Naidu’s National Dream

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo Nara Chandrababu Naidu wants to bite off more than he can chew. This was made amply clear in his inaugural address to the three-day annual conclave of the party on Wednesday at Gandipet in Hyderabad.

S.Madhusudhana Rao

S.Madhusudhana Rao

The holding of the session in the joint capital of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana itself is significant. Since the bifurcation of the Telugu state a year ago, and TDP’s triumph in the Assembly elections to the residuary state of Andhra-Rayalaseema, Naidu has never snipped off his umbilical cord link with Hyderabad. Nor has he been desisting from making constant attempts and efforts to widen his base in the ten districts of Telangana dominated by Naidu’s beta noire and counterpart K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) and his party Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).

Naidu’s audacious move to have the conference Mahanadu in Hyderabad came at a time when the TRS was planning a week-long grand celebration to mark the first anniversary of its assuming power in the newly-formed State of Telangana from June 2 to 7.

It would have been appropriate – and logical – had Mahanadu been held in Andhra Pradesh since TDP is the ruling party and its government and cadre have a huge burden on their shoulders to build a new capital city and infrastructure needed for socio-economic development of 13 districts. Moreover, people in the truncated state need solid assurances from the TDP government that it would lead Andhra Pradesh on the promised path of development. Sadly, it was more of rhetoric and claims than credible talk and implementation of future plans at Mahanadu.

It is believed that the venue of Mahanadu which was originally planned to be organized in the Guntur-Vijayawada new capital region has been moved to Hyderabad with an eye on the coming civic polls. And, more importantly, it’s touted to be a show of strength in response to TRS’s recent party conclave in the heart of the capital city Hyderabad.

From both points, it looks, Mahanadu is a success if one goes by the number of TDP cadres mobilized from both the Telugu States and the presence of delegates from neighbouring states and countries where Telugus are substantial in numbers. What all this boils down to is Naidu is trying to make the 30-year-old Telugu Desam Party, founded by charismatic silver screen idol NT Rama Rao in 1982 a pan-Indian political outfit. Keeping this in mind, the TDP conference has amended its constitution to transform the regional party into a national one and in due course, state-wide and national panels would be set up.

Many political observers consider Naidu’s ambition of going beyond the two Telugu states’ borders a political gamble and it is fraught with risks. To begin with, his two-eye theory – the two Telugu-speaking states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are like his two eyes and he needs to take care of them – is being questioned. (He harbours grandiose plans of his party ruling them in future). Even if one acknowledges his contribution to Hyderabad as an IT hub, arguably after Bangalore, and an international city, during his 10-year rule of undivided State from 1999 to 2009, his primary responsibility now as Chief Minister should be towards his elected people of the new state of Andhra Pradesh and the prime focus on making it a well-developed state.

But, unfortunately, Naidu seems to have bent upon regaining the power he has lost in Telangana. Politically, there is nothing wrong. Any astute political leader with considerable clout and administrative acumen will do that. But it will be done after consolidating the power base and taking into account regional differences and political peculiarities of Indian polity. In the case of Naidu, he is increasingly proving himself as a leader in a sprint to grab power.

With one leg in Hyderabad and another in Vijayawada, and his cabinet colleagues and officers hopping from the joint capital to ‘camp city’, Andhra Pradesh’s future capital – euphemistically called Naidu’s Singapore dream – Amaravathi is yet to take off the ground. The master plan’s blueprint is ready; a major portion of the land required to build the new capital has been pooled; however, the missing ingredient is money. How to secure thousands of crores of rupees to get the first phase off the ground is, well, not a million dollar question but turning a technical dream into reality.

TDP and its ally and the power at the Centre Bharatiya Janata Party have pitted their wits against each other in a game called outsmart. AP needs continuous flow of funds from the Centre to build its new capital. Trickles of a few hundred crores from Delhi will not see even the core capital city taking a concrete shape by 2019 when the next state elections are due. Clearly, Naidu’s priority is to ensure funds for the new capital without rubbing the BJP on the wrong side. It’s common knowledge that TDP is no threat to the saffron party at the national level. Nor does Telugu Desam make any dent in BJP strongholds in other states – at least in the near future. If that is the case, how and in what way Naidu would be benefited by giving his party a national makeover. In the long run, on the other hand, the new avatar can harm the party’s interests in Telugu states for two reasons.

One, TDP will lose its Telugu identity. NTR had founded the party to regain what he called Telugu pride. And, true to his oratorical skill, he swept to power with a commanding mandate and in the last three decades the party’s raison d’être — NTR’s legacy of ‘Telugu pride’ — has been continuing. Now, Naidu, by deciding to make the TDP a national party, has erased his father-in-law’s cherished objective and removed the Telugu party tag, which is dear to many.

Two, how many people in other states, particularly in the Hindi belt, will embrace a southern regional party which is yet to make an impressive impact on the newly formed Andhra Pradesh. Even in Telangana, which was part of undivided AP, Telugu Desam is struggling to keep its flock together. With a few top TDP heavyweights switching sides and being rewarded with ministerial positions for their shifting loyalties by Telangana Chief Minister KCR, Naidu’s two-eye theory is myopic.

Better Chandrababu Naidu steer his boat with all the skills of a good captain to the promised land of Golden Andhra than sailing on two boats to reach a distant land.

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