Chandrababu & his ‘special status’ drama

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(Brif (retd) GB Reddi)

The latest political posturing of Chandrababu Naidu, TDP President and Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, pulling out his two Ministers out of the NDA government, yet reserving and retaining the right to break alliance with the Modi led BJP to a later date over the demand of granting “Special Category Status (SCS)” to Andhra Pradesh is viewed by his admirers as “political sagacity” of the highest order. Others view it as a calculated risk. His critics drub it as blatantly opportunistic.

Granting “SCS” only to the State of Andhra Pradesh, let me highlight at the outset, is a virtual impossibility either for the Modi led BJP-NDA Front, or the Rahul Ghandy (RG) led Congress Party-UPA Front or the so called nebulous much touted “Third Front” for a long time past.

How BJP led NDA or any other holy or unholy coalition alliance sans ideological convergence can grant “SCS” to Andhra Pradesh without first fulfilling long pending demands of six states to include Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, as recommended by the Raghuram Rajan Committee?

What about Odisha? After all, Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, reiterated the demand for special category State status for Odisha at Niti Aayog meeting in New Delhi in April 2017, stating that several policy decisions of the Centre have largely offset the effect of benefits of increased devolution of central taxes.

Notwithstanding such a reality, yet political parties without exception including Chandrababu Naidu, Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSRCP and even RG have been making the demand of “SCS” even now as the “real issue” to regain voters support in the forthcoming elections of 2019 or if held earlier.

Political leaders without exception forget that “people may be fooled for some time evoking emotional issues; but not all the time for eternity.” The key issue is simple. People will never forget the “GREAT BETRAYAL” Act by both national political parties – traitors for the cause of keeping the state integrated. Their credibility continues to remain at an all time low.

Be that as it may, the latest move of Chandrababu Naidu needs to be viewed pragmatically based on his past political track record of vicious political guiles and games. His past political conduct spawns over 40 years. He joined the Congress Party and became an MLA in 1978 at the age of 28 and the youngest Minister. Following his defeat by a TDP candidate in 1983 elections, he deserted the Congress Party and jumped NTRs (father in Law) TDP bandwagon and got appointed as general secretary.

Admittedly, Chandrababu Naidu is a “wily politician par excellence” on the Indian political scene. He does not believe in ethics, morals and values. He represents the most deceitful in politics in today’s India, who thrives on blatant lies, false promises, half-truths, backstabbing, blackmailing, selective personal attacks and “aye Ram, Gaye Ram”. He always excelled in ruthless mercenary pursuit of somehow grabbing or clinging to power. Ends justify means. Self predominates. Already his son is waiting to be sworn in as the next President of the TDP with the brood of NTR sulking in the background including “Junior NTR, son of Harikrishna.”

For example, in August 1995, Chandrababu Naidu engineered an internal party coup against NTR. The revolt staged by his party MLAs rallying at  Viceroy Hotel in Hyderabad and the throwing of slippers at NTRs “Chaitanya Ratham” on the “Tank Bund” to grab power clearly reflect his political guiles. Now, he shamelessly goes around garlanding NTR’s photo/statues at every opportunity to claim NTRs legacy and shed crocodile tears.

Next in 1999, during Vajpayee period, Chandrababu Naidu aligned with the BJP as part of NDA.  In 2004, following the “Bomb Blast” in Tirupathi against his car, he forced NDA to call for elections six months earlier for exploiting the backlash, but it resulted in the defeat of BJP and the TDP.

What followed thereafter was politically most bizarre. He left the NDA alliance terming BJP as a rabid communal force to regain its Muslim vote bank; and also attempted ‘Mahakutami’ prior to 2009 elections.

On 28 May 2011,  Chandrababu was at his vocal best in pouring vitriolic against the BJP and even Narendra Modi, stating “It was a mistake aligning with the BJP. I am expressing my regret to anyone who was troubled by that (alliance). I am apologizing to the Muslims for making that mistake. There will not be any alliance with any communal forces in future.”

On 27 September 2012 at a minorities’ convention organized by the TDP, Naidu had stated “The alliance with the BJP (1999-2004) was the biggest mistake of my life”. He assured that such a situation “would never arise again.”

Again in 2013 Naidu called Narendra Modi as “Nara Hantakudu” – Human Killer.” He replied to media question that “We will not have an alliance with the BJP. Asked about Modi’s leadership he said, “Modi has done nothing new in Gujarat. He has only replicated what I did when I was chief minister”. He also attempted to forge the “Third Front” in alliance with Mulayam Singh Yadav and other so called secular parties against the BJP-led communal forces.

During the heydays of Telangana agitation, his critics in both regions accused him for providing an opportunity to the Congress Party to divide the state into two parts by not withdrawing his letter and also by not colluding with all other parties opposing bifurcation in the State Assembly to pass a “No Confidence Motion earlier and also passing a resolution against AP Reorganization Bill”. Of course, Chandrababu dramatic shifts in political posturing leave even his followers and sympathizers nonplussed.

Furthermore, Chandrababu Naidu’s has been placating Pawan Kalyan of Jana Sena to seek his support (Kapu community) for the TDP.

In 2014, the strong Modi sentiment resulted in Chandrababu Naidu aligning with the BJP for electoral benefit to win against the YSRCP led by Jaganmohan Reddy all over again. Certainly, the Modi and the BJP factor helped the TDP to sweep the polls.

With Modi charisma appearing to be losing its sway on the electorate or fading, Chandrababu Naidu, the wily politician, is back to what he is best at – blackmailing and backstabbing Modi led BIP over granting of “Special Status” to Andhra Pradesh.

In sum, very few in India can match Chandrababu Naidu’s wily political guile. After all, Chandrababu Naidu cannot feign ignorance that special status to Andhra Pradesh by whichever political party is in power at the Centre is impossibility without conceding to the demand of others. That was the principle reason why the Congress Party led UPA did not include “SCS” in the AP Reorganization Bill.

In retrospect, none should also rule out the possibility of the self styled ‘kingmaker’ at the national level nurturing dreams of becoming a ‘King’ to rule the nation even if for some time like Deva Gowda or Inder Gujral. Such is his “Machiavellian or Chanakya” manipulative political skills in ruthless pursuit of power devoid of ethics, morals and values.

And, the media falls for his political antics and builds a ‘halo’ around him as invincible.

What surprised many observers in the past and now is how the BJP leadership, knowing the wily political guiles of Chandrababu Naidu, forged an alliance to secure 4-6 MP seats in the two regions in 2014 elections, despite local leaders opposition in both regions.

Ipso facto, BJPs alliance with the TDP since 2014 was more as an unholy or an opportunistic alliance. Extracts of articles written during and after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014 are recalled to throw light on the murky political standoff between the BJP led NDA at the Central Government and the TDP government in Andhra Pradesh.

“Is BJPs alliance with the TDP in the two regions of erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh an unholy or opportunistic alliance? Will it turn out to be a “Win-Win” or “No-Win” situation? In the ultimate, is it going to become the “Achilles Heel” or “Dagger in the Back’ for NDA in posterity? Is BJP committing ‘hara-kiri’ of its own volition?”

“In sum, the BJP and TDP alliance is an unholy or opportunistic alliance and a “No-Win” situation in both the regions. Most vital, Modi and the BJP are going to confront the “Achilles Heel” or “Dagger in the Back or Cloak” situation with Chandrababu Naidu in their tow.”

Fortunately, the BJP does not need to yield to the “arm twisting tactics” of Chandrababu Naidu. Even if he withdraws support, which he may before the elections, the NDA led government can still remain in power on its own numbers. The BJP views the TDP threat of withdrawal from NDA as a purely political move, and the resignation of Ministers over the “SCS” as an alibi. Also, promises of “Financial Packages” after 4 years rule may be viewed as adding “Insult to injury”. Corruption is a non-issue. Neither Chandrababu Naidu nor Jaganmohan Reddy or the BJP can claim high moral ground. Anyway, such issues may not cut ice with deeply aggrieved people.

Furthermore, people are no fools. They understand that commitment made by Manmohan Singh, former Prime Minister, on the floor of the Parliament to grant “SCS” status after the passage of AP Reorganization Bill, was only to mollify their ruffled feelings; but nothing more substantial.

Be that as it may, the stakes are very high for the BJP in posterity. They lost an opportunity by not going alone during the 2014 elections. They should remain vigilant to face the embarrassment of Naidu abandoning the NDA in case of any chance for the ‘third alternative” emerging as a force to reckon with or if the BJP is humbled at the Karnataka polls in May 2018.

The BJP has the following options for the 2019 elections: go it alone; pre poll or post poll alliance with whichever party – TDP or YSRCP – emerges as the largest party.

It is an irrefutable fact that the YSRCP charge in 2019 led by Jaganmohan Reddy against the TDP is steamrolling and gathering momentum. Even Pawan Kalyan is aggressively making political foray’s based on demanding “SCS” for the State.  Anti incumbency may tilt the electoral scales against the TDP. TDP cannot hope to regain the confidence of minorities particularly the Muslims and the Christians. And Chandrababu Naidu faces a “Hobson’s Choice” by breaking away from the NDA alliance.

Next, RG, as usual, is back to what he is best at, that is, making false promises, voicing blatant lies, and half truths. During the pre 2014 election campaign, his promises included: a woman to become Chief Minister of Telangana; waive loans of up to Rs 2 lakhs for each farmer; Hyderabad as IT Capital of India; make Warangal the next IT hub after Hyderabad; tax holiday; create one lakhs jobs for the youth in the government sector and two lakhs in the private sector; and “I would like to wear a ‘Made in Telangana’ watch. I am not wearing a watch now Made in Telangana/Hyderabad”; and so on.

The moot question that RG even now needs to answer to the people is why “SCS” was not specified in the AP Reorganization Bill? Why the belated realization now?  The injury inflicted is too deep on the sensitivities, sentiments and emotions of people. So, they are bound to teach both national political parties a befitting lesson even in 2019 elections.

How true is “One week is too long a time” in Indian politics? None should, therefore, rule out the possibility of Chandrababu Naidu pulling out of the alliance in favor of exploiting political opportunities in greener pastures at an opportune time – after Budget session is over or after Karnataka election outcomes go against BJP.

Of course, aligning with K. Chandrashekar Rao, TRS Party (erstwhile TDP), and bête noire, to jointly spearhead the “Third Federal Front” as an alternative to BJP led NDA and Congress Party led UPA cannot be ruled out in posterity.

However, voters are no fools anymore or gullible. People are quite discerning at the rapid political realignments or the political drama or farce that is taking place around them with utter disregard to national or people’s interests. What people want are ‘jobs’ and the farmers want enhancement of “Minimum Support Price”, besides health care and high quality education.

In the ultimate, the last ball has not been bowled in the political game being played out. People will bowl the last over in the game of “ballot box” –a bouncer or googly, time alone will tell.

For the present, Chandrababu Naidu has made his first move to what may be termed as “Abandoning Sinking Ship of BJP led NDA”.  Should people in other states still repose faith and confidence in Modi and the BJP led NDA to steer the nation on an even ‘keel’, then Chandrababu Naidu’s so called “calculated risk or gamble” may end up as political disaster for him and the TDP.

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