances’ in connection with the alleged illegal assets cases against him.
Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority has served notice to Former CM, N Chandrababu Naidu to vacate his current official residence. pic.twitter.com/E8KmJA3AqQ
— ANI (@ANI) June 28, 2019
Clearly, it appears to be a payback time for the YSR Congress supremo as he has made it clear that all illegal constructions on the river bed would be removed.
According to official sources, the irrigation department has identified 50 unauthorised structures on the river bank, which have come up within a 100 meter radius from the river, in clear violation of the River Conservancy Act and other environmental laws.
“All of them have been served notices and the structures will be pulled down in due course,” sources said.
Reacting sharply to the demolition notice, senior TDP leader and former Minister Y Ramakrishnudu said it was an act of political vendetta by the YSRCP government. He wondered how the notice could be served when local YSRCP legislator A Ramakrishna Reddy’s petition against the alleged unauthorised constructions was already pending in the Andhra Pradesh High Court.
However, TDP sources said that the party would not challenge the demolition notice. Naidu has asked his party leaders to maintain restraint and said he would look for another rented house in Vijayawada.
“The building was constructed illegally on 6.00 cents of land. As building construction in the above-mentioned land was done illegally without any permission, the ground and first floor, the RCC room, swimming pool and helipad were built in less than 100 meters distance of the Krishna river, and also without taking permission from this organization,” The CRDA notice said.
“All these structures were earlier given similar notices four years ago. Most of them went to the court and got a stay order on the demolition,” said N Vijay Kumar said, a TDP leader.
War against illegal structure
“The private residence where Naidu is currently staying is also illegal and he must vacate it immediately. If a property has been identified as illegal and if it’s constructed on the river bed, the only option left is to demolish it,” senior YSRCP leader and Rajya Sabha member Vijaysai Reddy tweeted.
Rubbishing the charge that the demolition drive reflected political vendetta, YSRCP leader Y V Subba Reddy said, “We have proof to show that it is illegal. All the illegal structures in the state will be demolished soon.”
Soon after coming to power, the YSR Congress Party had stepped up its campaign targeting Naidu’s riverside residence, alleging that it was an illegal construction.
YSRCP legislator from Mangalagiri, A Ramakrishna Reddy, who defeated Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh in the recent election, filed a public interest litigation in the high court stating that Naidu’s house and those of many others in the area were constructed illegally on the river banks. The case is still pending in the court.
Famous addresses on the cards
The alleged illegal constructions in the area include guest houses belonging to NRIs and other prominent people like former BJP MP Gokaraju Ganga Raju, besides a sprawling nature cure hospital and an orphanage.
In 2009, Ganga Raju sold his land to M Satyanarayana Raju, a well-known nature cure physician, for the construction of an ashram. It is frequented by celebrities from all across the country.
“The decision to pull down these structures must be welcome. The previous government had made a mockery of the regulations and environmental laws,” said social activist Anumolu Gandhi, who had approached the Green Tribunal, seeking demolition of all illegal structures in the state.
The environmentalist pointed out that the farm houses and private guest houses had started coming up on the river bank in 2006 and the violation of rules continued with impunity. And the area would soon became a concrete jungle, they said.
Ironically, the TDP, which was in the opposition in the combined Andhra Pradesh, had joined an agitation in 2013 by local organisations against the illegal encroachments in the region. However, a year later, Naidu, whose party won the 2014 elections, started using one of the private guest houses, overlooking the river, as his official residence.
Later, the government went ahead and constructed the Praja Vedika. It ignored the 2017 order of the Green Tribunal on the removal of all constructions on the river bank.