As widely expected Chandrababu Naidu is evoking Andhra pride as an effective tactic for successful electoral mobilisation. In 2014, the strongest anti congress sentiment around arbitrary bifurcation has catapulted Chandrababu Naidu to power in the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. Now in 2019, Chandrababu Naidu is rousing Andhra pride on two planes simultaneously. Firstly, around the question of special status, Chandrababu Naidu raises the banner of revolt on Narendra Modi led central government. Congress was the villain in 2014, BJP is villain in 2019. Chandrababu Naidu wishes to retain his position as hero. Besides, in a tit for tat , the TDP supremo is targeting KCR to fuel Andhra Sentiment. This was the ploy KCR employed during Telangana assembly elections. KCR projected Chandrababu as villain. Now, Chandrababu returns. In fact this is also a sort of return gift by Chandrababu Naidu to Telangana chief minister.
Chandrababu Naidu’s tirade over BJP is a strategic masterstroke to convert a threat into an opportunity. This is precisely what he did in 2014. Even after supporting the bifurcation of the state, Naidu ran a propaganda blitz calling bifurcation a blunder and reaped a huge political dividend. As YSR Congress hits a self-goal by failing to properly distance itself from BJP, Naidu is trying to grab even the opposition space yet again converting a threat into an opportunity on the question of perceived injustice to state.
Naidu in a dexterous political move is repeating the success formula adopted in 2014.
The Telugu Desam Party was the biggest victim of separate state movement in the United Andhra Pradesh. Though the party had a strong political base in Telangana right from the days of NT Rama Rao, the party’s leadership is from the Seemandhra. The sub-regional political force in the form of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) has exploited this inherent limitation of TDP significantly eroded the party’s support base in Telangana. To overcome this, the TDP was the first to give an official letter urging the Centre to create a separate state of Telangana despite the party owing its existence to the pride of all Telugu people and assertion of common Telugu identity quite contrary to the Telangana identity. But, still, the party could not escape complex political terrain in Telangana. Thus, the TDP was in total disarray due to its ambivalence on the tricky issue of state bifurcation. Meanwhile, the surging YSR Congress could make a significant dent in TDP’s vote base in 2012 by-elections. Thus, due to the separate state movement, and the rise of YS Jaganmohan Reddy, the TDP suffered in both the regions of the United State.
The party’s comeback, led by Naidu, was considered near impossible as the party had struggled to even retain deposits in the by-elections held in 2012. Such an expectation was belied when Naidu and his party made a remarkable turnaround in the elections held in 2014. How did this happen?
As this author observed in his article, Chandrababu Naidu’s Comeback, Economic & Political Weekly, “the bifurcation of the state seems to have benefited TDP more than any other party. The role played by Chandrababu Naidu during the last episode of bifurcation drama earned him goodwill with the electorate in the Seemandhra region, especially among the urban and middle-class voters. The strategic moves of Naidu in the name of equal justice for both regions created a perception among the Seemandhra voters that he was trying hard to prevent the division of the state… Chandrababu Naidu demonstrated consummate political skills by arriving at an early understanding with the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and converted the threat into an opportunity.”
But, Chandrababu Naidu’s continued support to NDA despite denial of special status has created a strong perception that Naidu was compromising the interests of the state for his political purpose. Though the opposition leader, YS Jaganmohan Reddy tried hard to expose this, his tirade over Naidu failed to give him that much sympathy as he failed to be critical of Modi dispensation. Instead, he chose to unconditionally extend support to BJP in presidential and vice-presidential elections.
YSR Congress’ inability to blast BJP, not only failed to create anti-Naidu sentiment but in fact, helped the latter to convince the people that he is working hard to negotiate a better deal from Centre.
Sensing possible antipathy due to his party sailing with BJP which reneged on its promises to Andhra Pradesh, Naidu raised his banner of protest. Enacting a strange spectacle, the TDP MPs while even remaining in the ruling alliance protested against the NDA government in Parliament. Thus, it appeared as Naidu’s bid to grab even the opposition space as YS Jaganmohan Reddy hits a self-goal by displaying intransigence over Modi government’s response to demands of Andhra Pradesh.
However, YS Jaganmohan Reddy consistently campaigned to expose Chandrababu Naidu’s political U turns. Naidu pooh-poohed special status demand when he was in NDA. He praised the special package given by the Modi government in lieu of special status. His government sponsored a resolution in the state legislative assembly praised Narendra Modi for his generous support to the state. Notwithstanding all this in a sudden political U turn, the TDP pulled out of NDA and declared an all out war on BJP. Chandrababu Naidu personally led a belligerent war on Modi. This is precisely where YS Jagan lagged behind despite moving no confidence motion on Modi government.
Chandrababu Naidu continues to rouse Andhra sentiment in the form of an anti central struggle in a bid to benefit in the ensuing elections. Meanwhile, the bonhomie between TRS and YSR Congress comes handy for TDP to further fuel Andhra sentiment citing KCR’s intervention in the politics of neighbouring state.
( Prof.K. Nageshwar is India’s noted political analyst. He is a former member of the Telangana Legislative Council and professor in the Department of Communication & Journalism, Osmania University, Hyderabad, India )