TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu is acutely conscious that the way forward for his party is a rough one, with the Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh barely a year away. The celebrated "Modi Naidu Jodi" slogan which his party and the BJP used to garner votes in 2014 is now history.
At the three-day party Mahanadu (conclave), which concluded in Vijayawada on May 29, his angst at the denial of the coveted Special Category Status (SCS) to the state by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in full cry.
The irony is that the commitment was made by the earlier UPA government of Manmohan Singh and the Congress paid the price for it by being routed totally in the state. It did not win even one of the 175 Assembly seats and most of its contestants even lost their deposits.
Yet, Naidu is targeting Modi who pledged, along with him at joint election rallies in the run-up to the 2014 polls, to protect the interests of Andhra Pradesh if they were voted to power.
After waiting for nearly four years, Naidu has, in recent weeks, upped the ante against the Modi government and spared no opportunity to accuse Delhi of failing the state. With his bête noire YS Jaganmohan Reddy transforming SCS into a potent political weapon — five of his YSR Congress MPs are not budging from their stand on their resignations being accepted by the Lok Sabha Speaker — and the Centre having made it clear that it will not grant SCS, Naidu is compelled to stand out separately after withdrawing from the Modi government and the NDA, to demand vociferously what he argues is the state’s rightful due.
Naidu has done the volte face after being in Modi’s good books, at first, in the hope that the Centre will release funds liberally and help bridge the revenue gap of Rs 16,000 crore which the state inherited at the time of reorganisation.
At one point of time, after waiting patiently for over two years, Naidu could not hide his disgust and braced for a critical clash with the Centre. It then came to his rescue by announcing a special package that seemingly was better than the SCS. But it was not long before he saw the inordinate delay in any sort of implementation.
Compounding Naidu’s worries was the precarious condition of state finances and a slew of unsolved issues, including raising resources for the green field capital Amaravati and the massive Polavaram irrigation project, fuelling anti-incumbency. It is this trigger that has made him pull the TDP out of the NDA fold to take on the YSR Congress as a solo combatant.
So, on several occasions during the Mahanadu, Naidu underscored how the BJP is treating Andhra Pradesh with contempt and painstakingly impressed upon party cadres that they should make people believe it was the Centre’s conspiracy to create problems for the state.
In the past, the focus of the Mahanadu was on what the TDP and the government had done and the plans looking ahead for the party. But this time around, Naidu sounded a shrill battle cry of "betrayal by the BJP and a fight to the finish" to embolden cadres and boost the morale of middle rung leaders. His message to them is to fan out and impress upon people how the TDP is taking the state forward despite little help from the Centre during the past four years.
If Naidu is vitriolic in his criticism of Modi, it is largely because Jaganmohan Reddy, travelling extensively on his Praja Sankalpa Yatra, has been playing the SCS as an ace up his sleeve. Naidu’s repeated claims that Reddy is venal were only to discredit him and try to take the sting out of his campaign.
Naidu now desperately needs to convince his cadres and the voters alike that his political estrangement with the BJP will not harm the interests of the state. This demands an assertion from him that the TDP will play a key role in the new political dispensation at the Centre in 2019.
He insists that the TDP would be the kingmaker and not king in 2019, as he does not harbour personal ambitions. He believes regional parties would form the government as the “unilateral style of functioning of the Modi government has led to loss of faith of the states in the Central government”. Well, if the voters too believe him.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)