Kommineni Srinivasa Rao

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu has four decades of experience in politics and has turned 70. One would naturally expect him to conduct himself with some decorum and dignity. It is unfortunate that Chandrababu Naidu is talking along the lines of Praja Shanthi Party president KA Paul, bereft of reason and logic.

Such behaviour is unbecoming of a Chief Minister. Chandrababu Naidu‘s criticism of EVMs is crossing all limits of reason with every passing day. His statement that Russian hackers may be involved in manipulation of EVMs, is a clear reflection of this.

The TDP chief was repeating what KA Paul had said. Did the two of them have some understanding? Or did they express their opinions individually? One does not know this, but it is unfortunate that Chandrababu Naidu has now brought himself down to the level of the Praja Shanthi Party founder in the eyes of the public.

The reason why there is a marked difference between the two is because Chandrababu Naidu has been a Chief Minister for 14 years and led the TDP in five elections. He did not ever express doubts about EVMs in 1999, 2004, 2009 or 2014. It is only in 2019 that Chandrababu Naidu developed doubts about EVM functioning and began to give expression to his suspicions. Moreover, he has always boasted about his aptitude for technology and this makes it even more strange.

It is a mystery why Chandrababu Naidu is kicking up such a fuss about EVM functioning now, considering the fact that he lost elections on two occasions—2009 and 2014. It is pertinent to point out that in 2014 Chandrababu Naidu had fought the elections along with Narendra Modi. When asked whether there was any EVM tampering at that time, he himself tends to deny it.

Chandrababu has been campaigning in other states. Sometimes it appears that his intention behind campaigning for others is to continue his tirade against EVMs in other places as well. In a way, Chandrababu Naidu is trying to point out how things would shape in Andhra Pradesh for his party once the results are declared and as to who would get the reins of power. Realising that TDP workers are getting demoralised through all this, he is carrying out a facade of reviews of Parliamentary constituencies.

However, questions on these reviews arose in the TDP itself. His party men are taken aback at his questions on their winning prospects when results are weeks away. Reviews would not alter the result now, but it appears that Chandrababu is gripped by some unknown fear. His appeals to TDP workers not to get demoralised by propaganda that his campaign against EVMs is because the party is losing ground, reflect his state of panic. In truth, if Chandrababu Naidu had expressed confidence about his victory and remained calm, TDP men would not have felt so demoralised.

TDP workers began to doubt chances of their victory because Chandrababu Naidu continued his criticism of YSR Congress party president YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, PM Modi and KCR even after elections got over. His own party men now tend to feel that Chandrababu Naidu is trying to find reasons for his likely defeat and is blaming it on EVMs. They feel that he is preparing them psychologically for the party‘s defeat this time around.

TDP leaders and workers are also said to comment privately that they made a mistake in parting ways with the BJP. It is believed that many in the party feel that by repeatedly criticising PM Modi and KCR, TDP dented its own image. Moreover, Anantapur MP JC Diwakar Reddy openly stated that they had incurred an expenditure of Rs.50 crores. He added that Pasupu Kumkuma and pensions are welfare schemes which alone could save the TDP this time. Chandrababu Naidu also seems to express confidence on the same count, but many of his party men feel that regardless of these welfare schemes, people voted in large numbers for the YSRCP.

The tragedy is that Chandrababu Naidu has little to show for or speak about when it comes to his government‘s achievements over the last five years. Therefore, he is harping on the benefits of Pasupu Kumkuma. This is what his party leaders and workers are also lamenting about.

If one were to analyse each aspect of the TDP’s functioning and the manner in which Chandrababu Naidu went about the whole thing, one gets the impression that there is complete loss of confidence in the party’s ranks. The TDP supremo has to take the blame for this.

By stretching his imagination all the way to Russia, Chandrababu Naidu has made it sound even more bizarre. What is the connection between Andhra Pradesh and Russia? Why would Russia be interested in the re-election of PM Modi? If money is the principal motive, few people are as affluent as Chandrababu Naidu. He is a politician who managed to get policemen to vote for his party in the Nandyal bye elections. If hackers could influence elections, wouldn’t Chandrababu Naidu have approached them to retain power? He has no answer to this.

Chandrababu Naidu’s words and actions indicate that he is overpowered by a deep sense of fear and panic about his party’s likely defeat when the results are announced on May 23. However, in trying to explain this to the TDP workers, he has created more confusion, it appears. One wins and loses elections, but to see Chandrababu Naidu who has 14 years of experience as chief minister, bring himself down to the level of KA Paul is indeed something worth pondering about.

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