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What a timing babu Naidu!

Telugu Desam Party supremo Chandrababu Naidu is desperate to become relevant both at the national level as well as in Andhra Pradesh – going by his recent moves. Remembering his golden period in the late nineties, Naidu is determined to become at least a king maker if not king after the 2014 polls. The man, who could be called a prototype to Modi, is feeling isolated. In a way they are two sides of the same coin with the difference that Modi has a national party to back him. It was Babu who first showed the country a laptop and teleconference administration in the late nineties. It was he who perfected the art of self-projection in the media and spent crores for this purpose. It was Naidu who got funds from abroad to transform Hyderabad to make it what it is today. It was Naidu, who was a backroom boy in the National Front days later became the convener of the United Front in 1996-1998. He was an important supporter of the NDA from 1999 to 2004. In short, Telugu Desam, headed by a man considered at one time to be the most tech-savvy politician around, was no match for other parties when it comes to mounting a publicity and media relations blitz. It must be said, from the perspective of Andhra Pradesh, he gave a good administration and used his relationship with the central government to get developmental activities moving.

However, all these did not help him to win elections both in 2004 and 2009. His political moves failed him these past ten years. An act of desperation forced him in 2009 to get into an alliance with the TRS and Left parties in the Telangana region. But the shrewd chief minister Rajashekhara Reddy used film star Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party to split opposition votes while inciting anti-bifurcation sentiment in the ‘Seemandhra’ region to help the Congress come back to power in 2009 with an overwhelming majority. With the untimely and unfortunate death of Rajashekhara Reddy in 2009, Babu thought that his party could raise its head again. But the rise of YSR’s son Jagan Mohan Reddy in politics has dampened this hope. Now that Jagan Reddy is out on bail, Naidu will have more cause to worry as one side the Congress has some understanding with Jagan for a post-poll arrangement, while in the Telangana region the Congress-TRS combine will sweep. Where does that leave the TDP, which has some base in the coastal Andhra areas? Babu is now is staring at a possibility of a third straight defeat in the state. His flip-flops on the Telangana issue recently are not helping either. There is a clear difference between taking a principled stance against a separate state and asking for a clear roadmap from the central government. Ground reports in Telangana region aren’t giving a hopeful picture for the TDP. Some TDP leaders are already planning to jump into either Congress or TRS. In the ‘Seemandhra’ region too his party leaders are skeptical about Naidu because he hasn’t gone back on his ‘letter of support’ for bifurcation in 2009. This strategy of ‘running with the hare and hunting with the hound’ can’t go on forever. Now Naidu is desperate to revive his party’s flagging political fortunes in the state. Naidu has been trying to find alternative space to remain relevant. When the Third Front idea crops up every now and then, he is in the forefront to support it. However, the left parties are not in a mood for an alternative front at present as most regional parties, which could become members of the Third Front are looking to a post poll scenario.  When Mamata Banerjee floated the Federal Front idea in June 13 Naidu announced that his party would become part of it. This too did not take off to the disappointment of Naidu.

Now Naidu is keeping his options to come back to the NDA either before or after the 2014 polls even though he had blamed the saffron party for his defeat in 2004.  Does he want to ride a Modi wave? Starved of allies, the BJP is trying to woo more into its fold. It suits the BJP leadership to get the TDP back in the NDA fold when it is making an attempt to reconstruct the 1996, 1998 and 1999 elections team. Modi even gave a hint at his Hyderabad rally to this effect. Modi is trying for a patch up between the two Thackeray cousins. BJP is also trying to bring together alliance partners in Assam and other northeastern states. BJP leaders are of the opinion that two areas where the party needs to strengthen the most are the northeastern region and southern India. A section within the
BJP wants an alliance with Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal. Modi is trying to woo back Yediyurappa in Karnataka and Marandi in Jharkhand. In such a scenario, Naidu is unable to make up his mind about which of the issues will affect him more – the Telangana issue or the Muslim votes. Jagan Reddy – Congress patch up is bad news for him.  No wonder he is facing a Hobson’s choice. IPA
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