Andhra Pradesh

Chandrababu Naidu changes his tune on Narendra Modi, yet again

Chandrababu Naidu through April 2019 on the election campaign trail : “Narendra Modi is Publicity PM, not Performing PM. All leaders are better than Modi. KCR, Jagan and Modi are all together against me. Modi is a hardcore extremist. He is not a good man.”

Chandrababu Naidu in October 2019 in Visakhapatnam : “I have nothing personal against Narendra Modi. I only fought against him in the interests of the state.”

Everyone who heard Naidu in the run-up to the 2019 general and Andhra Pradesh assembly election knows his criticism of Modi was both politically and personally very harsh. So does his utterance in Vizag suggest a softening of stance on part of the Telugu Desam chief?

It would seem so. In the last four months since the TDP suffered a humiliating defeat, Naidu has trained his guns solely at the YSRCP, not once uttering a word about Modi, Amit Shah or the BJP. In fact, both he and Nara Lokesh tweeted birthday greetings to Modi on 17 September. The TDP also supported the Centre on abrogation of Article 370 that ended special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

It helps Naidu’s cause that the BJP is looking to punch above its political weight in Andhra Pradesh by targeting the party in power. For instance, opposing Jagan’s decision to cancel power purchase agreements is indirectly an endorsement of Naidu’s position that no illegality was committed by his regime. When it criticises Jagan over Polavaram, the BJP is in fact backing Naidu’s stand that there was no corruption in the contracts that were awarded. This suits Naidu well for the time being. 

Naidu’s criticism of Jagan has also been close to the BJP template. For instance last week, when Jagan presented silk robes at Tirumala during the Brahmhotsavam (it is a tradition that the chief minister of the state does so), he was accused by the TDP of not mentioning in the temple’s register that is a practising Christian. 

Naidu was criticised by Modi during the election for overturning the TDP DNA by allying with the Congress in Telangana. Naidu now seems to be making amends. The TDP has fielded its own candidate in the Huzurnagar byelection and is no longer part of the Congress-led opposition alliance in Telangana. 

In March-April-May, Naidu accumulated an enormous number of frequent flyer points by jetsetting from city to city, meeting opposition leaders to cobble together an anti-Modi front. That came unstuck on 23 May and in the last four months, barring one trip for a medical check-up to the USA, Naidu has confined himself to Andhra Pradesh and Hyderabad. 

Even when four Rajya Sabha MPs deserted Naidu and crossed over to the BJP, the TDP chief’s response was muted. That led to doubts that they had defected with Naidu’s blessings. In fact, one of them YS Chowdary described Naidu’s decision to break ties with the BJP and ally with the Congress as a major blunder. Does his comment in Vizag, the city of destiny, suggest that he is looking to repair the damage and change his party’s destiny?

It well could, given Naidu’s track record of taking U-turns in his political career. Sources suggest he has made attempts to woo the top two in the BJP through a prominent industrialist but there is no confirmation about the same from the TDP camp. 

The BJP is sitting pretty even without having a single MLA or MP from Andhra Pradesh. This is because with CBI cases against Jagan and Andhra’s precarious financial position, it has a handle to wield against the YSRCP. The TDP is a political poacher’s delight given that many ex-MLAs and ex-MPs would like to be on the right side of a ruling party and since the relations between many of them and YSRCP are irreparably damaged, the BJP is the only other logical choice. The BJP too looking to ramp itself up, will be happy with the influx. Naidu has to do a tightrope walk, to protect his turf, play to the BJP gallery and attack Jagan. 

Naidu and Modi had a bad fallout after the Gujarat riots of 2002 after which the TDP chief asked for Modi’s dismissal as Gujarat CM. He held the BJP responsible for his defeat in 2004. But a decade later, he patched up and formed an alliance ahead of 2014. Four years later, the parting was even more bitter. Now a year later, Naidu seems to be making amends.

I don’t like Modi

I like Modi

I don’t like Modi

I like Modi 

Watch this space for more. 

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