By Kalyani Shankar
In his political career, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu has exhibited the same showmanship, like Prime Minister Narednra Modi. It was Naidu who declared himself in the mid nineties as the CEO of the state. It was he who had started using laptop, video- conferences, monitoring the work of the district collectors and propagating his governance skills. He got funds from the World Bank, made Hyderabad the Cyberabad and also got the giant multinational IT companies like Microsoft to invest in Hyderabad. He hosted big names like Bill Gates. Despite all these, he was out in the cold from 2004 for ten years. In 2014 he formed the bifurcated Andhra Pradesh government with the BJP as his coalition partner.
After four years, he is upset that the state was not getting funds from the Centre for development and irrigation projects. He was even threatening to leave the NDA. A high level TDP meeting on Sunday in Vijayawada to decide about the future was surcharged with emotion but a call from Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh saved the situation and the party decided to stay on. The BJP knows how to keep the allies in check. Now the TDP supremo had instructed his M.Ps “even at the risk of being suspended and thrown out of Parliament, protest and make yourself and the people of Andhra Pradesh who feel let down, be heard loud and clear.” The BJP has two MPs and five MLAs from Andhra Pradesh.
While ties between the two parties have steadily deteriorated over the years, Naidu’s frustration is that he has not been able to get money from the Centre. “I am sticking to the coalition dharma and keeping quiet. I am also restraining my colleagues from speaking out against the BJP. But if they do not want us, I will say ‘Namaste’ and walk away,” he had said.
Naidu dabbled in national politics in formation of all coalitions from 1996 .He was not involved with UPA however. He was a convener in the United Front, a major partner in the Vajpayee government and a stakeholder in the present Modi government. The TDP is in coalition in Andhra Pradesh as well as at the Centre with the BJP.
Despite all these, Babu seems to be trapped in a predicament, whether to continue to be in the NDA. The latest provocation was that Andhra Pradesh was not even mentioned in the budget presented on February 1. Naidu had high expectations from the Budget this year, especially as it was the last year of the NDA for this term. An exasperated Naidu tweeted after the budget that the” achhe din’ were eluding his state.
So he has resorted to what he knows best – threats but unfortunately for him the Modi government has its own majority. Naidu had used the strength of his MPs in the Lok Sabha in the United Front and the Vajpayee government earlier to get funds and hefty portfolios for Andhra Pradesh.
Though he has supported Modi on several occasions like the demonetization drive, their relationship is strained. After several attempts, Naidu was able to meet Modi after one and a half years on January 12, this year for half an hour. Armed with a 17-page memorandum, he urged the prime minister to immediately sanction Rs. 58,000 crore required for the Polavaram project and ensure sufficient funds for development of the new state capital Amravati. Naidu is also upset that the BJP leaders in the state including his sister in law Purandhareswari, have been critical of him.
Why did the TDP decide to continue the alliance? First of all, the TDP has nowhere else to go unless a third front comes into existence. While he had good relations with the left parties they are becoming more and more irrelevant today. There is no tall leader to lead the third front as the SP leader Mulayam Singh is ailing, the RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav is in jail. Nitish Kumar has joined the NDA and the other socialist parties of the Janata Parviar are insignificant.
Secondly, the TDP is not on a strong wicket in the state. In spite of its alliance with the BJP in 2014, the party could manage to win with just 2 per cent votes against the YSR Congress Party. The campaign by Telugu super star K Pavan Kalyan, a youth icon, helped TDP shore up support but Kalyan has indicated that his Jana Sena Party would contest on its own in 2019.
Thirdly, Babu fears that the BJP is growing in the state at the cost of Telugu Desam. The saffron party is already working on building a Kapu-Reddy caste combination as an electoral option to the Khamma-dominated TDP for 2019. While Naidu has already split the YSR Congress and got ten MLAs to his party and made four ofthem ministers in his cabinet, he does not want Jagan Mohan Reddy to exploit the fissures in the BJP-TDP ties.
Above all, Chandrababu needs the BJP more than the BJP needs TDP. He does not have too many options. The first is to swallow his prideand continue the alliance. The second is to withdraw the ministers and allow his M.Ps to resign prior to final parting. The third is to part company. He chose the first. Babu is worried about his re-election in 2019 and was trying to tell people of Andhra Pradesh who were angry for not getting the funds that he was with them. If the anger escalates then he will reassess his strategy. Now it is only posturing and positioning, as he cannot afford to antagonize the Centre beyond a point. (IPA Service)