Countdown To 2019: Checkmate Chandrababu

AP Chief Minister, Nara Chandrababu Naidu - Sakshi Post

Y Satyanarayana

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu finds himself painted into a corner. It is well and truly, endgame for Chandrababu. In what he terms as 40 long years of political experience, Chandrababu has demonstrated one attribute consistently and that has been survival at the cost of morality and principles. Opportunistic politics has been his forte. No wonder, he appears to be rattled as he seems to have run out of political space for manoeuvring. The wily old fox of AP politics seems to have no moves left and the veteran card sharper, no jokers left in his deck. As he stares down the barrel of the gun, in a manner of speaking, Chandrababu is gasping for political oxygen.

Betrayal has been his signature style throughout his political journey. Chandrababu started out as a Congressman and became a legislator from the grand old party. It did not take long for him to jump on to his father-in-law, NTR’s bandwagon, when the latter stormed the Congress citadel in the early 80s. In trusting Chandrababu completely and handing the party over to him, NTR committed the biggest blunder of his life, as events of subsequent years were to prove. Not only did his son-in-law unseat him, but the resulting heartbreak drove the legendary actor turned politician to his early death.

Also Read: Chandrababu Misused Central Funds For Capital Development: Kanna

Political expediency has always been paramount to Chandrababu. All he needed was an opportune moment to run the knife through his father-in-law’s back and twist it hard to drive him out of office. He only usurped his father-in-law's seat, basked in media limelight as the convener of the United Front and flirted with the BJP in the NDA’s first stint under Vajpayee. True to form, he turned his back on NDA.

Chandrababu joined hands with the Congress clandestinely to get YS Jagan implicated in false cases and left no stone unturned to try to stem the tide of public opinion which was swelling in the young leader’s favour, following the untimely demise of Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy.

Though he had once criticised Modi in the most trenchant terms to exit the NDA during the Vajpayee era, Chandrababu had no qualms in rushing into the Modi camp more than a decade later. He courted the BJP and Narendra Modi once again in the 2014 elections to be a part of NDA and riding the Modi wave, became the chief minister of the residual state of Andhra Pradesh. He was ably supported in his mission by the actor turned politician and Jana Sena founder, Pawan Kalyan.

After the hasty division of the state, Andhra Pradesh was wrung out of resources and left to dry. Few states since 1947, have been subjected to such gross injustice. Even if he had acted with complete integrity, Chandrababu Naidu had a mountain to climb. It was not easy to surmount the challenges posed by bifurcation of the state. Instead, he turned Andhra Pradesh into a hotbed of corruption. The state administration, at every level, became synonymous with dishonesty.

2014 onwards, Andhra Pradesh has witnessed misrule of unprecedented dimensions and has been rocked by scam after scam under Chandrababu. Amaravati, Polavaram, sand and soil mafias, land grabbing incidents in which ruling party members were involved—the list of misdeeds is long and too elaborate to be catalogued here. The name of Chandrababu and his minister son, Lokesh, has figured in several instances cutting across a range of scams.

Chandrababu’s dalliance with the BJP came to an end at an opportunistic moment when he chose to walk out of the NDA after he saw the pressure in his own backyard getting to be too much to bear. The tireless campaign waged by Leader of the Opposition and YSRCP chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy with regard to the demand for special category status to Andhra Pradesh, had struck a chord with the people of the state. All along, YSRCP right from 2014, had been consistent in its fight for SCS to the state. As it found increasing resonance, Chandrababu did a complete U-turn on the issue and pretended to try to project himself as a champion of the SCS cause.

However, the adage that you can’t fool all the people all the time came true and for Chandrababu the loss of credibility is complete. People know all too well that he had applauded PM Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for their special package to Andhra Pradesh. He had bragged about the assistance the state had received, investments which came its way and the lakhs of jobs that had been generated. Now, he set his propaganda machine in motion to do the reverse. Chandrababu tried telling everybody who cared to hear that AP was starved of funds, SCS alone would bring jobs and investments. He made it his mission to paint BJP as the arch villain, trying to absolve himself of all sins in the matter.

However, it appears that Chandrababu’s politics of survival is not going to take him further anymore. People have seen through his game and blame him and his party as much as they blame the BJP and Congress. If it was the grand old party which was responsible for the bifurcation of AP in a hurried manner, the ruling party at the Centre led by PM Modi has been less than fair to the residual state. Chandrababu has been complicit in both, the division of undivided Andhra Pradesh and in backing the BJP to the hilt till very recently.

As the AP Chief Minister tried to pass the buck on to the PM and ruling party at the Centre for the ills of the state, the BJP on its part, sharpened its knives and pointed out that it had done its bit by releasing funds to the state which had not been accounted for. Both Amit Shah and GVL Narasimha Rao among others, mounted scathing attacks on Chandrababu and demanded that he account for the funds released to Andhra Pradesh government through proper utilisation certificates. Soma Veeraraju, Kanna Lakshminarayana and other local leaders have been equally unsparing in their criticism, be it with respect to funds released for the development of a new capital, diversion of Central government funds, cost escalations in Polavaram or ubiquitous nepotism. The BJP, at the state level has been increasingly scathing in its criticism of the AP chief minister.

Chandrababu, meanwhile, has been flirting with the Congress in the hope that come 2019, a united opposition may be able to get its act together against Narendra Modi and the BJP. He has also been cosying up to other opposition parties trying to project the TDP as one of them and also claiming seniority, as a leader, for good measure. Chandrababu’s biggest scare, it appears, is that the BJP may slap corruption cases against him. While he is clutching at every straw in the wind, Chandrababu realises that he has the most difficult electoral battle of his political career in the upcoming polls.

The YSRCP, led by Leader of Opposition, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, has gained immensely in strength and stature, as Praja Sankalpa Yatra has revealed throughout. The YSRCP scores high on the credibility meter among the people of the state and this is the principal reason why Chandrababu Naidu and other TDP leaders are in a state of panic. The TDP leadership knows that loss of trust is something which cannot be redeemed. A long list of unfulfilled promises stares Chandrababu Naidu in his face— loan waivers to farmers and women’s groups, jobs to unemployed youth, and a spate of incentives, doles, pensions and allowances he has turned his back on. All these have now come to bite him in the run-up to the elections.

The wheel of action has turned full circle, and Chandrababu Naidu now finds himself at the receiving end. The numerous scandals which have tainted his rule so far, be they related to Amaravati, Polavaram, sand and soil mafias, instances of land grabbing and other forms of public loot, have placed Chandrababu and his party high on the corruption index. He is being skewered by widespread public anger and criticism and faces a veritable tsunami of popular resentment.

Also Read: Chandrababu, AP Police And Illegal Mining

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