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Sentiment flows thru River Krishna

Sentiment flows thru River Krishna
Highlights

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh, in a day. Ahead of his visit to the state, opposition parties have started making right political noises. As the Chief Minister is effectively selling the capital sentiment to the people of Andhra Pradesh, the opposition, too, is not lagging behind.

Apprehended by Naidu’s adept handling of sentiment politics centered around the capital, opposition is now trying to hit him with yet another weapon of sentiment in the form of special status.

The Centre’s duplicity and diabolical response to the demand for special status adds ammunition to opposition warfare.

This is the context in which opposition made a renewed demand that the Prime Minister make a positive statement on special status when he lays the foundation stone for the new capital Amaravati.

Even Congress crown prince Rahul Gandhi joined the chorus

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh, in a day. Ahead of his visit to the state, opposition parties have started making right political noises. As the Chief Minister is effectively selling the capital sentiment to the people of Andhra Pradesh, the opposition, too, is not lagging behind.

Though there is no comparison between the capital grandeur of Chandrababu Naidu dispensation and the opposition’s politics of dissent, the underlying common political current passing through the streams of River Krishna is the politics of sentiment.

Chandrababu Naidu despite trying hard failed to play sentiment politics in the united Andhra Pradesh. But, his comrade K Chandrashekar Rao could effectively corner formidable Chandrababu in the Telangana political battlefield.

In fact, Chandrababu Naidu tasted the bitterness of sentiment politics way back in 2004. While Chandrababu Naidu was firmly installed in the saddle of power, the then opposition leader fired a strategic salvo in the form of reviving the Telangana sentiment to destabilise the Naidu regime.

Later, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy-led Congress joined hands with Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) to galvanise anti-incumbency against Chandrababu Naidu. The Telangana sentiment in whatever proportion it may be did contribute to the downfall of Chandrababu Naidu.

This was perhaps the first time Naidu who could successfully thwart even NTR sentiment faced the bitterness of sentiment politics. The discontent over Congress government started brewing. This did manifest in 2009 when Congress could just get pass marks and scraped through to retain power.

This was precisely the time when Naidu did try his luck with sentiment politics. Putting aside its very brand of politics of Telugu unity, the Telugu Desam party willy nilly endorsed the demand for separate state of Telangana. It did not realise then that this ideological somersault would drive the party to its waterloo.

The TDP which once looked pretty confident of returning to power in 2014 was crippled and torn apart as the Telangana sentiment became more pervasive. Despite tying up with TRS in 2009 and making a political volte face by jumping onto the bandwagon of Telangana identity politics , the TDP could not reap the political harvest. Instead it further got entangled in the political slugfest.

The death of Rajasekhara Reddy and the subsequent wave of sympathy ignited YSR sentiment in favour of YS Jagan. The political landscape completely changed in the post-YSR period. The death of a strong leader, who could suppress dissidence and sentiment to keep the Telugu polity united, further dissipated the state politics. This was a shot in the arm for the Telangana sentiment.

On the other hand, Jaganmohan Reddy riding on the powerful wave of YSR sentiment which caught the imagination of the underdog due to populism could make things worse for the TDP supremo. The two sentiments took the party to a political abyss .

The TDP was decimated in the by-election held at that time with YSR Congress making a clean sweep. Thus the YSR Congress on one side and the TRS on the other could turn the anti-incumbency against the then Congress government in their favour leaving no space for TDP yet again.

Chandrababu Naidu repeatedly became the victim of politics of sentiments. It’s an irony of history the TDP which owes its existence to the sentiment of Telugu pride, so consummately espoused by its founder NT Rama Rao, could become the victim of sentiment politics of rivals.

Coming to a firm assessment that the Congress lost ground in united Andhra Pradesh, its high command began salvage operations by announcing the formation of Telangana state. The Congress hoped to survive the anti-incumbency heat at least in a region by succumbing to the Telangana sentiment.

But, it still could not reap the dividend as the man who made it happen was the people’s favourite in 2014.In the run-up to the election of 2014, Chandrababu Naidu could play his cards well at least in the residuary Andhra Pradesh.

Jagan who could earlier successfully capitalise on his father’s sentiment miserably failed in reading the Seemandhra people’s pulse and properly perceiving the national political currents strongly tiding in favour of Narendra Modi.

Chandrababu Naidu not only raised the perfect political voice but found himself in winnable political combine. In an article entitled Chandra Babu Naidu’s comeback published in Economic and Political Weekly, July 12, 2014 , this author summarised how Naidu could engineer politics of sentiment so effectively to catapult himself to power in new Andhra Pradesh. The relevant portion is reproduced here to provide a proper perspective:

The Seemandhra electorate, more or less, reconciled with the reality of a divided state. The circumstances and the manner in which the state was divided created a sense of helplessness among the people of Seemandhra.

The campaign against the bifurcation in which all parties and civil society participated further strengthened this hurt sentiment. The capital city, Hyderabad, was the bone of contention. An urge for development prevailed over the concern for welfare schemes.

Building of infrastructure in the new state and setting up of a new capital city dominated the political discourse. This was the context in which elections were held in the Seemandhra region …The sense of helplessness strongly instilled in the Seemandhra electorate in turn also generated a feeling that the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh desperately needed help from the Central government.

Jaganmohan Reddy failed to acknowledge this new sentiment among the people…Chandrababu Naidu demonstrated consummate political skills by arriving at an early understanding with the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and converted the threat into an opportunity.

The strong Modi sentiment evident across the country convinced the average voter in the Seemandhra region that Chandrababu Naidu could form part of a winning combination at the Centre and could deliver for the truncated state without a capital.

The Modi factor thus helped Chandrababu Naidu to further galvanise his campaign…While Chandrababu Naidu could successfully locate himself in a national political context that was considered so crucial for the Seemandhra in the wake of bifurcation, Jaganmohan Reddy demonstrated an utter lack of strategy.

He even sent signals of extending support to much discredited United Progressive Alliance which proved to be costly to his electoral prospects.

Chandrababu Naidu thus continues to perpetuate the capital sentiment that changed his fortunes. The TDP could rally the state politics behind the wonderful capital dream. Now, Modi is to be a witness to the unfolding of this dream before much larger audience.

Apprehended by Naidu’s adept handling of sentiment politics centred around the capital, opposition is now trying to hit him with yet another weapon of sentiment in the form of special status. The Centre’s duplicity and diabolical response to the demand for special status adds ammunition to opposition warfare.

This is the context in which opposition made a renewed demand that the Prime Minister make a positive statement on special status when he lays the foundation stone for the new capital Amaravati. Even Congress crown prince Rahul Gandhi joined the chorus.

Jaganmohan Reddy seems to be hoping on those who are alienated by the capital dream. Perhaps, he firmly believes that the capital focus certainly breeds discontent in the hinterland of the state, especially Rayalaseema.

The capital and the special status sentiments are criss-crossing the river Krishna on whose banks Naidu is raising Amaravati, hoping to convert it into a political opportunity in 2019. Only history will tell how the sentiment over reinventing the heritage city of Amaravati would turn the fortunes of state political leaders in future.

Editor: Prof K Nageshwar

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