TDP’s exit from the NDA seems to have the backing of the people, who blame Modi and the BJP for betrayal. But they’re keeping a close eye on Naidu as well. Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu’s exit from the National Democratic Alliance has given him the perfect emotional pitch to make to the people of Andhra Pradesh. And he has capitalised on that by saying there is a need to reclaim one’s self-respect (aatmagauravam), which Narendra Modi’s government tried to trounce.

Even the opposition YSR Congress is supporting Naidu’s move, as is film star Pawan Kalyan and his Jana Sena.

A fact-finding team organised by Kalyan found that Andhra Pradesh will have a revenue deficit for the next five years at least. It is the only state not to have special category status which will have a revenue deficit every year between 2015 and 2020. Almost 95 per cent of its assets have gone to Telangana in the bifurcation, since they are all in Hyderabad.

“As such there is every justification to honour the solemn assurance made earlier to treat Andhra Pradesh as a Special category status state,” the report by his team said.

ThePrint visited the region around the planned new capital of the state, Amaravati, and one of its biggest urban centres, Vijayawada, to get a sense of how people viewed Naidu’s move. And they seemed pleased about it, saying it was the right thing to do, and that the chief minister should be commended for trying to hold the Centre to its word.

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‘Betrayed by Modi’
Ramulu, 93, has been a fan of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee – the moment he speaks of him, his eyes well up. He was one of the members of the Mandadam panchayat in Guntur district, now in the notified area for Amaravati, to have met Naidu and told him that his decision to back the BJP would yield results for the state. But today, he is heartbroken.

Naidu had appealed to farmers to give up 33,500 acres of fertile land to build the dream capital city of Amaravati. He promised them apartments and plots, and a state so advanced that others would follow its lead. They believed him, given how he transformed Hyderabad in the 1990s. But all that has come crashing now – at least that’s how Naidu is making it look.

“Modi has betrayed us,” says Ramulu. “Thanks to him, the farmers here are left with nothing. He made us trust him and then broke his promise. He did not even give the funds in the Budget. He has killed all of us.”

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Gangadhar, a businessman based near Naidu’s temporary secretariat in Velagapudi, supports the YSR Congress. But today, his sympathies lie with Naidu, because he has been “cheated” by the Centre. Gangadhar believes Naidu has been able to provide infrastructure with the limited funds he has received, but has failed to provide adequate employment and strengthen the education system.

“The roads are good but when it comes to education, there isn’t so much development. Everything cannot happen at once, we have to be patient,” Gangadhar says.

“Graduates have not got opportunities because there are few companies who have come in to invest. Labourers have got employment due to the infrastructure work; even then, only 25 per cent of the labour force is employed. The rest have no jobs.”

Alur Shivashankar, who has worked for the TDP on the ground, backs his leader’s decision to the hilt.

“The Centre has left us in the lurch. Isn’t it supposed to give Andhra its due? How will the people and farmers here survive? Now, Chandrababu is working night and day and toiling hard. He has given us good land. But how can he do anything unless the higher authorities give him the money?” he asks.

Not all are convinced
However, not everyone is ready to absolve Naidu of the blame.

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A few kilometres from the stunning rock-cut Undavalli Caves lies the village of Penumaka, where anger is palpable. This is the fertile basin of the river Krishna, and people are fuming at having to give up their land to build a capital which, they mockingly say, has been designed by the person who did the sets for the blockbuster film Bahubali.

“Is this a joke?” asks Srinivasa Rao, who gave up 35 acres of land to the government. He has been struggling with drought and failed crops, and is filled to the brim with rage against not just the Centre, but Naidu too. “What will happen to my family now? Will Naidu save us? Will he come home and give us food?”

There are others, such as Venkamma, who say that Naidu did not have the courage to tell the Centre off as soon as things started going wrong – that he only did it when he realised he would be blamed for not delivering on his promises.

Naidu’s emotional pitch about betrayal and self-respect ties in nicely with the fact that elections to the Lok Sabha and the Andhra Pradesh assembly are to be held in 2019. So the outcome of Naidu’s high-risk gamble will be known in just about a year. #KhabarLive