Naidu Reclaims His Past to Win Seemandhra's Trust
By GS Vasu | Published: 05th May 2014 07:56 AM |
Tax consultant Kameswara Rao was among a few hundreds who turned up for the public meeting of Narendra Modi-Chandrababu Naidu at the municipal stadium grounds in Visakhapatnam on their own. As is the case with any public meeting of any party, the rest were transported.
“There is a definite change in the thinking among the educated. They feel TDP-BJP combination is a better bet for the development of Andhra-Rayalaseema,” says Rao, a Congressman who turned saffron. He, however, rues the fact that the alliance happened a bit too late for the two parties to gel at the ground level and also the reality of the BJP’s organisational weakness and lack of appeal in rural areas.
From a situation some months ago when the YSR Congress was seen as being way ahead of its rivals, the change is too evident to be missed — the only question being whether the graph has spiked enough for the Telugu Desam to get it past the finishing line. Srinivas, who belongs to the Vysya community and runs a cell phone shop at Pydi Bhimavaram junction in Etcherla constituency, argues that a good number of people now seem to believe that Ch a n d r a b a b u Naidu is the right candidate to develop the r e s i d u a r y state.
Auto-driver Prakash, who ferries daily wage earners from a nearby village to this mandal headquarter, agrees. “You can take it that the educated are tilting towards the Telugu Desam,” he says.
What about the semi-literate and illiterate? “The educated will tell them what is good for the state.” But, it is not an easy task, just as Srinivas regrets that the TDP cadre should have done much more to carry forward the message as to why voting for the party is important in the context of bifurcation.
The development theory apart, if there is one promise that seems to be working for the Telugu Desam this time round - unlike the cash transfer scheme in 2009 - it is the loan waiver for farmers. Harinarayana, who belongs to the Kapu community, tells us at Vikrampuri village that this particular promise has given the muchneeded momentum to the TDP campaign. There could still be quite a few who argue out the case either way like it happened at Kadgavalasa junction. If 25-year-old Nageswara Rao avers that youth are definitely thinking about the “corruption tag” attached to the YSRC, Dhananjaya Naidu, also of the same age, questions how the TDP will find money to implement the host of promises it is making - loan waiver, one job per family, Rs 2,000 unemployment dole and so on. But, as one YSRC candidate admits, at least a section of farmers are taken in by the loan waiver.
It is not just public meetings, road shows and 3D campaigns that parties are resorting to. At Ranasthalam, which has shot into limelight after a nuclear plant was proposed at the nearby Kovvada and the protests that followed, a speaker fitted minivan keeps circling the small town with a recorded speech of Jagan Mohan Reddy. Amidst the din, Laxman Rao, worker in a construction firm, says YSR did some good work but he is no longer around. “It is time we rely on an experienced leader like Naidu. Injustice to one family cannot be portrayed as injustice to the entire population.”
Conscious that the Muslim vote was, in any case, not accruing to it, the Telugu Desam went with the BJP, hoping that the general positive mood for the PM-in-waiting, would help. If not anything else, it has helped the TDP gain the support of such communities as Brahmins and Vysyas, though they are numerically not strong. “The experience of Modi-Naidu is any day a better option,” believes telephone operator Subramanyam in Palakonda, a Brahmin. You also have a small section in rural areas which appears to think that it is wiser to vote for a party that has joined hands with one likely to come to power at the Centre. “It will then become easier to implement the welfare agenda and also put the state on a growth path,” feels Venkat Rao, a Kapu farmer in Singannapalem.
Like tax consultant Kameswara Rao, a contractor with Visakhapatnam Corporation, Sankara Rao, is also among those who voluntarily turned up for the Modi-Naidu meeting. He explains the predicament arising out of a situation where people want development but without their participation. “Take the case of employees. They want their children to be taught an extra hour in schools and colleges. But when it comes to them, they want to leave an hour early from office.”
Eswar Rao, a hardcore BJP worker from the nearby Chodavaram town, avers that the TDP joining hands with the saffron party gave the much- needed credibility to Naidu. “But, for the fact that Modi is backing up the promises made by Telugu Desam, they would not have been believed by many.” Actor Pawan Kalyan has also added some flavour and glamour to the TDP campaign and is surely a contributing factor to the swelling crowds for TDP-BJP meetings. Nonetheless, how many of his fans turn up at the polling booths remains a moot question.
In a nutshell, it is a battle between two “faiths”: one being promoted by Jagan Mohan Reddy relying on the goodwill left behind by his late father and the other by Naidu that 10 years out of power has changed him and it is time, people repose confidence in him to deliver.