After being impaled on the horns of the Hamletian dilemma for four days over whether or not to snap ties with the BJP following the state drawing a blank in the national budget, Chief Minister and party supremo N Chandrababu Naidu has decided that in his war with the BJP, discretion is better part of valour.
Chandrababu Naidu, Narendra Modi
After Parliamentary Party meeting at Amaravati on Sunday chaired by Naidu, Union Minister of State Sujana Chowdary told media persons: “We want to save our marriage with BJP. Don’t force us to go in for a divorce.” This should serve as the window to Naidu’s mind, at least for the short term.
According to him, Naidu told the MPs to put their best foot forward by raising the issue of injustice in Parliament and not hesitate to continue even if they are likely to be suspended from the House.
As Naidu needs BJP for funds for the state, he appears to have decided to stick with his saffron friends. At the same time, he wants to appear angry or people might consider him politically weak and might even find reasonable YSRC argument that Naidu has a personal axe to grind for staying with the BJP, despite humiliation.
But if he kisses good bye to his friend, what would happen to the projects that are in various stages of implementation? He would not have his two ministers anymore in the central cabinet to raise AP voice. In fact, most of the promises made in the AP State Reorganisation Act, 2014 have not yet been implemented besides the fact that Naidu is yet to see the colour of the money promised to him as part of Special Package for which he had settled in lieu of Special Category Status (SCS).
At that time, Naidu’s line of thinking was that if the State insisted on SCS, it might get it but it may lead to a tight squeeze on further flow of funds which he needs badly for building Amaravati, developing infrastructure in the state and construction of Polavaram project, among others.
In fact, Naidu took a calculated risk in settling for SCS as he knew very well that he was giving a big handle to YS Jaganmohan Reddy whom he considers as his arch-rival rather than a political adversary.
As feared, Reddy was not considerate for Naidu for nodding his head for special package and described it as a sign of meek capitulation to saffron bosses in Delhi. In fact, it has now become an important weapon in Jaganmohan Reddy’s arsenal for use against Naidu.
As Naidu has to show something tangible before he goes to elections a little over one year from now, he is in a hurry to bring the projects, close to his heart – Polavaram and Amaravati – to a reasonable stage to convince the people that his development agenda was on course.
For the last one-and-a-half-years, the Centre’s unkept promises have been rankling him as party leaders saw it as a sign of BJP slowly turning cold to him. This development was unnerving as it had set off thoughts in the minds of the TDP leaders whether it was indicating Modi’s growing interest in Jaganmohan Reddy.
The budget presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitely was the last straw that broke the back of the Telugu Desam camel, as there was nothing in it for the state. With jokes doing round in the social media that Bahubali-II has earned more than what the Centre had offered to the state, nothing could have been more disquieting for Telugu Desam Party.
But decoding Naidu is not that easy. After blowing hot over injustice done to the State in the budget – it was silent on all the promises made to the State in the State Bifurcation Act – he blew cold asking his MPS not to fly off the handle.
While admitting that allocating funds for metro rail projects in Karnataka and Maharashtra was like adding insult to injury, he has drawn a thin line between expressing dissatisfaction and slamming the BJP and asked his parliamentarians not to cross it.
In other words, Naidu wanted the MPs to express agony and yet not let that agony grow into anger. The agony is meant for the people, they should know how upset the TDP government is with the budget but if it transforms into anger, then it should ring warning bells.
The BJP should not feel hurt but the people should know that the BJP has done injustice to the state. In quintessence, this appears to be Chandrababu Naidu’s latest state craft.
Naidu appears to have other reasons also to be on the same side of the BJP when he goes to the polls. As indications point to the possibility of Modi returning power after the elections, he would need support from the Centre for several of his projects which are in various stages of execution.
Even for returning to power, he might be in need of Modi’s charisma as crossing the choppy sea with the support of elusive Pawan Kalyan, who is coming to be known as proverbial Scarlet Pimpernel, might turn out to be a tough task for even a seasoned politician like Naidu.
By R Prithvi Raj