Kommineni Srinivasa Rao

Former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu keeps harping on one thing over and over again. He says he cannot come to terms with the fact that the people of Andhra Pradesh defeated him and claims that he does not know why this was so. Interestingly, the day he made this statement for the first time, his party’s Politburo zeroed in on an important reason for the TDP’s defeat. There was social imbalance during the TDP regime, it rightly concluded.

One does not know whether Chandrababu Naidu realised this failing, but TDP leaders who identified this problem must be complimented. The truth is that during Chandrababu Naidu‘s era, social harmony took a severe beating. Be it the power which one social group or community wielded, or the decisions which the TDP government took which clearly seemed to benefit that community, the perception was widespread—one social group stood to gain from TDP rule.

It would be pertinent to recall that such allegations did not arise during the TDP founder, NTR’s rule. Chandrababu, in his first and second terms, also escaped such sharp scrutiny on nepotism. At that time, he took care to ensure that fingers were not pointed at him on this count.

Both, in his political affiliations and alliances as also categorisation of social groups, Chandrababu was more measured in his actions back then. His stance helped the TDP to some extent in the 2014 elections. Chandrababu was successful in attracting certain social groups. The TDP benefited immensely from the help lent by PM Modi and Jana Sena founder Pawan Kalyan and their campaigning.

Chandrababu’s decisions after coming to power in 2014 made him the butt of all-round criticism. Take for example the case of the capital city and its location. What did the Sivaramakrishnan Committee say? One still does not know why Chandrababu Naidu ignored the committee’s recommendations and went in for a place where three crops were grown in a year. Whether it was vastu or some other reason on which this was based, Chandrababu took this decision. He came under severe criticism for surrounding himself with people from one community. The truth is that no single social group can propel a party to victory. Moreover, not everyone from that community stands to gain. However, what does happen is that the community in question gets a bad reputation because of the biased approach of the government.

Chandrababu suffered this fate. He made sure some people benefited, but left large sections of the population with the feeling that he was interested only in the welfare of one community. He came under cloud for turning the capital city location into a real estate venture and making sure that one community alone benefits from it, as the talk largely went.

On another hand, Chandrababu's attitude towards some communities also caused him immense harm. When members of the Nayee Brahmin community came to the state secretariat, Chandrababu as chief minister, flew into a rage at them. He questioned them on their entry into the 'sacred' premises of the state secretariat. Similarly, he threatened to 'snip the tails' of fishermen, to translate the Telugu expression literally. In other words, he said he would show them their place.

When the Centre selected a lawyer from a BC group for elevation to the Bench, Chandrababu is to have opposed this, making up things against the lawyer in question. Did he do anything to endear himself to the Kapu community? Kapu leader Mudragada Padmanabham and his family members suffered great humiliation. As a result, the Kapu community drifted away from Chandrababu.

The TDP chief promised reservations to the Kapu community. He could not deliver on this promise, but alienated the BCs in the bargain. Through its actions, the Chandrababu government drove Kapus and BCs away from the TDP. The SCs similarly, felt insulted under the TDP. Chandrababu wondered aloud whether anyone would like to be born an SC and this statement caused him a lot of damage. Moreover, while championing the cause of categorisation of sub-castes in SC groups all along, he did not turn his attention towards this issue and made no mention of it in his time as chief minister. As for members of the Reddy community, he alienated them totally in Rayalaseema and other parts of the state.

In the end, it turned into one social group vs the rest. Perhaps, the fate of TDP would not have been this pitiable if the issue of correcting social imbalances had been addressed earlier. The TDP seems to trying to bolt the stable doors after the horses have fled. The question however, is whether Chandrababu has understood this reality.

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