Andhra Babu Takes 'Centre' Stage
By U Anand Kumar
Published: 01st Jun 2014 07:56:08 AM
NEW DELHI: Once hailed as the king maker, Telugu Desam Party supremo Nara Chandrababu Naidu is back in the reckoning. After decade-long dark clouds over his political skies, it’s now all clear for him to play a crucial role in national politics and to be a major player in Delhi.
Riding high on his party’s spectacular comeback win in the Seemandhra region of Andhra Pradesh, Naidu is now all set to be the Chief Minister of the clipped eastern region of once a powerful and prosperous state he had headed for 10 years from 1994-2004. That was the period when he was considered a major power centre in the Union Government. Now, after strategically aligning with BJP’s Narendra Modi ahead of the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, Naidu has regained his glory.
The decision to go with NDA has been proved right, despite doomsayers who found Modi to be a political untouchable. It was evident after his day-long series of meetings with Union Ministers and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday in the way he was given importance and assuring total support to him. In his own words, “I am confident that the Centre would help Andhra Pradesh to develop brick by brick.” Naidu’s golden days in national politics began during the formation of United Front government when he proved his political craftsmanship by playing the role of a king maker. In 1996, when all the non-Congress leaders were making bee line to Andhra Pradesh Bhavan on Ashoka Road in the national capital, after meeting Naidu, RJD leader Lalu Prasad described him as a “tiger” in politics.
The glory and importance of Naidu continued during the NDA government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee. Naidu agreed to take the post of Lok Sabha Speaker for the party and refused any ministerial berths. As a poster boy of IT and development, Naidu always maintained quid pro quo support to government against financial assistance to the state. Naidu was able to turn Andhra Pradesh capital Hyderabad into an IT hub.
But it was then; Naidu now needs Modi government to come to his rescue to bring the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh, which is going to start its journey from June 2 with financial deficit of `14,000 crore, to be on par with other developed states. Naidu wants financial support from Centre to construct the new state capital, revive petroleum corridor, set up petroleum university along with other higher educational institutions, implement Polavaram project, allocate 30 TMC water for the new state capital, besides special packages and special category status to the state. Though Naidu is not keen on getting more Cabinet berths, going by Modi’s keen interest, TDP may also get two or more MoS berths.
In 2004, after TDP’s defeat in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, Naidu was almost pushed to political wilderness. After that, whenever he visited the national capital, he preferred to stay in hotels rather than staying in Andhra Bhavan. Even in October last year, when Naidu was staging a hunger strike, for the cause of better treatment to both the regions in the bifurcation of the state, he was officially asked to leave Andhra Bhavan. Even the national media, for which Naidu was a darling during the United Front government days, did not pay much attention to him.
In an interaction with The Sunday Standard in Andhra Bhavan during his hunger strike, Naidu said, “Whenever there has been a crisis at the national level, the TDP has played a positive and crucial role. Now the time has come for the TDP to play its role at Centre.” That was his foresight in political arena.
Later, after a few months, when Naidu decided to join NDA, tables turned from the same day. Naresh Gujral of the Akali Dal, a constituent of the NDA said, “Chandrababu Naidu will be the co-architect with Narendra Modi in creating a corruption and Congress-free India.” On his part, Naidu was also confident that NDA would get more than 300 Lok Sabha seats.
Recognising his capabilities, Modi personally called him thrice to know the polling trend during the polling in Andhra Pradesh. Even in the NDA parliamentary Party meeting after the 2014 elections, among the group of eager allies, sitting in a long row, if any one stole the show or had Modi’s full ears, it was TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu. Babu predicted with confidence Prime Ministerial life of Modi, not just now, but beyond 2019. Taking cue from Modi, Babu said, “Again in 2019, Narendra Modi will be the prime minister and many more times. That is our wish, that is our desire and that is the desire of the nation.” This brought a smile to Modi’s, otherwise somber face.
Interestingly enough, though Naidu had no plans to seek Cabinet berths in the NDA government, it was all the way Modi who invited Naidu to Gujarat Bhavan to take Cabinet berth. An hour before his meeting with Modi, Naidu said he has no plans to join the NDA government. But after meeting Modi, he announced that TDP will join NDA government.
That was the importance being given to Naidu. At a press conference on Friday in Andhra Bhavan, Naidu said that the presence of SAARC leaders in the swearing-in ceremony of Modi had enhanced his image worldwide. On his part, Naidu invited Prime Minister Modi and other Union Ministers along with non-Congress Chief Ministers to his swearing-in ceremony as first chief minister of residual State of Andhra Pradesh on June 8. It’s a long way ahead for Naidu as a key player in national politics.