Chandrababu fishes in a state of flux
By G S Vasu | ENS | Published: 23rd November 2012 09:00 AM |
“What brother, you’ve come to watch my travails?” asks Chandrababu Naidu as he spots us by the road at Priyadarshini Colony, 2 km from this dusty town in Medak district.
It’s just past noon on a warm day, and he is half an hour into his padayatra for the day, having retired to his vanity van at 11 pm the previous night.
Inside his van, he had looked the worse for wear. But out on the road on Day 51 of the padayatra, he picks himself up, the frame stiff and erect.
“I have been the chief minister for nine years and I have been in the opposition for nine years. I am coming to know your problems and I want to learn from you the mistakes I may have committed,” he says to the crowd that materialises out of the cotton patches by the road.
Sadasivapet is part of Sangareddy. It is a typical city-proximate town in Telangana where the separate state sentiment is not as pronounced as in the hotbeds of Karimnagar and Warangal.
A state of flux is evident among the voters: there is a desire for a separate state, but it is tinged with doubt about who might bring it and whether one must get on with one’s life should it take time coming.
“These roads were laid during the TDP regime. Nothing much has happened since then,” says Pavan, who drives the vehicle hired for playing the padayatra songs.
“If Telangana comes, it is fine. But life has to go on even otherwise,” he says.
Here in Sadasivapet, the only thing that is certain is the disgust with the ruling Congress while there is not much of a clamour for the YSR Congress as well.
The TRS apart, there is space for the BJP, and the TDP is showing signs of revival. Sangareddy will be one of those 30-40 constituencies in Telangana where the vote is likely to be fractured and the party that manages its election best could emerge the winner.
At Priyadarshini Colony, Naidu unfurls the party flag and clambers onto a pedestal to make a brief speech, beginning with a nod to his time in power: “I placed AP on the global map. Look at what has happened in the last nine years. Villages have no drinking water, no roads. My young brothers have no jobs.”
Then he allows himself a rare play with words as he tears into the Congress and Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy: There are two Congresses now. The talli Congress is running an ineffective government and the pilla Congress is in jail. And then there is the TRS which does not bother about the problems of the people and says Telangana is the only solution to everything.”
He then remembers the weapon that YSR used against him in 2009 - lack of credibility.
“Is looting the state and going to jail a sign of credibility? Think of me on election day and I will be your servant for the next five years,” he promises.
But that’s the Naidu we know. Here’s the one we don’t.
Now waging a battle with his back to the wall, Naidu’s stump speeches show his desire to connect. The Great Utilitarian, authoritative when in power but uncertain out of it, now tries to evoke some sympathy: “It is now more than 50 days since I started walking. My legs are protesting. I have to repair them every night. But compared to your problems, those problems are nothing.”
For the man in his mid-60s, the long walk has rendered him considerably frail but each sizeable crowd picks him up.
There was a rousing crowd when he entered Medak district from Mahbubnagar a few days earlier and the yatra went past midnight.
For a party that was facing an existential crisis in Telangana till recently, it was oxygen.
There are signs that in the days to come, Naidu would become more strident in his attack on the TRS when he tells the people that “he is not a leader who works to promote the interests of his family.”
As we join him in the walk from Priyadarshini Colony, Naidu points out that people are now beginning to realize the difference in governance between his regime and the subsequent Congress rule.
“There is frustration. I am sure at some point people will understand that there is only one party capable of putting this state back on the rails.”
En route, he is stopped by a cotton-growing farmer couple.
“Please do something for us. We have taken 10 acres on lease. Three years ago, we got Rs 6,000 for a quintal. But the price this year is only around Rs 3,500. Being tenants, we are not even getting loans.”
Another farmer, also owner of the land, had the same story to tell. “How much loan did you take from the bank? Naidu asks him. “Rs 25,000, sir.”
Having already promised a loan waiver, he tells the farmer not to repay the loan.
A few steps forward, he dishes out some papers from his pocket and finds an electricity bill given to him by a farmer.
The bill amount is Rs 25,575.
Handing it to us, he asks: “How can any farmer pay such a huge bill?” A local party leader interjects to introduce him to a youth who wants to donate Rs 3,000 to the party.
Naidu passes on the money to the security guard walking behind, before stopping at a series of toddy shops on the road side and hears the problems of toddy tappers.
When we return on the same road and ask 20-yearold Sravan Goud about his meeting with Naidu, he appears excited.
“If any party took care of us, it was only TDP. Ever since YSR came to power, wine shops grew in number and we have not been having good business. There is no support from the government either.”
Ask him about the Congress and he would immediately tell you that chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy travelled on the same road a few days before and policemen forced all of them to shut shop.
When he left empty pots in the front yard of the shop, they broke them into pieces.
As we speak to the three sitting on a bench at Nandikondi village junction, the complexity of the election ahead is evident.
Krishna, a labourer, Srinivas, an autorickshaw driver and Panduranga Rao, an employee, all want a Telangana state but in the same breath say they will vote for a party that will do good for the people.
They have no rancour towards 22-year-old Shyam, standing nearby. He has recently migrated from Guntur, and got a job in a nearby factory. “Why should I complain, sir. I have studied only up to the fifth standard. I can’t do anything except breaking stones or digging pits. How can I expect good employment now or even in a T state,” says Krishna