2 Telugu States And Politics of a Nation

Telangana, Andhra Pradesh - Sakshi Post

By PoliticalGuru

The southern state of undivided Andhra Pradesh (AP) played a pivotal role under the dynamic, pro-poor and pro-farmer image of late Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) as opposed to tech savvy portrayal of Nara Chandra Babu Naidu, in two successive Lok Sabha and Assembly elections (2004 and 2009).

The medical doctor, popularly known as Dr YSR was catapulted to power in Andhra Pradesh and in the process enabled the affable Dr. Singh to be crowned Prime Minister of India. Politics is essentially a game of numbers. This is singularly cardinal of the ‘first past the post’ system. The difference between the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was a mere 7 seats!

As the campaign of ‘Shining India’ torpedoed, the BJP mustered 138 seats while the INC had a tally of 145 in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.

Conventional political wisdom in India states that he who wins the Hindi heartland (the cow belt so to say) luxuriates in power. However, that myth was broken when the INC emerged victorious with 34 Lok Sabha, a swing of 29 seats in its favour. The architect of this victory was the charismatic YSR in the then undivided state of AP. He could stockpile 48.5% votes as against the 41.5% assembled votes bagged by his political adversary (and friend-turned-foe) Chandrababu Naidu. The NDA garnered a mere 5 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

This story was repeated in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. As the INC emerged victorious, the TDP, in a yet-again-changed ‘avatar’ of Third Front secured only 7 seats, while TRS as a partner of the NDA bagged a mere 2 seats. Once again, it was AP which whetted the tally of the INC, taking it to 206 Lok Sabha seats. It was the painstaking campaign undertaken by Dr YSR and the emblematic chord he struck with the denizens of AP that helped script this victory.

Cut to Delhi, many chilly winters back. As we smoked our favourite Wills Navy Cut in the hallowed precincts of Delhi University and sipped steaming cups of tea, we could not miss the headlines as we sat poring over the estimable ‘Statesman’.

“Rama Rao storms West Godavari!” the headlines screamed. People of North India and even the student community supposedly ‘educated’ were ignorant of southern states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. “They are south of the Vindhyas,” I illuminated them portentously. A friend, whose father was from the AP cadre of the IAS, added knowledgably, ‘this gentleman is an actor who has played umpteen mythological characters and occasionally gyrates in garish clothes with starlets like Sridevi and Jayaprada, girls half his age! But he is a phenomenon in the state’. But the popular perception was that the people of Andhra Pradesh swore by Amma (Indira Gandhi) and that the Congress would romp home.

In the pre-globalisation era, before we heard words such as market capitalism, glasnost and perestroika, and definitely prior to 1billion cell phones in India, another state was going to the polls in 1983- Karnataka.

The foggy Delhi winter seemed to clear up all of a sudden as electoral results were declared. The Congress had collapsed in Karnataka and AP, its steadfast bastions since independence. Karnataka and AP had voted in Rama Krishna Hegde and NTR respectively.

Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao (popularly known as NTR) was a Telugu film actor-turned-politician and three-term Chief Minister of AP. He was the first non-Congress Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, representing the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) that he founded in 1982.

Therein runs a parallel story, the saga of the two states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. As a strapping youngster, Chandrababu Naidu from the Rayalaseema region became close to the late Sanjay Gandhi (perhaps this explains his current bonhomie with Congress scion, Rahul Gandhi). Naidu was appointed the Minister for Cinematography in the T. Anjaiah ministry in AP. Chandrababu was to soon marry NTR’s daughter, Bhuvaneswari. Subsequently he jettisoned the Congress and joined the TDP.

NTR was indisputably impressed with the manoeuvring skills of his son-in-law when he rallied all the MLAs of the TDP when Nadella Bhaskar Rao staged a coup against NTR and became the Chief Minister of undivided AP. NTR was reinstated to head the government. One is reminded of the skulduggery of the Sultanate period as fortunes changed hands. So, when NTR married Lakshmi Parvathi (his soul mate), the ambitious son-in-law staged a coup against his fabled father-in-law and became the Chief Minister of AP.

Naidu’s skills of jockeying and manipulation came to the fore as he became the convenor of the United Front government, helping Deve Gowda with just a handful of Members of Parliament (MPs) become the Prime Minister of India. But this crafty politician in a lithe manner changed his political ideology and joined hands with the BJP and was part of the Atal Bihari led National Democratic Alliance at the centre. More recently Naidu was again seen with the octogenarian Deve Gowda, when the latter’s son H.D. Kumaraswamy, became the Chief Minister of Karnataka on the crutches of the Congress Party.

A virtual political storm against the division of the state spread through swathes of Andhra Pradesh as the AP Reorganisation Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 18 February 2014. The bifurcation of the state into Andhra Pradesh and Telangana took place when the AP Reorganisation Act came into effect on 2 June 2014. The two states were carved with a common capital of Hyderabad for a period of 10 years.

Naidu who had served as the Chief Minister of undivided AP between 1995 and 2004, won handsomely as the Chief Minister of the residual state of Andhra Pradesh, in alliance with the BJP.

Ahead of the assembly polls next year, the party has severed its ties with the BJP led NDA, citing financial mess in the state and non-granting of the special status to the state. But this probably has more to do with the growing popularity of YSRCP chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh. Like his legendary father Dr YSR, the son has established deep roots in Andhra Pradesh and the YSR Congress appears to be the front runner in upcoming Lok Sabha Polls.

Meanwhile, elections were advanced by K Chandrashekar Rao, Chief Minister of Telangana. His combatants in the elections are the ‘Prajakutami’ (consisting of the Congress, the TDP, Telangana Jana Samithi and the Communist Party of India), the NDA and the YSR Congress. However, most opinion and exit polls give a second term to KCR.

The results are certain to impact the voters of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. What would be mystifying is if the Congress and TDP enter into an electoral partnership. The genesis and the very bedrock of TDP has been anti- Congress stand. Perhaps this weighed on the voters of Telangana as they exercised their franchise.  This will be known once the EVMs are unlocked on 11 December.

Chandrababu Naidu has exhibited astonishing political-ideological hopping during the course of his political career.

The Indian electorate is a large mass of astonishing differences, but the one thing they do expect is a modicum of consistency from their leaders.

Also Read: Minor And Major Parties In Telangana Elections

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