The political writing on the wall

N. Chandrababu Naidu, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and national president of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), has again sprung a political surprise. After suddenly walking out of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, earlier this year, ostensibly over the denial of ‘Special Category Status (SCS) to Andhra Pradesh’, he is now cosying up to the Congress, in turn shaking the foundation of the TDP which was built on and has thrived on the plank of anti-Congressism. An about-turn When Mr. Naidu’s father-in-law and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N.T. Rama Rao (NTR) founded the party in 1982, his two-point agenda was to break in the State the uninterrupted one-party rule, since 1956, of the “corrupt” Congress and to restore Telugu self-respect and pride. An incident, in 1982, of then State Chief Minister T. Anjaiah being “humiliated” by Rajiv Gandhi, then All India Congress Committee general secretary, at Hyderabad airport, was so effectively used by NTR to buttress his ‘self-respect and anti-Congress’ narrative that he stormed to power in January 1983, within months of founding the TDP. In August 1984, when NTR was ousted in a revolt by his Finance Minister Nadendla Bhaskara Rao, with covert support from the Congress and then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, all non-Congress parties rallied behind him and a popular movement ensured that he was back in power within a month. The coup “engineered” by the Congress only steeled his and the TDP’s resolve to stick to its strident anti-Congress political stand, to the extent that he brought together a disparate Opposition on one platform. NTR, and later Mr. Naidu, played a key role in installing non-Congress National Front and United Front governments in Delhi. Anti-Congressism became a deeply ingrained political philosophy of not just the TDP leadership but also the cadre. So what has prompted Mr. Naidu to temper his party’s attitude towards the Congress? Is it political bankruptcy or a masterstroke? It appears as if Mr. Naidu hardly had a choice. The TDP’s position in Telangana was weakened — down to two MLAs from a reasonably strong party that had 15 MLAs and an MP in the 2014 elections. Barring the two MLAs, most of the others, including the MP, have crossed over to ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), with some of them becoming Ministers in Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s cabinet. Some like firebrand MLA A. Revanth Reddy joined the Congress. Initially, Mr. Naidu used to say the cadre was still with the TDP in Telangana, but now he knows that the political situation on the ground has changed dramatically. There was no way the TDP can take on the TRS and the Congress. To add to his woes, the TRS spurned his offer of working together in the name of unity of two Telugu regional parties. The TRS also appeared to be gravitating towards the Bharatiya Janata Party, much like YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) in Andhra Pradesh.

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