ANDHRA PRADESH: NAIDU TO GO IT ALONE
Tom-tomming welfare schemes, development projects and an NTR biopic, Naidu prepares to face the elections alone
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.”
THOUGH HIS MAIN RIVAL IS THE YSRC, NAIDU’S CAMPAIGN IS DIRECTED AGAINST MODI
WAR CRY Naidu addressing the Jayho rally on January 27