Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Modi 3.0 Govt’s fate depends largely on his future moves

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Chandrababu Naidu in driver’s seat in national politics after 2024 polls

By Sushil Kutty

Chandrababu Naidu is no ‘Comeback Kid;’ not at his age. The only ‘kid’ in today’s Andhra Pradesh is Jana Sena founder Pawan Kalyan, the Telugu actor who played a stellar role in bringing together the Telugu Desam Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party. If any title fits Chandrababu Naidu, it is that of ‘Mr. Negotiator.’ The Jena Sena is part of the NDA but, if there is a weak link, it is Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party along with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-U.
Naidu and Nitish are unpredictable and prone to lapse into amnesia. The two would be a clear and ever present threat to Prime Minister Narendra Modi if they join his coalition. Fact is, the duo would be a clear and present danger to even an INDI-Alliance government if the alliance forms a government with their support. The gospel is Chandrababu Naidu’s rebounds are as surgical as Nitish Kumar’s turnarounds.
Naidu and Nitish also share a history of doing their utmost to bring down Modi 1:0 and the Modi 2:0 governments. Their opposition to the Modi style of governance lasted till as recently as when the INDI-Alliance was born earlier this year. If Nitish Kumar was active in the INDI-Alliance, Naidu couldn’t decide whether to join Modi. At the end of the day, he chose to align with Modi.
Today, Chandrababu Naidu controls 16 Lok Sabha MPs and Nitish Kumar has 12. What is in CBN’s mind is as hard to gauge as it is to imagine what Nitish Kumar could do overnight? Prime Minister Narendra Modi would age 100 years in six months if Nitish and Naidu are part of Modi 3:0. The uncertainty will keep Modi on tenterhooks. First things first, therefore, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have to straightaway bestow special category status on Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.
For those who don’t know and those who forgot, Chandrababu Naidu cut his negotiating teeth in the mid-1990s when the United Front was in the middle of trying to pick a Prime Minister for India. The bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and the creation of Telangana in 2014 cut to size Chandrababu Naidu and the revenue loss to Andhra Pradesh because of Hyderabad going to Telangana. It was a body blow to the TDP from which it is still to recover.
Over the last 10 years, Telangana has raced ahead in terms of clout and money while Andhra Pradesh stagnated under the firm handling of Jagan Mohan Reddy whose YSRCP took a massive pasting in the recently concluded Lok Sabha and Andhra Pradesh assembly elections. Earlier, even as Lok Sabha elections 2024 was fast approaching, Chandrababu Naidu was arrested and jailed on corruption charges. That Naidu feels vindicated after the double electoral triumphs is an understatement.
Now, Naidu has promised eternal support to a Narendra Modi government and nobody believes him though he is playing a crucial role in making Modi a third-time Prime Minister, which is a very important goal for Narendra Modi whose ‘Nehru-fixation’ is the stuff of legends and Naidu is an enabler. This, after the TDP Supremo spent the entire period of 2014-2019 gunning for Modi when Naidu was Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister.
The INDI-Alliance parties know the Modi-Naidu history like the back of their hands and the INDI-Alliance can’t stop talking of Naidu these days, after Modi’s BJP lost majority in the Lok Sabha. How Chandrababu Naidu stood up to Modi’s dictatorial style of governance is being told and retold on TV and radio and at public podiums all over India. INDI-Alliance leaders haven’t a chance in hell to form a government, but that isn’t stopping them from wooing Chandrababu Naidu whose equation with DMK Chief MK Stalin and Shiv Sena UBT head Uddhav Thackeray are excellent.
In fact, Stalin and Naidu met at the “airport” on June 5 and now Naidu has postponed the inauguration of the next TDP government in Andhra Pradesh by several days. Surely, the BJP will be worried not only because it will be part of the next Andhra Pradesh government led by Naidu but also because TDP has promised to be part of the NDA government led by Modi at the Centre. Naidu is capable of upsetting the Modi applecart even before Narendra Modi takes a bite from the apple.
Trouble is, considering Chandrababu Naidu’s history, it doesn’t need too much of an imagination to visualize Naidu doing a flip-flop. If Nitish Kumar is ‘Paltu Ram’, Naidu is a version. Already, some of the demands put forward by the TDP are giving Modi reason for pause. This includes choice of ministerial portfolios and first right on the ‘NDA convener post’. Will Narendra Modi be able to say ‘No’ to Chandrababu Naidu?
And why should Chandrababu Naidu take ‘No’ for an answer, when a call for ‘Yes’ is the bargaining chip? Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have the option to silence and mollify Naidu by giving Andhra Pradesh special category status with a special financial package to pull the state out of the economic distress it has found itself in ever since the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh before 2014. According to the TDP, the state inherited 59 percent of the population, debt, and liabilities and only 47 percent of its revenues.
Today, Naidu will be Chief Minister of an agrarian state.
Naidu will not settle for peanuts. He had asked for special category status from Modi 1:0. In March 2018, Naidu pulled out two TDP ministers from the Modi government on the issue — P Ashok Gajapati Raju (Civil Aviation) and Y Satyanarayana Chowdhary (MoS, Science and Technology and Earth Sciences).
Then, Modi didn’t need TDP support. Today, he does require the TDP but reports say the third-time Prime Minister-to-be is fighting pressure for cabinet berths in the Modi 3:0 government from Naidu and the TDP demand for the Speaker’s post. BJP sources say “MoS and Deputy Speaker’s post” are on the table, take them or leave them. Former Union Home Minister Amit Shah is proving to be as tenacious a negotiator as Chandrababu used to be in the mid-1990s. (IPA Service)

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