Sifting through allegations of corruption and malfeasance against politicians, especially those in the Opposition, after cases are filed by a successor-government in Indian States is a knotty exercise. In States such as Andhra Pradesh, relations between the ruling regime and the Opposition have transcended political and ideological contestation and have veered deep into outright hostility and vendetta as seen in the ongoing rivalry between the ruling Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party and the Telugu Desam Party. Prima facie, the allegations by the Andhra Pradesh CID (AP-CID) about malfeasance in the Andhra Pradesh State Skill Development Corporation’s functioning in 2014, are grave. The predecessor government (TDP) is accused of releasing funds for a skill development scheme for unemployed youth in the State, and allegedly diverting a major portion to shell companies, based on fake invoices, even as private partner entities which were roped in to invest in the scheme had not put in their requisite share. The AP-CID has claimed that there were other rule violations in the implementation of the scheme, even as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) launched a separate inquiry based on the FIR filed by the AP-CID in December 2021 leading to arrests of individuals who had purportedly benefited from the transfer of money from the government. The AP-CID has now named the former Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu (TDP), as the prime accused, leading to his arrest, with its Economic Offences Wing seeking to establish the link between him and other private beneficiaries of the government’s release of money for the scheme.
A look at the evolution of the case, with Mr. Naidu being named the prime accused only recently, raises the suspicion of whether political vendetta is also guiding the investigations. Irrespective of the merits of the case, his incarceration will be seen in the light of the zealousness of agencies such as the ED to use arrests, especially those involving the political Opposition, as a political weapon in various cases. Rather than relying on documentary evidence in its investigations, the ED’s recourse to high-profile arrests is now being replicated by State agencies as well. The onus is now on the AP-CID to establish a clear link between Mr. Naidu and the alleged irregularities in the scheme. Dealing with malfeasance and corruption cases is no easy task for State agencies. But if they are to tackle the problem of corruption in governance, such agencies must not be seen to be doing the bidding of the party in power. Else, such actions only result in the cynicism of the electorate about corruption and erode their trust in institutions.