Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a blistering attack on Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu in Amaravati, while Naidu prepared to target the NDA regime in Delhi by rallying his friends in the Opposition, including his new-found ally, Congress. As political battle lines are drawn between Modi and his rivals on the eve of the elections, the people of the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh are caught in the political cross fire, with their concerns pushed to the back seat in the political slugfest between the BJP and TDP.
Modi's speech was sharp and satirical on Naidu and his son Nara Lokesh, besides an unsubstantiated defence of his government's track record in helping the state hard hit by the arbitrary bifurcation.
The prime minister claimed that projects worth over Rs 3 lakh crore were given to the state. But he failed to explain whether the bifurcation act was implemented by his government in its letter and spirit. The state of Andhra Pradesh, like any other state in India, has its own share of central funds as per the recommendations of the Finance Commission.
Besides, the Centre will anyhow contribute its share in the financing of centrally sponsored schemes in the state. Both Modi and BJP president Amit Shah are trying to project these funds as special assistance to the new state. But, the political discourse in the state is on the status of implementation of the bifurcation act to which the BJP, while in Opposition, was also a part. Thus, Modi chose to speak his own language and own version of the facts, ignoring questions posed to him by the parties and people on the eve of his first visit after TDP's estrangement with BJP.
Modi remained silent over several aspects of the bifurcation act, which still remain unimplemented or not properly executed. These include the demand for railway zone at Visakhapatnam, port at Dugarajapatnam, steel plant at Kadapa, petroleum refinery and cracker unit on the Andhra coast. The development grant for backward districts, financial assistance to build greenfield capital at Amravati, Vizag-Chennai industrial corridor, bridging the revenue deficit, setting up of several central institutions, etc have not been implemented to the full satisfaction of Andhra Pradesh.
Instead, his main focus was on personally and politically attacking Naidu. Modi portrayed Naidu as one who backstabbed his own father-in-law, NT Rama Rao to snatch away the mantle of chief minister from the iconic leader. It is, in fact, a part of history that Naidu led the party's revolt on its founder NTR over the alleged extra-constitutional role played by his second wife, Lakshmi Parvathi.
Whatever may be the truth, the fact remains that Naidu has proved his credentials as the claimant for the legacy of TDP founded by his father-in-law in elections held subsequently. Yet, his political rivals continue to use this narrative to challenge him. But the BJP allied with him both during the first and second innings of NDA only after he went against NTR. Why did BJP ally with someone who went against his own mentor and father-in-law? Modi's criticism, at least on this count, sounds hypocritical.
Invoking his often repeated self-description of 'chowkidar', Modi's claim was that Naidu got annoyed with him only when he started asking proper accounts for central funds granted to the state. The prime minister alleged that the chief minister was swindling the funds to amass personal wealth. But, a person no less than the prime minister should have come out with concrete evidence to prove his allegations. The Centre also needs to explain why it did not initiate administrative action when the state government was misusing funds helping the ruling politicians to appropriate.
Of course, Modi expectedly came down heavily on Naidu over his newly forged friendship with Congress. Invoking the anti-Congress political legacy of NT Rama Rao, Modi described Naidu as U-turn chief minister, a criticism which Shah has also made recently.
Modi is right. Naidu never contested polls alone. He is known for frequently changing his allies. His critics call it political opportunism. His admirers describe it as a strategic act. Naidu calls it a political and democratic compulsion. Whatever may be the label, the fact has been that Naidu kept on changing his allies. He was with the Left, BJP and now even with TDP's arch rival Congress.
However, BJP was the chief beneficiary of Naidu's political U-turn when TDP support was indispensable for the political survival of the first NDA government headed by Vajpayee. At a time when leaders like Nitish Kumar refused to work with Modi-led BJP, Naidu's support to Modi in 2014 was indeed a win-win political partnership between BJP and TDP.
The prime minister may not be so concerned about Naidu's politics if it is confined to the state where he has little or no stakes. But Modi was visibly angered over Naidu's efforts to stitch together a broader front of Opposition parties led by Congress.
Meanwhile, Modi not referring to YSR Congress would certainly give ammunition to TDP, which is already busy in trying to convince the electorate that YS Jaganmohan Reddy is acting at the behest of Modi and BJP.
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Updated Date: Feb 10, 2019 22:15:44 IST