These are not the best of times for the Telugu Desam Party supremo and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu.
He is feeling terribly embarrassed. The discomfiture isn’t only because of the challenges confronting him, but also because of their timing. There couldn't be a worse moment than now for Naidu to find himself mortified — as he came face to face with President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a day when he would actually have preferred solitude to the revelry at the International Fleet Review (IFR) in Visakhapatnam on 6 February.
In fact, the second innings for Naidu as chief minister hasn't been hunky-dory at all.
Here are 10 issues that put him in the dock:
1. The takeoff itself wasn’t very easy. He had to join hands with Modi’s BJP and also enlist the support of actor Pawan Kalyan to win the elections in 2014 in a truncated state of 13 districts. Naidu was the chief minister for more than eight years and eight months when Andhra Pradesh was made up of 23 districts. Moving the administration to Vijayawada from Hyderabad, finding offices and relocating staff have remained the biggest challenges and, in effect, jeopardised the administration of the state. He is still grappling with the quintessentially intransigent attitude of the government staff. Now, they are up in arms against the state’s move to privatise certain functions in important departments like revenue and registrations.
2. The residuary state started off with a revenue deficit of over Rs 14,000 crore. Plus, Naidu competed with his Telangana counterpart K Chandrashekar Rao in hiking salaries for the state government and RTC employees. Meanwhile, the Centre, led by the TDP’s political ally BJP, plays hide and seek with its junior partner. Although it says it will help Andhra Pradesh at every opportunity, the state's demands continue to go unanswered. The Centre has neither accorded a special category status nor has it acceded to the demand of a special package. Instead, it keeps announcing mega projects like the Outer Ring Road for the proposed capital, national highways etc — projects that are not the priority of the state government.
3. Naidu’s pompous effort to rope in foreign partners, especially Singapore and Japan, to build the new capital city is viewed grudgingly by the Centre, which, however, doesn’t express its displeasure overtly. But, its ‘big-brotherly’ attitude in arm-twisting the AP chief minister is more conspicuous than perceived. Modi’s gift of a pot of soil (collected from the Parliament) and another pot of water (collected from the Yamuna) on the occasion of the grandiose foundation-laying ceremony on 22 October, 2015, without announcing any special package, naturally rubbed the TDP the wrong way. The largesse of words and laxity in deeds by the BJP has always irked the TDP.
4. The political controversies that surrounded the choice of fertile lands and the land-pooling process for the new capital Amaravati, court cases on validity of the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA), reluctance of some farmers in over half-a-dozen villages to acquiesce to the coercion of the government to hand over their landholding, cases in National Green Tribunal and over 50,000 farm labourers being rendered unemployed, and the formal transfer of land to the government and issuance of compensatory deeds to the farmers still remain nagging issues, even as the government indulges in unabated discourse, through all available means, that Naidu could complete the land-pooling without any hassle.
5. Fingers were pointed at the chief minister as being responsible for the death of 29 people in stampede at Godavari pushkarams in Rajahmundry at the crack of dawn on 14 July, 2015. The cordoning off of the whole area for a film being shot on Naidu while taking a “holy dip” resulted in the unsavoury incident that ensued on the first day of the event.
6. The publicity blitzkrieg around the Pattiseema lift irrigation project by the Andhra Pradhesh government and its pompous inauguration did more damage to its reputation than good, thanks to defunct pump sets, their removal from Handri-Neeva project in Kurnool district and using them at Pattiseema. The very purpose of the project has come under a cloud. However, Naidu’s detractors suggest that the Pattiseema was implemented on a war-footing only to prevail upon Singaporean companies — that have come forth to participate in the building of the new capital city — that the area would be provided an uninterrupted water supply.
7. The cash-for-votes case in which Naidu’s involvement in “luring” Anglo-Indian MLA in the Telangana Assembly Elvis Stephenson and the subsequent leaking of audio tapes consisting of a purported conversation between Naidu and the MLA asphyxiated the TDP as a party and Naidu as the chief minister. At last, Naidu had to “close ranks” with his bête noire and Telangana chief minister KCR by calling the Telangana chief minister to his residence and then inviting him to the Amaravati foundation-laying ceremony as a special guest. But, this cash-for-votes case continues to remain the proverbial Sword of Damocles.
8. The ‘call money’ racket involving several TDP leaders in Vijayawada, where several women were coerced into the flesh trade in exchange for returning the loan amounts they owed, hit the party's credibility. Although the government worked overtime to save itself from the ignominy, the facts laid bare its shallow defence.
9. The Kapu agitation by Mudragada Padmanabham hasn’t come out of the blue. The government is being constantly goaded by Mudragada on fulfilling its poll promise and he had timed the amplification of the protest in such a manner that it surely had drawn the attention of the prime minister during his visit to Visakhapatnam.
10. Naidu has tried to portray his son Lokesh as the party icon in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections. While his own pedagogy and claims of development of Hyderabad have been rejected by the people, his son’s campaign and leadership have drawn flak from all sections, if the poll results are any indication.