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Why a Naidu-Modi team up is a hopeless proposition

September 26, 2013 08:22 IST

Why a Naidu-Modi team up is a hopeless proposition

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Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu is running fast out of options and desperately needs props to avoid his party’s total political annihilation, but what options is he left with, asks Mohammed Siddique

“I strongly condemn Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi comparing the deaths in the 2002 Gujarat riots to puppies. Being a chief minister, he should not have talked in such a manner. He has no remorse for the gory incidents,” Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu had said in statement on July 14, 2013.

“Ours is a secular party and we cannot unite with communal forces. The Congress is drifting and the Bharatiya Janata Party is not going anywhere. There is no question of supporting Modi as a prime ministerial candidate,” Naidu had said in an interview in July 2012.

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Naidu publicly vowed never to join hands with the BJP again

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The fresh bout of speculations about Naidu drifting towards its old friend, the BJP, and his likelihood of supporting Modi for PM has not come as a surprise to the keen observers of Andhra Pradesh politics.

This is on two accounts: Naidu’s long record of flip-flops and of not sticking to any stand when faced by the demands of real-politick. He is unabashed believer in the adage ‘there are no permanent friends or foes in politics’.

Second: Completely overtaken by the events, Naidu is fast running out of options and badly needs some prop or the other to avoid his party’s political annihilation.

After enjoying the fruits of power and unmatched influence at the Centre -- first as the convenor of the hotchpotch United Front in 1996 and later in the company of the BJP in the National Democratic Alliance from 1998 to 2004 -- Naidu had no qualms in washing his hands off the saffron camp.

Naidu blamed the BJP for the debacle -- both in the state assembly and the Lok Sabha -- at the hands of the Congress in 2004.

Realising that the folly of the continuing outside support to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA, even after the BJP’s refusal to remove Modi after the pogrom in Gujarat, had cost him dearly in terms of support of secular and Muslim votes, Naidu publicly vowed never to join hands with the BJP again.

A resolution passed by the TDP politburo on April 11, 2002, when the Gujarat riots were still fresh, could be a good reminder of how Naidu and his party felt about Modi at the time:

“These developments (Gujarat riots) have tarnished India’s image of being a liberal, modern and secular society. The tragic events marked by sustained communal violence threaten to undo the secular fabric of our country. As the Prime Minister (Vajpayee) himself has rightly mentioned, the brutality against innocent victims is a national shame.  We are a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious country."

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Image: Former prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral (left), with a young Chandrababu Naidu,then the convenor of the United Front's Steering Committee
Photographs: Reuters
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Naidu is hopelessly buffeted by the Telangana issue

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"Bigotry of any kind can have dangerous consequences for us as a society. The TDP firmly believes that the interests of the nation are of overriding importance and all parties, organisations and individuals are only secondary,” it said.

“The nation cannot be held hostage to the partisan and short-sighted agendas of a few misguided organisations or people, immediate steps are therefore necessary to prevent our nation from descending into unmitigated chaos. The administration and leadership in Gujarat have failed miserably, in impartially and effectively discharging their responsibilities not only in quelling violence but also in providing relief and rehabilitation to the victims,” it had said.

Naidu maintained that in a secular country such as India, there was no place for mindset like Modi, until as recently as July 2013.

So it is worth asking that what has changed that Naidu is now willing to look at least at the possibility of joining hands with the NDA, if he has not made up his mind already. Kept out of power for almost a decade and facing an existential challenge, Naidu is understandably a much worried and harassed man.

The recent series of developments has only added to his woes. He is hopelessly buffeted by the Telangana issue on the one hand, and TSR Congress president Jaganmohan Reddy on the other.

He was gripped by a phobia that the Congress was trying to politically eliminate him from both Telangana and Seemandhra regions by ganging up with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi on one hand and with Jagan on the other.

The Congress Working Committee’s decision to accept the demand for Telangana state at a great risk of getting routed in coastal Andhra has left Naidu stunned. For all his lip service in support of Telangana and challenging the Congress to take a decision on the issue, Naidu never expected such a great gamble from the Congress.

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Image: A protest against the division of Andhra Pradesh in Hyderabad
Photographs: SnapsIndia

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Naidu dreams of becoming CM once again

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A day after the UPA decision, Naidu committed a blunder. He declared his support for the decision on Telangana and demanded building of a new capital for Andhra at a cost of Rs 5 lakh crore, hoping it will win him accolades from both sides.

He was taken in by the deceptive silence of the people of Seemandhra, which turned out to be the calm before the storm.

But as the sentiments in Andhra started to boil, Naidu beat a hasty retreat, took out his bus for another yatra and made noise that the Congress was pitting people against people, making brothers fight for votes and seats.

He demanded ‘justice for all regions’.

Neither the people of Seemandhra nor of Telangana are able to decipher where exactly Naidu and the TDP stand for on the issue of bifurcation. Naidu, on the other hand, wants the people of Telangana to believe that he supports them, and at the same time, expects the people of Andhra to believe that he is with them.

While the Congress’ central leadership seems to have reconciled to losing Seemandhra regions, hoping to save at least Telangana (possibly with the help of the TRS), Naidu is still day dreaming of winning both regions, and maybe once again becoming the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh!

He could have been smart and taken a clear stand of opposing the Telangana to cater to TDP’s core constituency -- coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. But here too he was outwitted by another challenger -- Jagan.

Telangana has turned into quicksand for him, thanks to his a-statement-a-day approach. From 2001 to 2009, he maintained that he did not support a separate Telangana state, and hoped that his bête noire the TRS and the issues raised by it will go away. When this resulted in an electoral debacle, he went to the other extreme, and said yes to Telangana and had an electoral understanding with the TRS.

The result was a great fall, from which he never recovered.

Jagan’s recent release on bail has only added fuel to his other fears.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Naidu's fear of Jagan is understandable

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Even as he was busy meeting his old friends on the left and the right in New Delhi, came the news that a Central Bureau of Investigation court has granted bail to the young YSR Congree leader. TDP leaders lost no time in going to town with the stories of a nexus between the Congress and Jagan behind the bail.

Much to Naidu’s glee, even the state BJP and the national level saw the same conspiracy. Naidu is convinced that after the 2014 elections, the YSR Congress will either merge with the Congress or extend their support to the UPA from outside.

Naidu’s fear of Jagan is understandable: The YSR Congress has emerged as a far stronger champion of the cause of united Andhra Pradesh.

Even earlier, Jagan was able to outwit the TDP in its own strongholds. Political pundits were foreseeing Jagan’s party sweeping the Seemandhra regions, winning the majority of 25 Lok Sabha seats and also coming to power in the future Andhra state.

This leaves only the BJP as the last possible resort for Naidu. With Modi aggressively scouting for new allies to realise his prime ministerial dreams and Naidu ready to clutch any straw coming his way, both are looking at each other hopefully.

But the million dollar question is, whether they could be of any use to each other?

The BJP too has taken a clear stand in favour of Telangana and even Modi during his maiden rally in Hyderabad in August said the same thing. This, in turn, has left the party friendless in Seemandhra regions.

Naidu, according to the grapevine, wants the BJP to take a U-turn and at least delay the formation of Telangana until the 2014 elections. Understandably, the state BJP leaders, mostly from Telangana region, see it as a political harakiri.

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Image: YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy after his release on bail in Hyderabad
Photographs: SnapsIndia

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Muslim voters will become even more wary of Naidu

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Without this basic change in BJP’s Telangana policy, a TDP-BJP tie up will only turn out an additional baggage on the head of a drowning man. The resentful masses of Seemandhra will find it another reason to reject the TDP.

The once-bittern-twice-shy Muslim voters will become even more wary of Naidu. The 6 per cent Muslim electorate of Seema-Andhra will find Jagan’s YSR Congress more attractive to an unreliable Naidu looking towards the BJP. It will be more so in Telangana where Muslims constitute 16 per cent of the electorate.

The BJP too, cannot hope to gain anything from this alliance. At least for now, now it has some hope of bagging a couple of Lok Sabha seats in Telangana, thanks to its clear support to separate state.

BJP’s national leadership has already taken a U-turn once. After promising Telangana state in 1998, it dropped it in exchange of TDP’s support to the Vajpayee government.

BJP leaders are apprehensive that if national leadership repeats the old mistake, it will have no face to show to the people of Telangana.

On the face of it, a Naidu-BJP tie-up does not look promising at all.

 


Image: A Muslim woman waits outside a polling booth to cast her vote
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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