Building prosperous new Andhra
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu is in some ways a prototype for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Babu talked of development, Information technology, e-governance, and foreign investment and CEO model of administration in the nineties and also made Hyderabad a brand name for his achievements. He is no less a showman than Modi seen by his glittering oath taking ceremony near Vijayawada on Sunday. Where he failed and lost elections in 2004 was that he did not take care of the rest of Andhra Pradesh, more importantly of farmers and rural areas. Perhaps to correct this mage he began his new avatar as the first chief minister of the
truncated Andhra Pradesh by signing the first file waiving off farmer’s loans amounting to a whopping Rs 56,000 crores.
Babu has come a long way from a backroom boy of his father in law and Telugu Desam founder
N T Rama Rao. Although he started as a Congress MLA and minister in Anjaiah’s cabinet in the late seventies, he became a force to reckon with in NTR’s regime. In August 1995, Naidu staged a coup against NTR in a bid to pre-empt NTR’s second wife, Laxmi Parvathi from wresting control of the party. He ruled as the chief minister from 1995 to 2004. He unleashed a series of reforms and reduced food subsidies and raised power tariff. Naidu saw the advantages of becoming a pioneer in the Information Technology and was successful in attracting the IT majors like IBM, Oracle and Microsoft to invest in Hyderabad. He built a high tech city with all modern amenities and a world- class international airport in Hyderabad. He rubbed shoulders with people like Bill Gates and the World Bank president.
Babu got exposed to Delhi politics when Telugu Desam supported non-Congress governments including the National Front government, United Front governments and the NDA government. In 1996, when the United Front government was sworn in at the Centre, he became the coalition’s convener, and played a key role in negotiations with the alliance partners. After being in wilderness for a decade Naidu took a risk of combining with the BJP during the 2014 elections and came out with a landslide victory. Had Y S Rajashekhar Reddy, who died in a helicopter crash in 2009 September, remained as chief minister, he would have weakened the opposition parties in the state including Telugu Desam and TRS and would not have allowed the bifurcation of the state. It is the wrong calculations of the Congress party with its lack of vision, which has enabled Chandrababu as well as the new Telengana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao to come to power.
Babu has cleverly retained the identity of Andhra Pradesh for the new state, which is known all over the world. No doubt he has come to power heading a stable government but his challenges are stupendous, as he has to begin from the scratch including building a new capital for the state and function from Hyderabad for at least two years as it is declared as a common capital. TDP as an ally of the BJP in the Modi government has its own advantages and nobody knows this better than Naidu. He is a past master in extracting funds from the centre going by his track record. When Vajpayee patched together the NDA government in October 1999, many believe Naidu stayed out of the government because he wanted to bargain on economic matters for the benefit of Andhra Pradesh. He managed to get rice, money and investment benefits, as fallout of every crisis Vajpayee faced be it the Godhra carnage or the Tehelka expose. TDP leaders privately call him the most successful political bargainer in the country.
But now Babu does not have the same status in Delhi as he has to contend with Modi who is one notch above him in all the things he had excelled earlier. Babu is heading a truncated state, which needs the central help in every respect to find its feet. Moreover, the BJP has a majority of its own and does not depend on the 14 seats of Telugu Desam for its survival. The first challenge is to get adequate finance and a special package for the state. Since Telengana, Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal too demand a special status, how far Babu can succeed is to be seen. The second is to build the new capital and shift out of Hyderabad as soon as possible. This is not an easy task but Babu, with his showmanship will try to build an ultra modern capital as a showpiece for the country.
The third is to ensure overall development for the state. He had committed the mistake of concentrating only on Hyderabad earlier, which was a big mistake. While Andhra Pradesh has many advantages like developed cities like Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada and ports, cash crops, a long coastal line and other natural resources, the other areas, particularly in Rayalaseema are less developed. If he wants to avoid a demand for a separate Rayalaseema, he must make sure that there is overall development.
The fourth is to find funds for implementation of his poll promises. He had recklessly promised many populist things and now trying to raise funds from the public. The fifth is to attract investment. There is a possibility of flight of capital from Hyderabad to Andhra Pradesh as most of those who have invested in Hyderabad are from Andhra. Naidu has already begun wooing the foreign investors promising them all the facilities and a single window clearance.
Above all Naidu must make use of the opportunities for the new state and try to build a modern state. Only time will tell how far he can succeed now. IPA