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OPINION | The Politics Behind Chandrababu Naidu's Offensive Against PM Narendra Modi

Andhra Pradesh CM and TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu’s intention is to make PM Narendra Modi as unpopular as possible in the eyes of Andhra voters by projecting him as a ‘betrayer’.

Jinka Nagaraju |

Updated:May 2, 2018, 9:52 AM IST
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OPINION | The Politics Behind Chandrababu Naidu's Offensive Against PM Narendra Modi
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu holds a day-long hunger strike on his 68th birthday in Amaravati on April 20. (PTI)
The difference of vote share between the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the opposition YSR Congress is very thin. Though Naidu won the 2014 Assembly elections to form the government in residual Andhra Pradesh, post-Telangana, the margin was just 2.6 percent. And Naidu was in the company of Narendra Modi, then emerging star of Indian politics, and Pawan Kalyan, the popular movie star-turned-political leader.

People in the state believe it was the Modi-Kalyan duo that made all the difference. The 2.6 percent vote swing resulted in 35 seats in the Assembly, enough for Naidu to become the Chief Minister.

But things have gone awry in the recent past. Modi has become Naidu’s bitter enemy, and Pawan, who commands the largest fan army in Tollywood, is no longer with him. Deserted by allies and faced with corruption charges in Amaravati and Polavaram, Naidu, who often calls himself ‘nippu’ (pure like fire), is forced to confront the 2019 election all alone.

This political reality has unsettled Naidu. He says he couldn’t start the construction of capital Amaravati and complete the Polavaram project, as promised to the people, because a ‘friend’, an apparent reference to PM Modi, betrayed him and this friend is now joining hands with his political rival.

Naidu cries foul. He calls April 30, 2014, the day when BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi offered not only special category status to Andhra Pradesh, but also its extension to 10 years from five years, promised by the UPA government.

Addressing a mammoth public meeting on that day four years ago from Tarakarama stadium of Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati, Modi also said he would help Andhra Pradesh build a capital larger than national capital New Delhi. Modi made this not-so-easily realisable promise to placate the Andhra people who were seething with anger on bifurcation of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh against their will.

Now, Naidu has chosen the same day (April 30, 2018), same venue (Tarakarama stadium) and the same time (5 pm) to tell people how Modi “betrayed” them.

“On the day, before a huge public gathering, our leader will perform the act of ‘unmasking Modi’ by showing the video clips of his Tirupati electoral promise. Modi has forgotten promised ‘special category status’ and assistance to develop new capital bigger than New Delhi. This is the beginning of the campaign against “mitradrohi” (betrayer of friendship),” Kalva Srinivasulu, state Information and Public Relations minister, told News18.

Naidu is expected to give a clarion call to the TDP cadre to teach a lesson to the “betrayer of friendship” in the 2019 elections. “Give us 25 Lok Sabha seats, we will decide who should be the next Prime Minister,” Naidu told media on Friday.

Like the April 30, 2014 meeting, which turned the tide in favour of the TDP with Modi promising special category status, TDP leaders expect the April 30, 2018 meeting to create a ‘tsunami’ against Modi in the state.

Naidu is expected to unleash his campaign at the meeting. Party sources said Naidu is planning to embark on a padayatra on the same theme on the lines of the 208-day yatra he undertook in 2012.

“The party will organise a series of public meetings in every town in the state to tell the people how Prime Minister Modi backed out on his own promises. We will tell people how Modi is encouraging and inciting persons (YCP leaders) accused in corruption cases against the TDP,” said senior party leader Varla Ramaiah.

Chandrababu Naidu’s game plan appears to be transforming the whole 2019 election campaign to a Modi-centric one. His intention is to make Modi as unpopular as possible in the eyes of Andhra voters by projecting him as a ‘betrayer’.

A conspiracy theory has also been floated by the TDP. “Modi has allocated Rs 2500 crore to erect a statue in Gujarat. But, the PM has no money to build the capital Amravati. PM has no money to construct the Polavaram Project, the life line for Andhra Pradesh. PM has no will to implement the special package he announced for the state. Why? If AP, under the leadership of Chandrababu Naidu, gets all these benefits, the state would surpass Gujarat in every respect. So, Modi’s apathy towards Andhra is deliberate,” said minister Kalva Srinivasulu. This is the basic theme of the campaign, he added.

TDP boss Naidu believes Modi ditched the party as he sees an ally in YS Jaganmohan Reddy, accused in a dozen disproportionate assets cases investigated by CBI.

Naidu also told the TDP leaders that an “unholy alliance” is taking shape with Jagan, Pawan and Modi “joining hands” against him. The idea behind his anti-Modi rhetoric is to ensure that this alliance doesn’t work in 2019 elections.

This is a strategy to retain the 2.6 percent edge the TDP earned in 2014 elections in 2019 as well. “Modi’s popularity has taken a beating in the country. By making Modi unpopular in Andhra, Naidu thinks he could arrest the migration of voters from TDP to Jagan-BJP-Pawan (Janasena) alliance. Naidu knows very well that Jagan could not dare defend PM Modi against the TDP assault with regard to special category status. This is Jagan’s Achilles’ Heel,” said Makireddy Purushottam Reddy, a noted political analyst from Tirupati.

If Naidu manages to convince the Andhra people that PM Modi has “betrayed” the state and is waging a battle to defeat him, Naidu stands the chance of retaining the power and ruling the state for second time in a row.

(The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal)

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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