Chandrababu Naidu smells political opportunity in threat, puts BJP on notice over demands for Andhra Pradesh

Chandrababu Naidu's latest 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 hoping for an alliance with 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.

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu. PTI

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu. PTI

As the 2019 polls fast approach, thus, Naidu in a dextrous 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 terrane 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. 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."

This backdrop of 2014 was, perhaps, the reason behind Naidu not raising a storm of protest for last four years despite Modi government not so kind to the state. But, this has created a strong perception that Naidu is compromising the interests of the state for his political purpose. Though the opposition leader, 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.

As the elections approached, Naidu has yet again fired a dextrous salvo. 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 who constitute the ruling alliance protested against the NDA government itself in Parliament. Thus, it appeared as Naidu's bid to grab even the opposition space as Reddy hits a self-goal by displaying intransigence over Modi government's response to demands of Andhra Pradesh.

While disarming the opposition, the TDP wants to benefit from any eventuality. If the Modi government concedes to the demands of Andhra Pradesh, Naidu will get the credit for making the Centre bow before its pressure. In case, Modi government fails to yield, the TDP would successfully blame it on the BJP. Thus, it will be a win-win situation for the TDP.

Yet, the moot question is whether Naidu will continue his alliance with BJP or not and how will people react to Naidu's political moves.

Meanwhile, quite interestingly, the TRS extended support to the struggle of Andhra MPs in a bid to send positive signals to lakhs of Seemandhra voters in Telangana especially in Hyderabad.

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Updated Date: Feb 13, 2018 19:54:58 IST

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