New Delhi: TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu's political career completed a full circle on Thursday.
As he decided to join hands with Congress president Rahul Gandhi because of a "democratic compulsion", Naidu just turned around a regional force, which was birthed to defeat the Congress, to take on his erstwhile ally the BJP.
So fixated with the Congress, with which he just joined forces, that only four years ago Naidu used to chide his political rival YSR Congress as a "pilla Congress [child Congress]".
The TDP is the same party that, in the name of Andhra pride, emerged as the only regional force to defeat the Congress during its near complete sweep in the '84 general polls.
Naturally, some questions about the Congress-TDP rivalry were asked to Gandhi and Naidu as they announced their decision to fight together to defeat the BJP.
“All opposition forces are going to work together to defend India and its institutions. We are not going into the past. We are going to talk about the present and the future,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi said at a press conference.
However, anti-Congressism hasn't been the only feature of the TDP chief. Naidu has been at the forefront of several alliances with parties of all hues, including the Congress.
Let us look back at 1996 when after the general polls showed a fractured mandate, the BJP, under AB Vajpayee, was invited to form government. After failing to prove majority on the floor of the House, it fell 13 days later.
That is when Chandrababu Naidu, who had by then wrenched control of his party from the founder NT Rama Rao, worked to bring together a coalition of CPI, CPI (M), Janata Dal, SP, DMK, AFP, Tamil Maanila Congress, and his own party the TDP, with outside support from the Congress.
The coalition called United Front, which collapsed two years later, in 1998, had Naidu as its convenor. Deve Gowda and IK Gujral served as Prime Ministers while the UF was in power.
Soon after the UF coalition fell, fresh elections were called for and Naidu again showed his dexterity for picking up, and sailing on, the right winds. Under AB Vajpayee, the BJP again emerged as the single largest political force and this time with enough support from its allies - Samta Party, AIADMK and Shiv Sena.
This government would last just 13 months.
J Jayalalitha withdrew support after the famous tea party organised by Subramanian Swamy where she met Congress president Sonia Gandhi. In the re-elections, the BJP again emerged as the single largest party. Naidu switched sides again to lend outside support to Vajpayee.
From 1999 to 2004, the TDP was the second largest constituent of the NDA after the BJP. And Naidu was arguably the second most important man in the government after Prime Minister AB Vajpayee. After being defeated at the hands of Dr YS Rajashekhara Reddy-led Congress in the 2004 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, Naidu ended his alliance with the BJP calling it a communal party.
His one-time friend and a veteran Andhra Pradesh politician Dr MV Mysura Reddy had once said that if somebody were to bring out a book compiling all the allegations and remarks that Naidu made against the BJP it would “be bigger than” any “encyclopedia”.
Then in 2014, exactly 10 years after dumping the BJP, the TDP again lent support to NDA and emerged, once again, as an important ally in a victorious coalition. It is rumoured that Naidu lobbied hard to be appointed NDA convenor. The post remained empty.
It was in 2018 when Naidu for the first time, compelled by regional politics and the demand for a special status for Andhra Pradesh, decided to part ways with the BJP, calling for formation of a federal ‘non-BJP, non-Congress’ front. He later upped the ante by invoking a, largely symbolic, no-confidence motion against the NDA. And once against levelled allegations of communalism against the BJP under Narendra Modi. “How will the country progress, if you (government) target Muslims?” is how he attacked Modi while addressing a press conference in the capital in September. It was in this press conference that Naidu said, in context of the 2019 general elections, that he would “play a role in national politics”.
Going by his track record, Naidu has been successful in placing two coalitions in power. Having thrown his hat in the ring, Naidu is now looking at completing his maiden hat-trick.