NAIdu KEEN to pLAY KEY RoLE IN tELANgANA ELECtIoNs
The AP CM is trying to cobble up a Congress-led front to defeat the ruling TRS.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu, who wants to play the kingmaker’s role at the Centre next year, is now playing almost the same role in neighbouring Telangana Assembly elections, in cobbling together a Congress-led Opposition front to defeat the ruling TRS headed by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR).
Though not directly seen in the negotiations or seat sharing talks, Naidu is coordinating his TDP unit of Telangana to ensure that the proposed “grand alliance” (Mahakootami) led by Congress stays and the Opposition vote is not divided in the state. Other Opposition parties like CPI and Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS), led by Prof Kodandaram are in touch with TDP leaders in Hyderabad.
Naidu, according to sources in Telangana TDP, is monitoring political devel- opments from Amaravati almost on a daily basis and keeping himself abreast of fast changing defections from one party to another. A unit of the political wing of the AP intelligence police, too, is stated to be touring Telangana to assess the winning prospects of different parties in all 119 Assembly seats, but TDP denied it.
The TDP national president, in his eagerness to keep the grand alliance together, told his party leaders in Telangana that they should not demand more seats from Congress. Initially, the Telangana TDP sought at least 30 Assembly seats, but later scaled down its demand to around 15 or 16, solely because of instructions from Naidu.
As a result, the CPI, which in the beginning asked for 15 Assembly seats, is now ready to settle for a single digit number—fewer than 10 and TJS which too wanted to contest from at least 16 seats is now okay with a lower figure. “We are working hard to save the grand alliance to defeat TRS from power this time,” admitted TDP’s Telangana unit president L Ramana talking to The Sunday Guardian.
The ruling TRS, too, is raising the issue of Naidu playing an active role in the politics of Telangana after a gap of four years and describing a vote to Congress-led alliance was nothing, but a vote for “Telangana enemy— Chandrababu Naidu”. Senior TRS Minister T. Harish Rao went a step ahead and said that Naidu would even try to “re-unite Andhra and Telangana” in the name of unity of Telugu people.
Harish is nephew of CM KCR and a key member of TRS. KCR’s son and IT Minister K.T. Rama Rao, too, termed a vote for Congress- led alliance was nothing, but reviving Naidu who bitterly opposed formation of Telangana when he was in power. Chief Minister KCR himself told a recent public meeting at Wanaparthy that the Congress was dancing to the tunes of Naidu.
However, Naidu is firm on seeing that the Congress-led alliance was supported in all aspects—both seats wise and resources wise—so that the TRS can be defeated. TRS leaders have alleged that Naidu had promised to pump in Rs 200 crore funds and keep ready three helicopters for Congress campaigning. This charge, anyway was denied by both Congress and TDP leaders.
Defeating TRS is essential to Naidu as he faces a clutch of criminal cases in Hyderabad courts in connection with the four year old cashfor-vote case filed by the anti-corruption bureau (ACB). The recent reopening of the case by the Income Tax officials by grilling a former TDP and current Congress MLA A. Revanth Reddy revived the political heat.
Naidu and his party leaders are aware that if TRS wins in the 7 December Assembly elections, KCR would speed up Telangana ACB case and tighten the noose around him ahead of crucial Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections that will be held along those of Lok Sabha in April/May 2019. Moreover, Naidu alleges that KCR is being used by the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre.
Naidu has been telling his TDP leaders not to praise him as the “future prime minister” after 2019 elections as he doesn’t want to create trouble to Congress president Rahul Gandhi or any other aspirant to the post from the Opposition camp. “When I am comfortable with the CM post here, why should you (party leaders) raise such slogans?” he told them, at a meeting in Vijayawada this week.
Similarly, Naidu told his leaders in Telangana, too, not to talk about either sharing political power or claiming some posts like Deputy CM during the elections as it would send wrong signals on the unity in the alliance. But, at the same time, he wants to decide the next CM from Congress, if the alliance wins enough seats and also appoint a Deputy CM from his TDP after the results.
Sources in Telangana TDP are not sure of the campaigning by Naidu, as he is still on two minds on the scale of his presence here. Initially, Naidu wanted to skip public rallies or road- shows in Telangana along with Congress leaders, but now he appears to be hitting the campaign trail even on a limited level in Hyderabad city, where a large number of Andhra settlers are there.
A Congress leader who preferred to remain anonymous told this newspaper that this time Chandrababu Naidu was playing an important behind-the-scene role that would be helpful to the grand alliance in Telangana. “He ( Naidiu) knows that his oversized presence in Telangana elections would damage us, so he is playing a constructive kingmaker role,” the leader.
An artist paints an effigy of demon king Ravana during preparations for the upcoming Dussehra, in Guwahati, on Wednesday.
N. Chandrababu Naidu