They are the ‘fortunate’ MLAs of Telangana region now owning a “Fortuner,” the most flamboyant SUV which only the rich could afford, as each one cost nearly Rs25 lakhs. Of the 49 T-MLAs, some 25 now cruise in Fortuners, which they claim to have got with cheap government loans but detractors say have come as Diwali gifts with a tag attached, “don’t join TRS.”
If it is indeed a government gift, the public exchequer is going to pick up the bills to the tune of Rs12 crore.
But, ask the people’s representatives, and they fly into a fury. Bought with a loan is the common plea.
At least 25 MLAs have accepted that they got Fortuners but with a bank loan and not as Diwali gifts. Husnabad assembly constituency MLA Praveen Reddy told Postnoon that the reports of receiving a Fortuner as Diwali gift are baseless and that he did not receive any vehicle as a gift. “Nonsense. I have not received any Fortuner vehicle from anybody. All these reports are being generated to tarnish our image.”
Another MLA Ch Pratap Reddy from Shadnagar Assembly constituency was not amused at this and blamed the jobless for spreading these canards. He said he and some 24 MLAs had taken loans from the State government and banks to buy these vehicles. “What the Hell?” he asked. “Who is spreading these rumours? I bought this vehicle by taking a Rs10 lakh loan at the rate of 25 paise interest from the State government and another Rs15 lakh from a bank. Not only me, around 24 other MLAs also availed the loans to buy these vehicles. The report that I&PR Minister DK Aruna of my district (Mahboobnagar) gave gifts is baseless,” Pratap Reddy told Postnoon.
If this is true, it would mean while the common man pays interests rates of up to 10-12 per cent for vehicle loans, the MLA gets pays 4 per cent interests.
Reddy shot back saying a Fortuner is no big thing for an MLA. “MLAs don’t need to take gifts from anybody. They are all well off and can buy their own vehicles.” He said that when he was in the real estate business he himself had gifted seven vehicles to different individuals as gifts. Yes, he would participate in State government’s pet programme-Rachchabanda. “Any doubts?” he countered.
Yes, the TRS has doubts. TRS MLA K Eeshwar says, “The Congress party is not in a position to keep its MLAs under control after three Congress MLAs joined TRS. To protect their flock, the Congress leaders are seducing them with gifts. If people of Telangana came to know about this, the dignity of these MLAs will be lost.”
No funds to buy cars
Meanwhile, the State government is happy running the administration with decades old vehicles. And as a rule a vehicle older than 15 years is not insured by insurance companies. All the government vehicles are supposed to be scrapped after 15 years. But most of the AP government vehicles are said to be 20-21 years old and new vehicles are not coming because the government cannot afford them. But this does not apply to certain situations where political expediency exists.
UPA’s austerity drive
Faced with an unprecedented crisis of confidence, the UPA regime is planning what most governments are notoriously bad at – tightening its belt.
Mantris will have to forego the charm of hosting meetings in five star hotels. Babus will have to cut down on foreign travel and think twice before scrapping an old car to buy a new one.
The finance ministry, fearful of a shortfall in tax revenues, has announced measures to cut government spending that include greater scrutiny of fund demands from states and public enterprises, and restrictions on personal expenses. The UPA government wants all its governments to pave the way for others.