Is it end of the road for Chandrababu Naidu?
   Date :28-May-2019

 
By Mohammed Shafeeq:
 
HYDERABAD
 
WITH his worst-ever electoral defeat in Andhra Pradesh and losing relevance in national politics, Nara Chandrababu Naidu is facing the biggest challenge of his career. A leader, whose four-decade-long career saw his political pendulum swinging wildly from left to the right, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief last year exercised even his last option -- aligning with the Congress. But this time, he ran out of both the options and the luck.
 
Till a day before the counting, Naidu was holding series of meetings with leaders of various regional parties, desperate to cobble together an anti-BJP alliance to remain relevant in the national politics. He wanted to stop his friend-turned-rival Narendra Modi from returning to power even as he was facing an acid test at home against Y S Jaganmohan Reddy. At the Centre, the 69-year-old wanted to achieve what he did in 1996, when as the convenor of the United Front (UF) he brought together regional parties to prop up Government of the third alternative. In 1999, he donned a similar role for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Many saw in him a shrewd politician and few branded him a rank opportunist as he aligned with the BJP, apparently to ride on the Vajpayee wave.
 
He succeeded in retaining power, which he got in 1995 after leading a revolt against his father-in-law and TDP founder N T Rama Rao. Then known as the poster boy of new economic reforms, a reformist and a tech-savvy leader, Naidu mastered the skills of doing business with any formation at the Centre, irrespective of its ideology. After losing power to his bete noire Y S Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) in 2004 following a record 9-year stint as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Naidu admitted his priorities were lop-sided which led to the neglect of agriculture in the State.
 
So he promised a slew of freebies in the 2009 elections, but the people remained unconvinced and gave YSR a fresh mandate. The emergence of Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate in 2014 offered Naidu a chance to revive his political fortunes. He not only joined the NDA once again but by campaigning with Modi, he succeeded in storming to power in the truncated State of Andhra Pradesh, as people preferred him, apparently for his experience in developing Hyderabad as a tech hub. As a leader who always enjoyed the role of a kingmaker and extracted his pound of flesh from the Government at the Centre, Naidu was uncomfortable in the new dispensation where Modi had absolute majority. Though facing post-bifurcation challenges like lack of State capital and poor finances, he had no option, but to quietly accept whatever was doled out to the State.
 
However, it was when YSR’s son and the chief of the YSRCP Y S Jaganmohan Reddy started targeting him for his compromise over the Special Category Status (SCS) that Naidu realised how he was losing the ground to the Opposition. Last year, he pulled out of NDA Government accusing Modi of ‘betrayal’. But the Opposition still remained aggressive in exposing his flip-flops over the SCS. From a great admirer of Modi, Naidu soon turned into his worst critic and even joined hands with the Congress, his party’s sworn enemy of 35 years. This was Naidu’s biggest political misadventure and his rivals targeted him incessantly for his opportunism.