AP CM draws ire of Telangana ministers over portfolio re-jig

CMCM himself had been holding charge of the Commercial Taxes Department for the past three years.

The New Year began with fresh trouble within the ruling Congress in Andhra Pradesh following change in portfolio of a minister from Telangana, triggering strong protests from his cabinet colleagues from the region.

While ministers of AP Cabinet hailing from Telangana cried foul over late last night's decision of Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, he shot back asserting that allocation of portfolios to ministers was his sole prerogative.

At a time when the party was vertically split along Telangana and Seemaandhra lines, Civil Supplies Minister D Sridhar Babu was divested of the additional portfolio of Legislative Affairs and, in lieu, given charge of the Commercial Taxes Department.

The Legislative Affairs charge was given to S Sailajanath, as an addition to the School Education portfolio he has been holding. Sridhar Babu belongs to Telangana and Sailajanath to Seemaandhra.

Ironically, Sridhar Babu was one of the most trusted lieutenants of the Chief Minister ever since they worked together as government whip and chief whip respectively between 2004 and 2009 when Y S Rajasekhara Reddy was the CM.

"Change in portfolio of the minister was purely for administrative convenience and that's my prerogative. Revenue from commercial taxes saw a sharp decline and we wanted to boost it up. So, the minister was given charge of the crucial department," the Chief Minister told reporters in an informal chat at his camp office.

Commercial taxes contributed 26 per cent to the state revenues two years ago but fell to 15 per cent last year and further to 9.5 per cent this year, he pointed out.

Interestingly, the CM himself had been holding charge of the Commercial Taxes Department for the past three years. Sridhar Babu, on the other hand, was said to have offered to quit the Cabinet in protest against the "insult to people of Telangana" but his colleagues dissuaded him from taking any hasty step.

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