As he completes three years in office, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu is only finding the going tougher in his pursuit of building a dream capital, a prosperous State and in tackling political problems.

In Andhra Pradesh 2.0, Naidu has found a ‘friendly’, BJP-led, Central government. And yet, he has seen a diminishing influence in his ability to get projects, funds and like wherewithal from the Centre to fulfil his pre-poll promises.

The net result is that Naidu is increasingly cornered into accepting compromises, be it on the Special Category Status, funding for Polavaram, or funds for building the Capital, Amaravati.

At the political level, he is facing the heat from Opposition YSR Congress Party, which is led by YS Jaganmohan Reddy. On the other hand, ally BJP’s ambitions to expand in the State, evidenced by party chief Amit Shah’s recent tour of the State, is causing considerable consternation.

A different story

In contrast, as Chief Minister of the erstwhile, united Andhra Pradesh (1995-2004), Naidu was the ‘king of all he surveyed’. He was the ‘kingmaker’ during the turbulent United Front days (1996-98) and was a key partner and adviser to the BJP-led NDA-1 under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

During that decade, he not just directed the way political discourse ran, but also used his reach and pull to draw projects, funding, institutions and investments (especially biggies like Microsoft and other big IT companies) to Hyderabad. The failure of the campaign ‘India Shining, AP Shining’, which he ran with Vajpayee, led to a political low for a decade.

Naidu clawed his way back to power in 2014, braving the turbulent separate Telangana movement, after having fought “tooth and nail” against bifurcation. In the new Andhra Pradesh, his Telugu Desam Party swept to power with a comfortable majority, after many anxious movements and surveys showing anything but a close finish with YSR Congress.

Dreams, promises, politics

Chandrababu lost no time in unveiling his Himalayan-sized plans for the State, who felt completely deceived by the Congress led by Sonia Gandhi and then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. An ultra-modern Capital, Amaravathi; futuristic infrastructure and technology; and a place among the countries top 3 economies by 2022 were among his promises, albeit requiring a few lakh crores in investment.

Though, a seasoned politician, Naidu seems to have been outwitted by the Modi-led NDA government as he works tirelessly to turn these promises into real. The SCS promise seems to be all but ‘done and dusted’. He is being silently coerced into accepting a ‘Special Package’ running into a couple of lakh crores by Union Ministers M Venkaiah Naidu, who is a ‘frequent flyer’ to his home State and Arun Jaitley.

The SCS demand is being raised by a sizeable section of the State’s people, and parties such as the Congress — which is trying desperately to resurrect after being wiped out in 2014, the main Opposition YSR Congress — who will seize any opportunity to castigate Naidu, and even maverick Jana Sena leader Pawan Kalyan. Whatever, the size of the package, periodically the issue rears its head up and people become restive.

Political strategy

As the road to 2019 begins to shorten, Naidu has adopted an aggressive strategy to decimate the opposition. Jagan relentless argues “Naidu is presiding over a corrupt government, is vengeful against the Opposition and is encouraging defections”. In the bargain, the YSR Congress, which began with 67 MLAs now stands reduced to 46.

The playground for the political drama is mostly the backward Rayalaseema region. Both Naidu and Jagan, son of former Andhra Pradesh CM, YS Rajasekhara Reddy, both hail from the region and know the dynamics well. Jagan stands on a weak wicket, accused as he is in a barrage of corruption charges.

The TDP has been trying to exploit the fluid political situation in Rayalseema. First, it was bolstered by the entry of top Congress leaders into its fold pre-election. Thereafter, it has engineered defections of leaders, including Bhuma Nagi Reddy and family in Kurnool. Though, the sudden death of Nagi Reddy in March has again pushed the district politics into confusion. As factions assert for supremacy, symptoms of faction wars are surfacing , with a couple of murders as pointers.

Meanwhile, Naidu has inducted his son, Nara Lokesh, into the Cabinet, entrusting the IT and Panchayati Raj departments. Opposition is crying hoarse that the CM is into family rule and planning his succession, while criticising the Congress’ dynastic politics. Even, the Congress

Going by the early trends, Naidu will have to ‘walk the tightrope’ holding onto the relationship with the BJP and quelling the criticism and growth of the YSR Congress.

Naidu does not lack the skills to attract big corporates, both domestic and global, not is is found wanting in pulling long hours, but the proof of the pudding will be the eating. The people of AP are a restless lot.