What is actually prompting Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu to take the role of the main anchor in a bid to unite socially, territorially and ideologically diverse parties spread over both South and North besides cutting across the mainland of the country and its fringes or a border State like Jammu and Kashmir?
Although these parties may have their sphere of individual influence they do not stand much of a chance to take on effectively the mighty sway of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party both at the Central level and in many states.
And this is how perhaps that the motley lot from the Opposition needed somebody with the acumen to act as a go-between and bring together myriad political forces spread all over only to otherwise struggle alone in their respective bastions with the risk of cutting into each other’s vote and paving the way for the return of the BJP at the Centre once again. But still the question remains - why and how has the choice for the onerous role of uniting often warring parties fell on Naidu? More so since others like Sharad Pawar and Mamata Banerjee had earlier tried to do their bit in this respect. There is no single answer to this question since Naidu is being propelled into this important role by a combination of a few factors, to say the least.
These include and are related to both visible or stated and invisible or unstated circumstances. Among the most obvious of them is what is said to be the bad blood that has been created between Andhra Pradesh CM and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over inadequacies of Central aid to Andhra Pradesh at a time when the bustling capital town of Hyderabad was lost to Telangana with the creation of the new State out of an erstwhile bigger Andhra Pradesh. But what is not so pronounced is the precariousness of not only Andhra Pradesh and its CM but also most other States and their leaders under the present regime at the Centre.
States or provinces’ marginalisation and more so of regional leaders is not confined to the Opposition-ruled little domains alone but it also extends to BJP ruled States where most Chief Ministers, except that of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath (courtesy the backing from the RSS), are but a pale shadow of their former counterparts from the party like the late Bahiaron Singh Shekhawat in case of Rajasthan and Sunderlal Patwa and Uma Bharti vis-à-vis Madhya Pradesh until the trend of strong State leadership was reversed.
Today’s BJP Chief Ministers can hardly be expected to stand straight before their Central party or Government leadership unlike what used to be the case in the past, or through the NDA, or National Democratic Alliance, under former Prime Minister the late Atal Behari Vajpayee and also well before that in case of Shekhawat at least.
Naidu and his Telugu Desam Party (TDP) too have been staunch part of the NDA since the Vajpayee days to the better part of the present round of BJP’s spell in power at the Centre. The kind of obedience now expected from not only the BJP Chief Ministers but also those from the allied parties could have been proving burdensome for the Andhra CM. He felt further humbled and slighted when what he termed as a legitimately promised due of Andhra Pradesh for building a new State Capital to replace and re-compensate the loss of Hyderabad was denied by the Centre.
Once fallen out of Delhi’s favour, Naidu looked around and easily found willing partners, courtesy Delhi and West Bengal Chief Ministers Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee in their shared urge to take on and teach their common adversary a lesson. With the next Lok Sabha polls drawing nearer Naidu has only stepped up these efforts by bringing in more players to outsmart a common foe by his recent visits to Delhi. He tried to set an example on November 1 for others by endorsing seat sharing with the Congress for the December 7 Telangana Assembly polls. CPI or the Communist Party of India and Telangana Jana Samithi too have joined hands with the Congress-TDP alliance to contest together with the 119-strong Vidhan Sabha.
Among other factors that have helped Naidu in taking the onus to unite the Opposition is the generation gap that he may well be able to bridge among leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Sharad Pawar and this may also be so in case of what is on between Akhilesh Yadav and the older generation on the Opposition’s side in as crucial a State as UP electorally is. This is all the more so since Akhilesh and his uncle Shivpal Yadav are continuously haunted by their family feud which is marked again by a generation gap.
At 68 Naidu is exactly as old as the Prime Minister. But unlike Modi, the Andhra CM believes in taking the older generation of leaders alongside the new or younger blood that is expected to rev up politics in the days to come. Thus, Naidu’s intervention minimises the possible threat to the older generation, though whether real or perceived, from the upcoming younger lot.
The TDP leader’s arrival on the Opposition’s electoral scene also signifies the plight of allies under the present shape the NDA has ended up with. The best part for Naidu has been that he could survive after parting ways with the BJP while former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mahbooba Mufti not only fell out with the BJP but also lost the stewardship of the crucial State; and, thus, it is now under Governor’s rule. Indeed, Naidu’s efforts to bury his past associations and also that of the party led by him signify an urge to make a new beginning together with a lot many parties.