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Keep walking, Mr Naidu

Keep walking,  Mr Naidu
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Keep walking, Mr Naidu, Chandrababu Naidu, AP Bhavan, Seemandhra Issue. It was indeed a pathetic picture of TDP president Chandrababu Naidu lying on fast at AP Bhavan. The builder of modern Hyderabad, Naidu has been the West’s favourite Indian.

It was indeed a pathetic picture of TDP president Chandrababu Naidu lying on fast at AP Bhavan. The builder of modern Hyderabad, Naidu has been the West’s favourite Indian. Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates made Hyderabad their stopover when he was the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. Time magazine named him South Asian of the Year and member of the World Economic Forum’s Dream Cabinet, the Governor of Illinois created a Naidu Day in his honour. He was the IT Indian of the Millennium (India Today) and Business Person of the Year (Economic Times).

He could have been the Prime Minister of India, instead of Deve Gowda in 1996, but he opted to stay put in Hyderabad. Bill Gates invested $100 million for strengthening rural healthcare and vaccination programmes in the State. The British government and the World Bank flooded the State with money. For them, Hyderabad was India; and Chandrababu Naidu, a role model for developing countries.

Chandrababu Naidu is, no doubt, a visionary and the achievements under his Vision 2020 are undeniable. In just a few years, he could transform Hyderabad from a small city into a significant player in the global economy. Corporate honchos described him as the CEO of Hyderabad, a title which he loved very much. On his Vision 2020, he said, “When all my projects on tourism, healthcare, education, finance and employment are successfully executed, Mumbai or any other city or state will be nowhere near Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh.” At a power point presentation of his Vision 2020 in Mumbai in the year 2003 (where I too was present), when someone from the audience asked him whether he would be there as Chief Minister to translate his vision into a reality, he quipped, “Come to Hyderabad and you will see what I have been doing and talking about.
Nobody can displace me in the immediate future.” But destiny had other plans and he lost power in the 2004 elections. Two election defeats and internal party bickering made him realise that World Bank is not a vote bank and Hyderabad is not Andhra Pradesh. He also must have realised that the Vision 2020, prepared for him by American management consultancy firm McKinsey, is utopian.
It is now or never for Naidu, but nothing is going right for him at present.
His penance of undertaking a long journey of 208 days, covering 2,800 km from Hindupur to Visakhapatnam, on foot has been outclassed by Sharmila, sister of Jaganmohan Reddy, who covered more than 3,000 km by undertaking a parallel padayatra. She drew more crowds all along the route than Naidu. Aware of the guilt that he had not done anything substantial for the rural poor when he was chief minister, Naidu has been distributing boons to virtually every section of society – farmers, weavers, Dalits, minorities, students, temples and priests. Ridiculing Naidu, Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy had remarked that his ‘walking friend’ would require the entire central budget to fulfil the promises he had made during his walkathon.
The release of Jaganmohan Reddy on bail was a stunning blow to Naidu who had been nursing hopes of capitalising in the 2014 elections from his evidently successful walkathon. The arrival of Jagan has totally changed the political scenario in the State, especially Seemandhra. Going by the hysterical crowds that greeted Jagan outside the jail and all along the route to his residence, he is sure to eclipse the chances of most of the political parties, including Naidu’s Telugu Desam. Naidu has already lost 10-12 MLAs and the beeline of those willing to join Jagan’s YSRCP is only getting longer. Naidu’s non-committal stance on Telangana is looked at with suspicion in the region, while in Seemandhra he faces a formidable challenge from YSRCP. Unfortunately, he is left with no friends in Andhra Pradesh—the CPI is supporting the TRS for their cause of a separate Telangana, while the CPM is with Jagan in his fight for a united Andhra. Naidu had no option but to shake hands with Narendra Modi, knowing fairly well that the Gujarat strongman is seen as having blood on his hands. The alliance is not going to help either party, because Naidu is unlikely to win any seat for the Lok Sabha in a three-cornered contest. By aligning with the BJP he is also closing the door on the Third Front.
The 2014 elections, therefore, will be a make or break affair for Naidu. A loss would bring his leadership into question. At the State level, his decision to pass on the baton to his son Lokesh has not been taken kindly by his detractors. Late NTR’s family has distanced itself from him, except for Balakrishna, who is anyway not a political heavyweight. Naidu’s indefinite fast in Delhi is regarded as a life and death battle for him in real terms. Controversy shadowed him even there, with AP Bhavan, where he was undertaking the fast, serving a notice on him to vacate the premises. Not to stretch the drama further, he was forcibly taken to hospital where he is continuing his fast.
Instead of finding fault with the Congress for poor or no governance, and the YSRCP for corruption, Naidu should go back to the people with a clear agenda. His ‘cat on the wall’ policy on Telangana will not give him votes either in Telangana or in Seemandhra. For now, Jaganmohan Reddy seems to have snatched the advantage from Naidu.
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