On April 27, South Korea’s Kia Motors inked an MoU with the Andhra Pradesh government to set up a greenfield automobile manufacturing facility, its first in India, at Erramanchi in Anantapur district with a proposed investment of Rs 12,800 crore. It’s expected to begin work later this year and roll out compact Sedans and SUVs by July 2019.
A few days later, the State Cabinet finally finalised a Singapore Consortium as the master developer of the startup area in the Amaravati capital region, albeit under the controversial Swiss Challenge method - terms heavily skewed in favour of the foreign companies. And on Saturday, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who is on a week-long tour of the US, met Apple Inc COO Jeff Williams and pitched Andhra Pradesh as the iPhone maker’s best bet to make in India.
Will iPhones made in Andhra be a reality then? It’s too early to trumpet, Naidu himself had cautioned journalists, citing competition from other States such as Maharashtra.
Apple had sought duty exemption on manufacturing and repair units, components, and capital equipment for smartphones for 15 years to set up a manufacturing facility in India. With the GST set to kick in from July 1, the Centre rejected its request, pointing out that the GST Council will have to take a call on it.
It appears talks are still going on between the tech giant and the Centre and Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman too has confirmed Apple’s plans for selective introduction of manufacturing lines in India this year. Chandrababu Naidu, the consummate marketing professional that he is, smells an opportunity when there is one from a distance. If he manages to rope in Tim Cook, iPhone made in Andhra could be the brightest feather in his cap.
A few weeks from now, his government will be completing three years in office, which effectively means he has just one-and-a-half years to seek public mandate again, if one discounts the last six for poll campaign, to carry forward his Baahubalisque vision for the State.
Acutely aware of the reality, Naidu, however, seems in no mood to compromise on his magnum opus - the capital project. He has made it clear that he would wait for as long as necessary for that perfect design to give his consent. With Amaravati still in conceptual stage, the TDP chief is banking on his marketing skills to lay the ground work for turning the State into a manufacturing hub and showcase the same at the hustings in 2019 along with his son and IT Minister Lokesh.
Recently inducted into the Cabinet, Junior, unused to the rough and tumble of politics, has already become the favourite whipping boy of the main Opposition YSRC which seems keen on painting him as the Rahul Gandhi of Andhra politics.
Branded ‘Pappu’ on the social media, Lokesh has been quickly drawn into the slippery slope of the twitterverse and the government’s knee-jerk reaction of raiding the YSRC’s IT wing and the farcical detention of a satirist haven’t helped him one bit.
Thankfully, he has since decided to turn a bind eye to tweet pricks. Having dropped out of the US trip, he stayed put at the Secretariat following his dad’s instructions to a t unlike the rest of the ministers and officials who decided to make the most of Naidu’s absence.
Brahmani, his wife, complained her husband has stopped texting her after becoming a minister. He is expected to get further busy and emerge as his father’s chief lieutenant at the TDP’s three-day annual conclave, Mahanadu, to be held in Visakhapatnam from May 27.
Time is of essence for him and the TDP to get their act together since not just the Opposition but also ally, BJP, has plans. Just a couple of days before Mahanadu, BJP’s master strategist and president Amit Shah will arrive in Guntur to impart booth-level management gyan to his State cadre and a couple of weeks later, he will fly to Visakhapatnam along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other party leaders for the national executive meeting.
The saffron leaders will be discussing their AP vision, among other things, much to the discomfort of the Naidus.
The self-proclaimed CM-in-waiting YS Jagan Mohan Reddy too will bring the battle to the TDP’s camp when he will hold his party’s plenary in Vijayawada next month.
Last but not the least, actor-cum-politician and Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan is already at it, conducting tests and interviews to recruit his sainiks for the big battle ahead.
The TDP’s enemy and the frenemy, both, are picking on issues such as the chilli farmers’ protest at the drastic fall in prices as and when they come while the TDP is focused on the big picture.
Which one matters in the end is anybody’s guess. iPhone is beautiful but it’s Redmi that most buy. Therein hangs a tale, between aspiration and affordability.
Deputy Resident Editor, Andhra Pradesh