Andhra Pradesh

Chandrababu Naidu, losing political friends, one every week

Chandrababu Naidu has reason to be upset. Three of his political friends have ditched him in less than three weeks of his losing power in Andhra Pradesh. 

First to embrace Naidu’s bete noire YS Jaganmohan Reddy was DMK chief MK Stalin who made it a point to fly to Vijayawada to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new chief minister on 30 May. This was a marked change from pre-23 May days when Stalin would ensure he kept Naidu in the loop about all that transpired between him and K Chandrasekhar Rao. Stalin in fact, sent senior DMK leader Durai Murugan a day after KCR had met him in Chennai before the election results came in. 

The bigger blow was dealt by Mamata Banerjee whose party has decided to hire Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC, to replicate the kind of magic it managed to do with Jagan’s YSRCP in Andhra. Why wouldn’t Naidu wish well for Mamata, given that he even campaigned for her in Bengal this time, you could ask. 

Simple. The bad blood between Naidu and Kishor.

During the election campaign, Naidu called Kishor a “Bihari dacoit”, making the electoral battle very bitter and personal. The irony was not lost on the voters of Andhra because the then DGP of the state was RP Thakur, a native of Bihar. By attacking Kishor, Naidu revealed his own insecurity about the contribution I-PAC was making on the ground to the YSRCP campaign. 

Two, the decision for the politico-business decision came after the Trinamool Congress collected feedback from the YSRCP, suggesting channels of communication between the top leadership of the two parties of matters of strategy. Three, Naidu also knows that in the days to come, it will be the YSRCP, and not the TDP with its three MPs, who will play a key role in allying with the TMC inside Parliament. Prashant Kishor will act like a bridge between Kolkata and Amaravati.

The third Naidu ally to move sides is the Janata Dal (Secular). Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy sent his son Nikhil to meet Jagan in Amaravati. Though both sides described it as a courtesy visit, the fact that HDK had chosen gen-next to reach out to 46-year-old Jagan was not lost on anyone. It was not a government-to-government contact because in that case, HDK would have made the overtures. Nikhil’s visit suggests the JD(S) would like to be part of the KCR-Stalin-Jagan axis in south India.

This outreach needs to be in the context of the pre-election narrative where Nikhil’s grandfather HD Deve Gowda pitched Naidu’s name as a possible contender for the post of PM.

Given that Naidu was an ally of the Congress, HDK is also sending a subtle message to his coalition partner in Karnataka that he will have political friends to fall back on within the Peninsula. Within the Karnataka political context, reaching out to Jagan also serves the purpose of wooing the Reddy community that exists in significant numbers along the Karnataka-Andhra border. And having Jagan on his side would also hopefully help make Gali Janardhana Reddy, who had done business in Andhra Pradesh when YSR was chief minister, guarded. Janardhana Reddy had campaigned for the BJP in the 2018 assembly elections. 

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