By: SRIRAM KARRI
March 26, 2019: One of the biggest regrets N
had during his decade-long exile from power between 2004 and 2014 was his strategic mistake in calling for early Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, and further, convincing Prime Minister
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
to call for the General Elections ahead of time.
MISREADING PUBLIC MOOD
Naidu did this because he believed that there was a mass sympathy wave in his favour, after he survived an assassination attempt on him by Maoists on October 2, 2003, when a landmine missed his vehicle while he was on his way to Tirumala Hills.
Coupled with his belief in AP Shining under his own reign as chief minister for nine years, when he heralded a tech business boom from naught in Hyderabad, and build a buzz around transformation, and being a coalition partner with Vajpayee-led BJP-led NDA, made him sure he would be re-elected. He lost and was exiled for a decade, in which first his bete noire Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy rose to dominating heights, and post his death in a helicopter crash, former underling K Chandrasekhara Rao rose to success in dividing the State and winning over Telangana.
SURVIVED 2014: WITH MODI AND PAWAN KALYAN
Surviving a massive surge of support for his current rival, son of YSR, Dr Y S Jaganmohan Reddy (YSR) in 2014 thanks to an alliance with the BJP, which was on a nation-wide surge of popularity riding on a Narendra Modi wave, and support from Jana Sena Party of the popular film actor Pawan Kalyan, Naidu returned as chief minister of the residual AP, and was part of the NDA led by Modi, but only by the most slender of edges over the YSRCP’s young challenger.
QUITTING NDA, SLITTING OPPOSITION
After over three years of being in the NDA but not able to get the Special Category Status (SCS) for Andhra as promised in the State Reorganisation Act of 2014, Naidu sensing the mood of the people, being fanned with spectacular success by Jaganmohan Reddy into a near mass movement for SCS, quit the NDA. His two ministers in the Modi government resigned and he took to leading an anti-Modi agitation in the State, blaming him for the plight of the people.
As Jagan attacked Naidu for his failure to get SCS, Naidu blamed Modi. Meanwhile, Pawan Kalyan, who had in 2014 supported Naidu, too started his party and is contesting.
WRONG STRATEGY: APING RIVALS YSR & KCR
Naidu took to mirroring the strategy of his two of his rivals – YSR in 2009, and KCR in 2018 Assembly elections – to scrape through in 2019. Naidu’s TDP which fought all its the elections as an alliance – 1999 with BJP, 2009 with TRS, and 2014 with Modi and Kalyan, is contesting these elections alone – the last time he did it in 2004, he was vanquished.
Like YSR used the political entry of cine actor K Chiranjeevi (elder brother of Pawan Kalyan) into the fray in 2009 to split the anti-opposition vote to retain power, Naidu is hoping the three-way contest between TDP, YSRCP and Jana Sena will help him.
However, led by wrong strategic advice and misreading of the situation, Naidu got into a belief that the anti-Modi mood in AP will benefit him.
Secondly, Naidu took to copying KCR’s 2018 strategy of playing on Andhra pride, trying to make the imagined partnership of the trio Modi-KCR-Jagan as anti-Andhra. It was flawed because unlike Telangana, where people love KCR for getting a separate Telangana, people in Andhra are angry that Naidu could not get SCS. Unlike people of Telangana hating Naidu, who ruled them for two terms and stopped Telangana from fructifying, people of AP have nothing against KCR. Importantly, unlike Telangana people who don’t work or live in Andhra, millions of people from Andhra live and work in Telangana and have accepted KCR as their leader.
Most significantly, Andhra Pradesh needs hope more than pride. If they sense that Modi is likely to win, a feeling that strengthened after the retaliation for Pulwama, they would rather have Jagan as chief minister – so he can work out a deal with Modi, and ensure peace between the two states, now that KCR is back for another term in Telangana.
If you want jobs, if you want to create another marvel of an urban dream like Hyderabad, bring back Babu – campaigned TDP in 2014. Recovering from the loss of Hyderabad, its revenues and opportunity, having no capital or money for most of its plans – developmental or welfare – people choose Naidu over Jagan because of his past track record in transforming Hyderabad, creating jobs and working with a coalition prime minister like Vajpayee and getting lots of benefits for his state.
Naidu could not do for Andhra Pradesh in 2014-19 term what he had achieved during the 1999-2004 term. Modi was no Vajpayee; he had his own majority. Andhra without Hyderabad was no AP of 1999 with 42 MPs. Amaravati, the new capital Naidu started work upon, never really took off beyond the brochures and presentations.
The city never stood up to awe the people of Andhra, even the attempt to project a ‘Mahishmati’ of Bahubali fame by bringing in a movie-director into the capital design team became a butt of social media jokes.
Caste, corruption and crime were the biggest features of Naidu’s current term.
By arguing that Jagan his rival is with KCR and Modi, Naidu has given him the optics of a winner because KCR has already won and Modi looks most likely to win.
JOINING RAHUL – TELANGANA FAILURE
The worst failure of Naidu was political when he joined the Congress party, the arch rival since inception of the TDP, to defeat KCR in Telangana. By projecting himself as the crucial glue of an alliance that would bring down Modi under the leadership of
, Naidu staked his biggest gamble. He lost.
By not joining Congress in Andhra Pradesh, Naidu is, in essence, not a part of the alliance he wants the country to accept.
Come April 11, five crore people of Andhra will vote to end their angst that began on September 2, 2009, when YSR died. On May 23, they may have given Naidu his retirement order.