ANALYSIS / NAIDU
VIJAYAWADA: Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu is busy shuttling between state capitals, his own base here in Amaravati, and New Delhi of late, seeking to cobble a formidable national political alliance to counter the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls expected before May next. Fact is also that the wily politician is faced up to the walls in his own state, Andhra Pradesh.
Three powerful forces are at work in the political scene in Andhra Pradesh – a state formed out of the southern and eastern districts of the erstwhile AP. The Rayalaseema region (south and west) is dominated by Reddys and the YSRC of Jaganmohan Reddy, the principal Opposition in the state. Kapus are having the upper hand in the coastal Godavari region, while Naidu’s popularity is currently limited to just Krishna and Guntur districts, dominated by Kammas. Chances are that his bluff will be called sooner rather than later.
At best, after 2011, Naidu requires the support of at least one among his political rivals to win elections or retain power. Naidu’s victory in the last polls, in 2014, was due to the support he got from his Kamma community, which was ably supplemented by backing from Kapus. The next time, Naidu’s TDP might even bite the dust, political observers feel.
Kapus, a powerful agricultural community spread over the new Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states, had been included in the list of OBCs a year ago by the Andhra Pradesh government of Chandrababu Naidu, who promised them five per cent reservation in jobs. Yet, there’s no guarantee that the Kapus would side with Naidu.
Kapus have emerged as a strong force in recent years — after they played second-fiddle to Reddys and Kammas in state politics for long. The first attempt to usurp political power was when, in 2009, Chirajeevi floated the Praja Rajyam party, which was not a major success. He eventually merged his party with the Congress and became a Union Minister.
His brother Pawan Kalyan, who in recent years tried off and on to acquire political clout, and formed the Jana Sena party in end 2014, is now highly critical of Chandrababu Naidu and his son Nara Lokesh, and accuses them of being highly corrupt. Pawan is likely to have a tie-up with Jaganmohan Reddy in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. With sezieable sections of the Kapus and Reddys joining hands, such an alliance could be a formidable force at the hustings – and give Naidu a run for his money.
Naidu and his TDP, ousted from the Telangana region after present chief minister KC Chandrasekhar Rao came upfront since 2014, are trying to stage a come-back in Telangana by allying with the Congress – this alliance is formalised already in both the Telugu states. KCR’s popularity has come down as compared to 2014, immediately after his campaign for a Telangana state achieved success, but he’s still the most respected political leader in the state. The combined effort of the Congress and Naidu’s TDP might not be able to unseat KCR in the present political context. Elections are slated for Telangana alongside the polls to four other states, the process for which is currently under way.
Naidu’s Telugu Desam was a major partner of the BJP-led NDA. Among the reasons why Naidu quit the BJP-led alliance a few months ago is also due to a fear that the BJP was trying to pull his leg. The selection of a prominent Kamma as BJP state president — and not a senior RSS functionary as was the case in the past — in AP has also put Naidu on the alert that the BJP was trying to outwit him.
While Naidu is showing a new-found enthusiasm to cobble a formidable Opposition alliance at the national level, he is now seen to be in the good books of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. This is also as Rahul Gandhi does not trust West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee who was initially in the forefront of crafting a strong anti-BJP alliance. She treats Rahul Gandhi as a “junior” to her in politics, meaning in the event of a vacancy for PM post, she should stand the first chance. Naidu too has similar ambitions, but he is judged to be less of a threat to Gandhi.
Naidu had pulled the legs of his father-in-law, legendary matinee idol NT Rama Rao in the mid 1990s and grabbed the TDP that Rao had formed to win power. This time, however, chances are that Naidu would be heading for political Van Vaas (exile), as it had happened to him in the undivided AP state after two terms as CM there between 1995 and 2004. Naidu had started his legislative innings as a Congress MLA from Kappam in 1989 and then switched sides to the Telugu Desam.
After Naidu joined hands with Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi the other day, there were a flurry of resignations from the Congress by senior party leaders, including three former ministers, who would now chart out new courses for themselves.–IHN-NN