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Naidu banks on freebies, bullet train, and star power

April 01, 2014 12:25 IST

N Chandrababu Naidu and his Telugu Desam party face a dilemma of how to woo both sides of the Andhra Pradesh divide, reports’s Vicky Nanjappa

In the 2004 elections, N Chandrababu Naidu promised free television sets if elected; this year he is promising free mobile phones to women.

The Telugu Desam Party’s recently released election manifesto makes three big promises. Apart from cell phones to women, the party promises a bullet train service in Seemandhra and vows to bring back Rs 75 lakh crore of black money stashed away in Swiss banks and use it for development.

Though the TDP manifesto focuses mostly on developing Seemandhra, it also promises a candidate from the backward class as chief minister of Telangana, which is due to be formed on June 2.

The TDP manifesto also promises to distribute solar agricultural pump sets at 75 per cent subsidy, waive farmers’ loans and give them nine hours of free power.

Analysts point out that Naidu is well aware of the importance of finding the right ally. There is talk of a truck with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which will have actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi's younger brother Pawan Kalyan campaigning for it.

In Seemandhra, analysts point out, Naidu needs to push very aggressively the bifurcation sentiment and speak about sweeping changes for the region. In Telangana, he needs to appear very neutral and would rather allow the BJP to play the lead role.

Naidu has managed to rope in Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, a five-time member of Parliament and very powerful Congress leader. Rao joined the TDP along with his brother Srinivas, son Mohan Saikrishna and several of his followers.

This has caused some heartburn for TDP MP Modugula Venugpopal Reddy -- he of the ‘knife’ fame -- whose Narasaraopet constituency is under threat because Naidu is contemplating accommodating Rao from this seat.

Naidu has also reached out to Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan to campaign for the TDP -- not to do road shows, but for help him in social media (read a tweet here and a status update there).

Though there is no word yet from the Big B, some in the TDP are already claiming he will help them 'secretly' (whatever that means!).

And in the battle for star power, Naidu knows very well how important Pawan Kalyan is and the kind of stardom he enjoys in Andhra Pradesh.

But for the star to lend his muscle, Naidu will have to enter into an alliance with the BJP.

Image: TDP President N Chandrababu Naidu addresses the media in Hyderabad

Vicky Nanjappa