Kommineni Srinivasa Rao

Several interesting scenes were witnessed at the swearing-in of Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy. What was particularly amusing was the sight of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu desperately trying to meet Rahul Gandhi. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also attended the event, but made no attempt to meet Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi or congratulate them.  Chandrababu Naidu, on the other hand, patted Rahul Gandhi on his back and congratulated him.

Till about a month ago, Chandrababu Naidu used to attack Sonia Gandhi as a devilish person and someone belonging to Italian mafia. He accused Sonia Gandhi then of meting out injustice to the state of Andhra Pradesh by dividing it on the Republic Day of Italy. The same Chandrababu Naidu went out of his way to befriend the Congress president and past president and made every effort to ingratiate himself to them at the oath-taking ceremony of Kumaraswamy.

Chandrababu went about meeting Karnataka Congress leaders including DK Shiva Kumar, shaking hands with them.  Ironically, he himself had said on several occasions that the TDP was born as a party in opposition to the Congress and its policies. Chandrababu, who had accused YSRCP of being a smaller version of what he called parent Congress or mother Congress, is now trying desperately to cosy up to the Congress. What could be the reason behind this?

Over the past few weeks, Chandrababu Naidu has steered clear of criticising the Congress party. This time around, instead of displaying his customary victory sign, he used the hand, the symbol of the Congress party, while sitting next to Rahul Gandhi. There is nothing wrong in being courteous to others, but the manner in which Chandrababu Naidu went to Bangalore as if on a mission, and tried to meet political leaders there, set tongues wagging. Is he trying to tell the Congress that because it has no presence in Andhra Pradesh, the party should support him?

The seeds for this attempt of the TDP to get closer to the Congress, were sown in the budget session of the Parliament. The sight of CM Ramesh shouting slogans while standing next to Sonia Gandhi at the time of formation of the human chain, Sujana Chowdary and Thota Narsimham talking to Jairam Ramesh, gave rise to suspicion at that time. Chandrababu Naidu can claim, of course, that he originally belongs to the Congress party where he began his political career that he first became a minister while he was in the Congress cabinet of the time and that, this was the reason why he could become NTR’s son-in-law he can now argue.  Therefore, he has the right to be close to the Congress, he can claim.  Chandrababu can argue to his convenience at any given opportunity.

Over the years, we have seen that Chandrababu Naidu has no respect for values or principles. If he is so keen on displaying his proximity to the Congress, there could be only one reason. The rank corruption which the TDP government has now become synonymous with, he knows, could get into serious trouble. The Centre could order an investigation into several charges of corruption against him and he probably hopes that the Congress would come to his rescue when the Centre acts against him. Alternatively, he probably thinks that he can play a bigger role at the Centre after the 2019 polls along with the Congress. One thing is certain—a cobbling together of regional parties alone cannot make for formation at the Centre.

The TDP will have to sail with either the Congress or the BJP. Chandrababu Naidu seems to have a two pronged strategy—on the one hand, he wants to be friendly with the Congress and on the other, he wants to be seen as one of the members of an alliance of regional parties. If Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao made it clear that he did not want to meet the Congress leaders and met H.D. Kumaraswamy strategically and separately, Chandrababu Naidu did the opposite.  It appeared as if he went to Bangalore with the sole objective of meeting Congress leaders and to make a statement.

Chandrababu Naidu was seen shaking hands with all those political leaders whom he had been criticising sharply till recently. The importance Chandrababu Naidu accorded to the Congress leadership, not giving the same kind of mileage to the CPM on CPI leaders, shows how significant the Congress has become in his scheme of things. Andhra Pradesh Congress leaders may not take kindly to this development. They opposed Chandrababu bitterly, but if the Karnataka scene plays out in AP and the high command decides to go with Chandrababu Naidu, there is not much that they can do. If the Congress, which has called Chandrababu Naidu a corrupt, unprincipled politician decides to sail with him, it would come as no surprise.  Similarly, if Chandrababu Naidu who till recently went hammer and tongs at the Congress, decides to cosy up to it and make a deal with it now, it would hardly be astonishing because this is the kind of politics he is known for.