Tom-tom­ming wel­fare schemes, de­vel­op­ment projects and an NTR biopic, Naidu pre­pares to face the elec­tions alone

India Today - - STATES - By Amar­nath K. Menon

Show­er­ing ben­e­fits on back­ward classes and pro­ject­ing him­self as the sole in­her­i­tor of the NTR legacy, Nara Chan­drababu Naidu is pulling out all the stops to re­tain power in his state. After his Tel­ugu De­sam Party’s al­liance with the Congress failed to de­liver in the re­cent Te­lan­gana elec­tion, his party plans to go it alone in the si­mul­ta­ne­ous polls to the 175 assem­bly seats and 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Naidu is look­ing at it in the larger con­text of “sav­ing the na­tion from the BJP”.

As his co-brother Dag­gu­bati Venkateswara Rao de­cided to sup­port the ri­val YSR Congress, Naidu was back to hark­ing on the glory of his fa­ther-in­law and TDP founder N.T. Rama Rao. On Jan­uary 27, a book by two re­tired civil ser­vants was re­leased, a fort­night after the first part of a biopic—NTR: Kathanayakudu—hit the screens. The sec­ond part, NTR: Ma­hanayakudu, will be re­leased soon. NTR’s son N. Balakr­ishna, who plays his fa­ther, has fi­nanced the film. How­ever, the re­sponse at the box of­fice has been tepid so far.

An­a­lysts say Naidu needs all the gim­micks he can find to fight the NDA, which he ac­cuses of “be­tray­ing the state”. The chief min­is­ter is also bank­ing on the im­pact of the schemes ini­ti­ated by him to build what he calls ‘Sun­rise Andhra Pradesh’. His ri­vals, on the other hand, say that in­vok­ing the legacy of the fa­mously anti-Congress NTR, may boomerang and the in­ten­tion be­hind such a move is only to el­e­vate Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh in the party.

Co­in­cid­ing with the re­lease of NTR’s biopic, Naidu un­veiled a py­lon mark­ing the con­struc­tion of a five mil­lion tonne ca­pac­ity pa­per mill at Ravuru. For­eign di­rect in­vest­ment of Rs 24,500 crore for the project is said to be the big­gest sum for any such project in In­dia. He also laid the foun­da­tion stone for the Ra­maya­p­at­nam port, the 15th in the state. Naidu is to make fresh an­nounce­ments of what his gov­ern­ment is to of­fer to dif­fer­ent sec­tions, un­mind­ful of its im­pact on the state’s fi­nances. He has al­ready an­nounced the dou­bling of old-age pen­sions from Rs 1,000 and a grant of Rs 10,000 to women’s self-help groups.

On Jan­uary 22, he an­nounced five per cent reser­va­tion for Ka­pus out of the 10 per cent quota for the eco­nom­i­cally weaker sec­tions pro­vided by the Cen­tre. This is to woo sec­tions of the Ka­pus, who may sup­port Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena. The Jana Sena and the BJP were the TDP’s al­lies in 2014. This will be the first time that the TDP will face an elec­tion with­out a poll ally. The YSRC, the Congress and the BJP will also go it alone. The main fight, how­ever, will be be­tween the TDP and the YSRC. But much of Naidu’s cam­paign is di­rected against Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi for not grant­ing spe­cial cat­e­gory sta­tus to Andhra. Modi, on his part, has mocked Naidu for push­ing the state into the ‘sun­set’ to see his ‘son rise’. Calling NTR a ‘true icon of Tel­ugu pride’, Modi has said, “his son-in-law (Naidu) has bowed his head be­fore the Congress to save his chair”. Coun­ter­ing this, Naidu has said, “Modi is afraid that Andhra Pradesh will sur­pass Gu­jarat in de­vel­op­ment.”

An­a­lysts, how­ever, say that a zeal for de­vel­op­ment may not be enough. Cha­lasani Srini­vas, pres­i­dent of the Andhra Pradesh In­tel­lec­tu­als Fo­rum, says, “The NTR charisma is a help, but un­less Naidu changes his pri­or­i­ties—from brain­storm­ing ses­sions to un­der­stand­ing the com­mon man’s prob­lems, it will be dif­fi­cult for him to come back.”


WAR CRY Naidu ad­dress­ing the Jayho rally on Jan­uary 27

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