Opinion

Importance of being Naidu in 2019

Kingshuk Nag | Updated on November 01, 2018 Published on November 01, 2018

Bitter foes Political battlefield   -  By Arrangement

Chandrababu Naidu is positioning himself as leader of a united opposition. But Jagan Mohan Reddy is a serious State-level rival

With a knife attack on YSR Congress leader Jaganmohan Reddy at Vizag airport on October 25, the political temperature in Andhra Pradesh has suddenly soared. Even as charges and counter charges are being traded it is clear that 2019 will be a do or die battle for both Chandrababu Naidu and Jagan.

Naidu whose TDP was an important part of the NDA since 1999 suddenly withdrew from the formation in March 2018 claiming step motherly treatment towards the new Andhra Pradesh, is now believed to be a Prime Ministerial candidate.

Though this is not being projected right now (due to multiple claims for the position), it is believed that a strong lobby of industrialists not quite happy with Modi think that Naidu would be the right candidate to counter the former especially with his pro-business and pro-development image.

The thinking is that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi if elected to power will pass over the position of Prime Minister to an ally; this is also seen as strengthening the case of Naidu. With the Congress now reduced to cipher in Andhra Pradesh, the traditional rivalry between the grand old party and TDP has given way to a new understanding.

Chandrababu is now actively trying to get the consent of southern leaders to form a federal southern front as a first step in his Prime Ministerial dreams.

Whatever be Naidu’s Prime Ministerial claims, the BJP is mighty miffed with him. The long association with BJP and TDP in the State has meant that the saffron party has not built up a strong base in the State.

BJP sidelined

The BJP belief is that Naidu manipulated politics and prevented the saffron party from establishing a strong base in Andhra Pradesh. Now on the way to the 2019 election left high and dry, the BJP has no other option but to depend on Jagan’s YSR Congress.

This is an alliance that the BJP would not ideally want to enter considering that Jagan has corruption cases which are now in the court. Moreover his support base includes a large proportion of Christians and Muslims, not traditionally the support base of the saffron party. But Naidu has his own sob story: the integrated State of Andhra Pradesh was unfairly divided in the wake of the 2014 elections leaving the State without a capital and resources. Naidu had appealed to Modi just before the elections but got no support to stall the division.

After Modi became Prime Minister, Andhra Pradesh was not conferred a special status or given enough funds to build a new capital at Amaravati that would compensate for the loss of Hyderabad (that was ironically modernised by Naidu).

After the bifurcation, Naidu had been promising a great deal for its citizens including a spanking new capital to compensate the loss of Hyderabad. Chandrababu’s election cry (though not articulated so clearly) is to secure a new deal for Andhra Pradesh and build a modern front line State. Although for some months after he withdrew from the central government the denizens fell for the Naidu story, with the passage of time this line now has fewer adherents.

Amaravati saga

For one, every story has a life cycle. Then Naidu’s raj is seen as blatantly favouring his Kamma caste members. The fertile land in Amaravati, on the banks of the river Krishna belong mostly to well to do Kammas, most of whom have migrated elsewhere including to the US. They have no problems in giving up their land if richly compensated. So Naidu, setting aside the issue of fertile land being lost, has diverted it for building the capital.

Interestingly before the 2014 elections, Jagan had also conjured plans for a grand capital but that was proposed south east of the new Amaravati and on barren sandy land.

But what is hurting Naidu is Jagan’s Praja Sankalpa Yatra, a padayatra that the young leader is carrying on for the last 200 days across the State (there is a break every Friday as Jagan rushes to Hyderabad to attend courts). The padayatra has energised YSR Congress’ cadres and galvanised his supporters most of whom are from the forward Reddy caste and the marginalised Dalits and minorities.

Analysts aver that Jagan and Naidu are now equal in their popularity stakes, which is leading to bitter acrimony between the cadres of the two parties. This was seen in the aftermath of the attack of Jagan at Vizag airport which led to a demand for Naidu’s resignation.

There is however a joker in the pack. This is tinsel hero Pawan Kalyan, younger brother of mega star Chiranjeevi.

The latter’s Praja Rajyam Party was a major player in the 2009 election but even as Chiranjeevi has retreated, Kalyan is holding sway on the votes of Kapus, an upwardly mobile intermediate caste. Political analysts believe that Kalyan would make all the difference but there is no clue now which way the maverick film star turned politico will turn. All three, Naidu, Jagan and BJP are trying to woo him.

The writer is an author and senior journalist

Published on November 01, 2018
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