Chandrababu Naidu's power wanes as TDP struggles

TDP's Chandrababu Naidu: Once 'king-maker' at the Centre, now fights political irrelevance

The TDP chief, who is already struggling to keep his party legislators intact, is also seeking central forces security for his party offices

N. Chandrababu Naidu. Credit: PTI Photo

In his 46 years-long political life, Nara Chandrababu Naidu has fought numerous battles either to rise to or retain power but the one he is waging now appears to be to avoid an ignominious fading into oblivion.

The Telugu Desam Party's electoral performance is at its lowest with 23 MLAs out of 175 in the assembly, three Lok Sabha MPs out of 25 from Andhra Pradesh and has seen continuous losses in all forms of polls — Panchayat, municipal, bypolls — in the state since Jaganmohan Reddy stormed to power in 2019 summer.

Now, at the age of 71, the three-time chief minister and third-time opposition leader sat on a 36-hour fast in the TDP's central office near Vijayawada which was vandalised by miscreants allegedly belonging to YSRCP.

The ruling party claims that a TDP leader's derogatory remark on Chief Minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy has angered his admirers. Naidu, however, condemned the attacks as “state-sponsored terrorism, carried out with active connivance of AP police”, and even demanded President's rule in the state.

Also Read | TDP trying to enter into an alliance with BJP: YSR Cong leader Vijayasai Reddy

The TDP chief, who is already struggling to keep his party legislators intact, is also seeking central forces security for his party offices.

While Naidu's position in the state seems hapless, his New Delhi tour earlier this week with the above demands showed the stark contrast from the TDP chief's glorious “king-maker” run at the Centre. The most influential politician in the country for about a decade till 2004 whose opinion was crucial in deciding who the Prime Minister and President will be, had to return without an appointment with Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

With just three Lok Sabha MPs from about 30 then, Naidu, analysts say, has become irrelevant in the Delhi power corridors. “Naidu's mortification is the result of a string of political miscalculations.”

The TDP chief who romped to power in 2014 in an alliance with BJP and Janasena, abandoned the Narendra Modi-Shah duo in March 2018, over a year ahead of the 2019 general elections.

The departure was over the Centre's refusal to accord a special category status (SCS) to Andhra Pradesh for its industrial and overall growth. “You are falling into the YSR trap,” Modi had then warned Naidu.

Quite prophetically,  Andhra Pradesh voters ousted TDP from power and SCS is something no one talks about in the state now.

And in some now regrettable actions, Naidu had attacked the Modi leadership while camping with the Congress and other opposition parties. In May 2018, the TDP cadres allegedly hurled stones at the convoy of Shah, then BJP president, when he visited Tirupati.

Also Read | Impose President's rule in AP, save state from drug mafia: Chandrababu Naidu urges Kovind

The YSRCP is now reminding of such vilification as Naidu looks keen, or like YSRCP parliamentary party leader Vijayasai Reddy says is “buttering up” the BJP leadership with a friendship request again.

Vijayasai says that Naidu is offering 13 Lok Sabha seats to the BJP for the 2024 elections, in return for more assembly presence to help TDP regain power in Andhra Pradesh in the simultaneous polls.

In 2014, TDP had offered five seats to the saffron party while it contested in the rest 20 Lok Sabha constituencies winning in 17. BJP won two segments.

Exiting and reentering the BJP fold would not be new to Naidu. He had left the NDA fold in 2004 citing Gujarat riots among other issues but allied with the Gujarat CM Modi in 2014 to defeat Jagan. The question is if BJP top brass would be interested in readmitting Naidu, whom Shah has described as “the most opportunistic person in the country” during the 2019 poll campaign.

To take on Jagan's might in 2024, observers say Naidu would in any case need actor turned politician Pawan Kalyan's Janasena support too, like in 2014.

In the meanwhile, Naidu is not sitting quietly. After the unenviable Delhi circuit, he is now on a two-day tour in Kuppam, his assembly constituency and TDP's citadel, where the YSRCP managed to make inroads in the local body polls.

“The fan (YSRCP's poll symbol) has stopped working. It is time now for our bicycle's (TDP symbol) fast pace,” Naidu said, attempting to uplift the cadre's morale.

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