TDP Mahanadu: Chandrababu Naidu's national ambitions aren't even a pipe dream, but a mission impossible
Chandrababu Naidu claimed in the ongoing Mahanadu at Vijayawada claimed that the TDP will be playing a key role in the formation of the Central government in 2019
Chandrababu Naidu claimed in the ongoing Mahanadu at Vijayawada claimed that the TDP will be playing a key role in the formation of the Central government in 2019. But, the national and state political situation has undergone a significant change since the days of the United Front or NDA-I making this a mission impossible.
It was imperative for Chandrababu Naidu to make this assertion in order to enthuse his party ranks. Locating himself in the right national context was an important factor that helped in catapulting Naidu to power. Writing in Economic and Political Weekly, this author explaining the reasons for Naidu's comeback said, "The sense of helplessness strongly instilled in the Seemandhra electorate in turn also generated a feeling that the residual state of Andhra Pradesh desperately needed help from the central government. (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. The strong Modi sentiment evident across the country convinced the average voter in the Seemandhra region that Chandrababu Naidu could form part of a winning combination at the Centre and could deliver for the truncated state without a capital".
Now, the TDP is no longer with the BJP that is in power at the Centre. The sense of helplessness is still nurtured for a political project. Naidu now desperately needs to convince the electorate that his political estrangement with BJP will not harm the interests of Andhra Pradesh. This demands an assertion from Naidu that the TDP will play a key role in the new political dispensation at the Centre in 2019 .
Notwithstanding such ambitions of the TDP and assertions from the chief minister, the political situation seems to very different.
It is true that the TDP played a critical role during the formation of the United Front and National Front governments. Naidu was the convenor of the United Front that was in power with outside support from the Congress. Again, the TDP's support was critical for the survival of the first NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
But, the national political situation has altered drastically much to the disadvantage of TDP. During the days of the United Front and National Front, the Indian national polity was dominated by the Congress at the Centre and all the other parties in the periphery. There was no serious national challenger for power. The BJP was still at an emerging stage. In the absence of a strong anti-Congress national party, a regional party like the TDP could obviously play a vital role in anti-Congress politics.
In the 1980s and 1990s, there were not many regional parties. Now, the regional parties have not only increased in number, but their strength in their respective states has substantially increased. For instance, the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh are now much stronger and more influential regional parties as compared to TDP. Thus, the TDP no longer enjoys prime position within the regional political spectrum either.
Meanwhile, the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh has diminished the political influence of Telugu parties, people and leaders. The united Andhra Pradesh had 42 seats, making it possible for the TDP to win a significant number of seats during its heyday. But, the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh in which the TDP's political clout has reduced, has only 25 seats. The TDP no longer enjoys sweeping political influence even to win a sizable number of seats.
The state level political situation has also underwent a radical change. The polity of united Andhra Pradesh was divided between the Congress and the TDP, giving the latter a respectable stature in the anti-Congress politics of the country. But, the politics of the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh is polarised between the two regional parties, TDP and the YSR Congress led by YS Jaganmohan Reddy.
The national parties of today have the ability to choose an ally.
This is precisely why the BJP was unmoved by the estrangement of the TDP. The NDA leaders have made this aptly clear on more than one occasion that there are parties ready to join the NDA if the TDP quits. It is true that Naidu is the senior regional satrap. But, only the numbers count in national permutations and combinations. The SP, BSP, TMC or Tamil parties have larger a catchment area than the TDP.
Meanwhile, the TDP is finding it difficult to hold on to the seats it won in 2014. With the BJP and Pawan Kalyan leaving the TDP, coupled with possible anti-incumbency, the TDP may find it hard to retain the seats it won in 2014, leave alone winning more seats.
The regional parties as a whole do not enjoy the similar political clout vis-à-vis national parties today, that have consolidated. The political vacillation displayed by the regional parties has further eroded their clout. The frequent change of sides by the TDP has substantially eroded the credibility of Naidu as a trusted ally in the national alliance.
Not that Naidu is unaware of all these factors. Yet, he chose to claim a critical role for TDP in national politics. It is not wishful thinking, but a clever strategy to woo the electorate that still feels the Centre's liberal assistance is essential for the truncated state to come out of the bifurcation-induced fiscal challenges.
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