Chandrababu Naidu: Under political compulsions or chasing PM dream?

Published : Feb 18, 2019 12:08 pm | By: M D Sridharan

Known for his political ambitions Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and Chief of TDP, has manoeuvred several political battles i9n his four decade long career. His latest show at New Delhi, is seen as another attempt to garner limelight

Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and Chief of Telugu Desam Party (TDP), is known for his political ambitions and often considered as a “king Maker” in his four decade long career. 

It is going to be a year, since Naidu decided to pull out of the Narenedra Modi led NDA government at the Centre. Naidu who remained as the trusted ally of BJP since it stormed to office with a massive mandate initiated the first crack in the BJP-led coalition. Then Naidu announced that the TDP was forced to take the "painful decision in the interest of the state" because the centre has betrayed Andhra Pradesh, and was left with "no other option".

Though the fact remains that it was the Congress which divided Andhra Pradesh and the state suffered because of bifurcation. It is history that Naidu vehemently protested against the bifurcation. In the end Congress went ahead with the bifurcations which lead to the birth of Telangana.

When BJP came to power in 2014, it looked all was OK between TDP and BJP.  TDP was suitable rewarded by the NDA with two Cabinet berths at the Centre and back home   Andhra government had two BJP ministers. 

But after nearly four years of cordial relationship, Naidu began to demand “Special Status” for Andhra Pradesh. While the Centre was willing to extend all the support the state required, it maintained that all issues will have to be resolved within the framework of Centre-state relations. But Naidu, citing people’s sentiment accused the Centre of betraying the people of Andhra Pradesh and decided to pull out of NDA in March, 2018.

Ever since, TDP emerged on the horizons of undivided Andhra Pradesh, Congress had always been the No.1 enemy for the TDP. Naidu never minced words in attacking Congress when he was Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh from 1995 to 2004 and Leader of Opposition for another 10 years. He continued to stay in the good books of both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.  

Ironically, Naidu began his political career as a Youth Congress student leader from Chandragiri near Tirupathi.  He later joined TDP.  TDP was floated by actor-turned-politician N T Rama Rao in 1982 on the slogan of Telugu self-respect and created history of sorts by breaking the Congress’ monopoly in state politics. NTR stormed in to power within nine months of launching the party.  But when the history was made, Naidu was still in Congress and joined the TDP soon after the historic 1989 assembly election in which   the TDP and swept the polls.  From then on there is no looking back for Naidu.  

But the latest move to embrace his sworn enemy – Congress - has defied all conventional political wisdom and left people stunned. Besides, indeed it marked a dramatic shift for the TDP which was founded on anti-Congress plank.

Naidu was elected to Andhra Pradesh assembly from Chandragiri constituency on a Congress ticket, way back in 1978.  Young Naidu, then only 28, was made Technical Education and Cinematography Minister which also provided him the opportunity to meet the legendary NTR. In 1983 elections Naidu once again contested in the Congress ticket and was defeated. In the meanwhile, Naidu married Bhuvaneswari, NTR's third daughter and also switched loyalties to the TDP. Subsequently, he emerged as the party’s strategist. In 1995, barely a year after NTR returned to power with a landslide majority, Naidu led a coup against his father-in-law citing the growing interference of his second wife, Lakshmi Parvathi, in government and party affairs.

After the demise of the legendry NTR, it was Naidu who has reigned supreme.  Over the years Naidu has been considered a shrewd politician and master strategist, 68-year-old Naidu has made several surprising moves in the past. Naidu played a key role in national politics as the convenor of the United Front during 1996-1998 and remained in the limelight by later joining hands with the NDA and extending crucial outside support to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government between 1999 and 2004. 

In the aftermath of the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, Naidu returned to the NDA and vowed to teach the Congress a lesson for dividing the state. While the TDP, in alliance with the BJP, came to power in Andhra Pradesh and won 16 Lok Sabha seats, including one in Telangana, a huge majority for Narendra Modi deprived him of a king maker's role in Delhi. But the relationship began toss our when Modi began warming up to YSRCP led by YS Jaganmohan Reddy, Naidu saw a threat to himself. He pulled out of the NDA, accusing Modi of betraying the people of Andhra Pradesh by going back on the promise to accord it special category status.

With growing opposition from both K Chandrasekar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress, Naidu took the extreme step to walk out of NDA with an eye on the assembly polls.   Ever since, Naidu broke away from NDA, he has turned out be a bitter critic of BJP.  Until then, Congress had always remained as the enemy number one for Naidu.

True to the irony of politics, Naidu even fought the 2018 Telangana assembly elections along with Congress which was considered as a dramatic move in his political career. Though Naidu stitched a grand alliance with Congress, TDP faced an expected rout in the face of the TRS juggernaut.

But still, the drubbing TDP - Congress had in the recent Telangana assembly elections, has aggravated the wound.  Since then Naidu is more than ready to extend support to all anti-Modi activities to take on the ruling BJP in the 2019 general elections. In a final move, he embraced the Congress to cobble together an anti-BJP front for the 2019 elections.

It appears that staging the drama in New Delhi and garnering support from Anti-Modi factions is the "last straw" for the Naidu. Naidu attributed his latest move to "democratic compulsions".

Switching Loyalties

Can Chandrababu Naidu be trusted? Beneath the sobriquet he has earned as “King Maker”, there lies a track record that clearly stamps him as an opportunist.   First and foremost, Naidu after enjoying the power for the last four years by being with Modi led government has suddenly leading from the front to topple Modi. Naidu, who once acted as a trusted ally of NDA and even lavishly praised Modi’s demonetisation as a bold move. But, now says it has negatively affected the Indian economy and destroying markets, Now Naidu who was a strong proponent of Modi, is now vehemently opposing all the moves of Modi. Today, he has even accused Modi of causing damage to the important institutions.

Obviously, the dramatic shift in Chandrababu Naidu’s position has been due to his political compulsions back home in Andhra Pradesh. Having failed in his promises to build  a new Andhra Pradesh, and against the growing popularilty of K Chandrasekar Rao and Jagmohqn Reddy, Naidu is looking for ways and means to  to save his political stock in Andhra Pradesh.  By blaming the centre for his failures and parting ways with NDA, he planning to rebuild his image. Why this sudden change of heart? Why this sudden change of stand? Why this sudden realisation of the alleged damage that the BJP-led NDA government is? There are many questions that Chandrababu Naidu needs to answer. Now, Naidu, like a wounded trigger is looking for opportunities to attack the BJP and Modi. The     changing political dynamics have compelled Naidu to join hands with Rahul Gandhi. But still, the drubbing TDP - Congress had in the recent Telangana assembly elections, has aggravated the wound.

Since then Naidu is more than ready to extend support to all anti-Modi activities to take on the ruling BJP in the 2019 general elections. In a final move, he has embraced the Congress to cobble together an anti-BJP front for the 2019 elections.

But, Chandrababu Naidu is adept at changing sides for his political survival is a known fact. The TDP had extended support to the BJP-led NDA at the Centre from 1998 to 2004. In 2012, Chandrababu Naidu announced that it was a “mistake” on part of his party to extend support to the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre, and it will not be repeated in the future. But in 2014, he made U-turn and joined NDA and said that it is important to defeat the Congress at the national level. And now, he has once again returned to the Congress fold. 

He has forgotten the over three-decade-old rivalry between the two parties, he has forgotten the many charges of corruption he levelled against the top Congress leaders. Above all, he has conveniently pushed behind the ideology of NTR, the founder of TDP that TDP was founded to as an alternative to Congress hegemony. By aligning back with Congress Naidu has not only betrayed NTR but also the cadres of TDP. But, the latest move is blatant desperate bid to hide his political opportunism under the cover of democratic.

BJP President Amit Shah said, “Naidu Keeps Switching Loyalties, NDA Doors Forever Shut on Him”.  He also said that the TDP chief will once again try to join NDA but made it clear that he would not be accepted back in the NDA fold. The BJP also recalled that TDP was floated by NTR on the slogan of 'Telugu pride'. "Now after the drubbing in Telangana elections, he is trying to form Mahagathbandhan."

Delhi Dharna

Following Mamata Banerjee’s mega rally at Kolkatta, Naidu staged one day hunger strike at New Delhi. As expected  ‘Dharma Porata Deeksha’ attracted  a host of opposition leaders – AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal, TMC’s Derek O’Brien, NC”s Farooq Abdullah, NCP’s  Majeed Memon, DMK’s T Siva, SP’s Mulayam Singh Yadav, Congress’ Rahul Gandhi and  former prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Deva Gowda – who spoke on the dharna stage, supporting Naidu’s demand for a special category status for Andhra Pradesh.

Staging the hunger strike in New Delhi and garnering support from anti-Modi factions is the "last straw" for Naidu.  “We have been denied what is rightfully ours. If you don't get it done, we know how to get it done”, Naidu warned Modi and the Centre from the dharna stage.

Earlier Naidu following the footsteps of  Mamata Banerjee, Naidu also banned the CBI from entering Andhra Pradesh.  He withdrew the consent of CBI to probe in any case in jurisdiction of Andhra Pradesh and by doing so he stopped all the cases to be investigated by CBI.  Also, while Mamata held a hunger strike in the CBI versus West Bengal Police row, Naidu cleverly used ‘Dharma Porata Deeksha’ to slam the Centre and to press for his demand to accord special status for Andhra Pradesh. He made the dharna as an important part of his strategy to strengthen his allegations of the BJP's anti-Andhra policies. In the process he also successfully made it as a significant poll issue — and to defend his anti-BJP stance.


Though Naidu echoed the same anti-Centre and anti-Modi sentiment that Mamata had expressed during her Kolkata dharna, the TMC chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was conspicuous by her absence during Naidu’s Delhi dharna. It must be remembered that Naidu rushed to Kolkata to attend Mamta’s rally.

In the last couple of  years every rally or dharna turns out to be a show of Opposition unity with several top leaders. With general elections around the corner, such  rallies and dharnas have   become a rallying point for Opposition leaders to present a united front against Modi government. But the harsh fact is that every leader in the opposition ranks is eyeing the political vacuum at the leadership level. With series of rallies by the Opposition leaders it is clear that everyone is pushing their own agenda and trying to be to project themselves as "the architect of the federal front".

In the process of claiming “who took the lead against the Centre or the matter fact who took the lead against Modi”, these leaders with so called secular credentials have exposed their Prime ministerial ambitions.  Also, most of them, including the Congress President Rahul Gandhi, seem to have now realized that “BJP versus the rest” model is their best chance to dislodge the Modi-led NDA government at the Centre and pitch their might to realise their dreams. 

With the Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi still struggling to make a mark across the country, the regional parties sense an opportunity to play a major role in the formation of the next government at the Centre. Even the Congress leaders are now openly talking about a broad state-based alliance to defeat the NDA government in 2019. This obviously has galvanized the regional leaders, many of whom have come forward to play the leadership role.

On the other hand, while Congress President Rahul faces direct opposition from Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and Akilesh as a Prime Ministerial candidate, Naidu’s tactical move to sit for the hunger strike in New and not in Andhra Pradesh, raises doubts about his informal secret agreement with the Congress to act as a bridge between Congress, TMC, SP and BSP.

At the same time, the BJP juggernauts Modi and Shah are mindful that Naidu is an important pawn in the Opposition camp’s plan-B for a scenario in which voters give a split verdict in the Lok Sabha polls. With the Opposition leaders already making personal attacks on Modi, BJP returned a blistering counter attack. Moreover, back in Andhra Pradesh, BJP will go all guns to target Naidu and would like to capitalise and miserably expose his dipping popularity.

Modi lambasted Naidu directly by saying he is only interested in securing the future of his son Nara Likes. Modi said, “You promised that the sun of Andhra Pradesh will rise. But you (Naidu) have been busy ensuring the rise of your son”. He also accused Naidu of making a U-turn on promises of development by not using Central funds. Amit Shah too came down heavily on Naidu in an open letter to people of Andhra Pradesh, claiming the "delusional politics" is about to end.

The frontal attack by Modi and Shah on Naidu is a calculated strategy to demolish Naidu’s emergence as a possible consensus candidate for Prime Minister's post in a scenario in which Mayawati, Mamata, Telangana strongman K.C. Rao and, for that matter, NCP chief Sharad Pawar fail to arrive on a consensus to back Rahul Gandhi for the top post. Moreover, with Sharad Pawar deciding to contest the Lok Sabha elections, Naidu’s indirect and often repeated claims that he is senior even to Modi and positioning himself as a potential Prime Ministerial candidate, has also hit a road block. 

While the entire Opposition – Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, Sharad Pawar and  Naidu are striving hard to  match Modi’s appeal and deprive him of the second term, of course there is no  guarantee that the TDP chief will not change sides once again after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections?  After all, he has done it several times before and there is no reason why he may not do it again as Modi continues to enjoy the approval rating of above 70 per cent of voters and there is considerable gap between him and Opposition parties however they stand united to take on Modi.





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