The die seems to have been cast. AP Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is now busy exploring the possibilities of cobbling up a coalition against the NDA at the national level.
The last straw in making Naidu cross the Rubicon was the simultaneous raids by the Income Tax Department officials on the residences of TDP leaders and sympathisers. Naidu believes that they were taking place at the behest of the political leadership in Delhi. He suspects that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Telangana counterpart K Chandrashekar Rao are baying for his blood and hence the raids.
With Chandrashekar Rao’s efforts for the much-hyped federal front having ground to a halt because of the difficult nature of its formation as it has to be without both the national parties – the Congress and the BJP.
This apart, another reason for the federal front initiative running aground is that lately Chandrashekar Rao is understood to be working in cohorts with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, though the public posturing by the two parties they represent is that they are rivals. In such a case, he cannot continue his efforts to promote the alliance against Modi.
Like Chandrashekar Rao, Naidu also faces a similar problem in AP. Just as Rao cannot endeavour for the formation of a national alternative to the NDA since he has moved closer to Narendra Modi, Chandrababu Naidu too faces the risk of the political backlash from the people of his State if he aligns with the Congress.
Naidu has to have a convincing argument to place before the people on why he had to join hands with the grand old party despite the fact that his father-in-law and founder of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) late N T Rama Rao laid the party’s foundations on the precept of anti-Congressism.
As there is no Congress in Andhra Pradesh, Naidu does not have any problem in rubbing shoulders with the Congress leaders in Telangana. He does not have to spare a huge number of seats because the party had fallen from the grace in 2014 after bifurcation of the erstwhile undivided Andhra Pradesh. But he has a problem in convincing the people. Ever since Naidu wanted to join forces with the Congress, he had no explanation to offer to the people except that the new modus vivendi would help him in improving the efforts in dislodging NDA from the Centre.
Naidu, after stepping out of NDA early this year, made a serious attempt in brainwashing the people that the BJP is the villain of the piece in Andhra Pradesh. He made a serious attempt to turn the thoughts of the people to hate the Centre for not helping the State over the stile when it needed support from BJP the most.
The State is still in its throes of rising up on its feet with gaping revenue gap in its budget and the funds from the Centre trickling down to the State in fits and starts. Naidu has blamed the Centre for the teething problems the economy is facing and how the Centre had betrayed the people’s trust during the last four-and-a-half years.
Now he has found yet another reason for his latest bout of hugs and high-fives with the Congress leaders. With Chandrashekar Rao targeting Chandrababu Naidu every day in his campaign for the elections to the Telangana Assembly, Naidu has recently spelt the beans that after he came out of NDA and when Rao was still not under the influence of the BJP, he had waved an olive branch to him that if they joined hands together neither the Congress nor the BJP would beat them.
But Rao, who is from the same political school that Naidu went, wanted a categorical assurance that he would not try to flog the TDP, which is a dead horse now in Telangana, to life. Naidu said could not because ever since the division of the State and decimation of his party in Telangana, he has been feeling that a part of his body has been dismembered and thrown away.
For long, though he never expressed openly, he nursed the ambition of retrieving the lost ground in Telangana one way or the other. He still believes that the GHMC and Khammam and parts of Nalgonda held hope for the party to send out green shoots. He knows that he cannot face Chandrashekar Rao in an electoral battle but alongside him, he could still breathe some life into the TDP which Chandrashekar Rao does not want.
This is because Rao remembers the Camel and Arab Merchant story and therefore he would not allow Naidu to place his foot in Telangana. Chandrashekar Rao remained cold to the offer of Naidu in fighting the elections together and when Naidu began moving closer to the Congress, he told him he did not like it.
In other words, Rao does not want Naidu in Telangana either with him or with the Congress since, either way, Naidu might pose a threat to him. He wants Naidu to confine himself to AP just as the way he had confined himself to Telangana which was not to the liking of Naidu.
Now, that Naidu and the Congress will be fighting the battle in Telangana together, Chandrashekar Rao has brought back the zeitgeist of Telangana movement days. He is bashing the Congress for aligning with Naidu, who he considers traitor of Telangana.
He is trying to kill two birds – the Congress and the TDP – with one shot and to some extent he seems to the have met with a measure of success as there is an electrifying response to him whenever he takes Naidu to the cleaners in his public meetings.
Though the kind of abusive language that Chandrashekar Rao is using has come as a surprise to many but given the anti-Naidu virus working in the blood of the people of Telangana, such outbursts are music to their ears.
Though it remains to be seen how Naidu’s collaboration with the Congress in Telangana will go down with the people in Andhra, the AP Chief Minister is trying to tug at their heartstrings that at first, he wanted to be friends with Chandrashekar Rao and only when he turned down his offer for armistice did he move towards the Congress as it is a national party and without whose help, it might become difficult for a non-BJP formation to emerge as a challenger to Modi’s suzerainty at the Centre.
If Naidu’s explanation satisfies the people, then he could plan to take the anti-BJP movement to the next level, mobilising all the regional parties across the country against the saffron rule. He has already begun the work of identifying the issues that would polarise the people against Modi across the country like exploiting to the maximum extent the Rafale deal with which the Congress is pummelling Naidu, resurrecting Sarkaria Commission report on Centre-State relations which recommended decentralisation of power, agrarian distress, a ubiquitous problem across the country, having the power of bringing down any government, however mighty it might be.
Naidu is known for his persuasive and organisational skills and has full control over his emotions, unlike Chandrashekar Rao. He could switch off and switch on his charm whenever he wants. The national parties ranged against the BJP at nation level see reason in Naidu’s line of argument, he might soon be going places. #KhabarLive