The first anniversary of Narendra Modi’s return to power was celebrated a few days ago. This was a noteworthy event because the ‘India Shining’ syndrome of 2004 refused to repeat itself in 2019. The 23rd of May 2019 was the day many fates were written. It was also the day which set the future course of Indian democracy. There were people who rejoiced and people who got disheartened. It marked the 2nd turning point of Modi’s rise to power and sealed the fate of INC’s national ambitions. However, there were some key players (at least they looked so) before the election. They were actively running around and organizing strategies, cobbling up a new alliance which had only one motto- “Stop Modi”. TDP leader and the ex Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu was one of them.
Naidu had an inconsistent yet notable past, something which must be highlighted at this juncture. He is said to be one of the people who played a key role in APJ Abdul Kalam’s presidential candidature. As 2019 was a year the ghosts of 2004 were put to rest, let’s go back to that year. TDP envisaged ‘secularism’ and walked out of the NDA alliance in 2004 after a crushing defeat. Naidu continued this lonely path in 2009, only to realise that he could not make it alone. In 2013, he began showing interest in NDA, for the third time since 1998. When he returned to NDA in 2013, sensing victory, he tried to ride it on the Special Category Status. For a state like Andhra Pradesh which lost its capital in the bifurcation, it was seen as a compensation which was overdue. Former PM Manmohan Singh’s promise of a 5 year Special Category Status was also not forgotten by the regional parties of the state. It’s worth remembering that the UPA government had bifurcated Andhra Pradesh at the fag end of its term, in a very hasty manner.
Special Category Status
The prime attraction for a state to get the SCS was the Central grants for various projects (90% borne by the Centre), tax breaks, excise duty concessions etc. Currently, only the north eastern states of India and 3 mountain states enjoy the Special Category Status. But, the 14th Finance Commission technically abolished the difference between Special Category states and the General states by introducing different parameters. They decided to assess the backwardness of a state and allocate resources through ‘tax devolution’ and other grants. Andhra was also promised revenue deficit grants in case devolution would not be sufficient. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also promised funds which would be at par to what a SCS state would get. To know more, read this.
Yet, Naidu moved a No Confidence Motion against the NDA government on 20th July 2018, ‘upset’ at the Centre for denying the SCS status to Andhra Pradesh. He thought it would be easier to win Andhra Pradesh by walking out of the alliance which did not give it the coveted SCS. Such name-game rhetoric over formalities just becomes some of the declarable reasons for cunning politicians when they have some tricks up their sleeves. It’s more or less similar to the lame demands of ‘national disaster’ tag from some ‘secular’ states during disasters.
During the proceedings of the No Confidence Motion which TDP brought against the BJP on, there was a revelation by PM Modi. He said that he warned Naidu about YSR’s trap, when TDP left NDA. He further went to tell Naidu that he would not survive in the circumstances which prevailed in the state politics. Watch Modi’s speech on the floor of the Parliament.
Naidu would know it when these words would come true, in less than one year after TDP losing the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. The NDA came out unscathed and established its strength while Sonia Gandhi who played behind Naidu was claiming to have the numbers.
Unifier of the Opposition
There were many symptoms of the strain in the BJP-TDP ties, long before TDP walked out. One of it was Naidu deleting a tweet praising Hindutva icon Veer Savarkar.
Once he formally left the NDA fold, he undertook a devoted pilgrimage to meet every opposition leader. Apart from them, he met certain allies of BJP too, since he wanted break NDA and ensure that the current regime does not come back to power. He had also joined the Rafale chorus which was led by the INC.
He continued meeting them even after the polls, to ensure a post poll alliance with them, in the worst case scenario. Some of the leaders whom he met as a part of this unification strategy were – Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Bannerjee, Akhilesh Yadav and Arvind Kejriwal. He did not stop with that. Naidu catapulted himself to be the rising vanguard of ‘secularism’, which has turned out to be the last refuge of a failed Indian politician. It involved the old school techniques of Iftar parties and Naidu’s desperation made him go one step ahead – offering Namaz.
Loss in Lok Sabha, Assembly elections and Resignation
Though Naidu could stop NDA from winning seats in Andhra Pradesh, TDP could win only 3 seats in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019. He had also lost the Assembly elections while YSRCP won with a huge mandate. Naidu tendered his resignation on the very day Modi came back to power at the Centre. He was one of the most powerful figures who did everything to break NDA but ended up broken, reduced to the stature of an Opposition leader with very few seats. He is indeed one of the rare people who struggled hard to drive himself to irrelevance (SIC). As a result of such ‘flip flops’, BJP made it clear that it has closed doors for any alliance with TDP in future, after Naidu expressed his regret.
He has become the case study of a politician who wanted to dislodge a government by ditching it, attempting to topple it with a no confidence motion, cobbling up an alliance consisting of almost all the arch rivals of the regime, trying to bring more allies out of NDA and even whipping up regional and ‘secular’ feelings, only to end up losing his existing relevance in politics. The changes in the political scene were so rapid that Naidu maybe wishing that he’d wake up one day to realise all this was just a terrible nightmare.
The unexpected fall turned him into a disgruntled man. It’s not easy for someone accustomed to VIP privileges and other trappings of power to adjust back to an ordinary life. A controversy erupted as he was denied the VIP access at the Vijayawada airport and had to go to the flight in a bus after being frisked, like any ordinary passenger.
Post defeat, TDP decided to temporarily forgo their ‘secular’ values and supported the abrogation of the draconian Article 370, despite J&K National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah campaigning for them in 2019. He made a U-Turn on the Citizenship Amendment Act, when he suddenly saw a high demand for ‘secular’ credentials in the ‘market’.
It’s sure that he regrets his decision of leaving NDA when he could have stayed back and enjoyed few more years of power. The ‘most unkindest cut’ from BJP was not the permanent cutting of ties but, the merging of TDP with BJP in the Rajya Sabha, where 4 TDP MPs joined BJP.
The TDP leader who was discussing post poll strategies with the high command of INC few days before the 2019 results, was missing from a conference organized by Sonia Gandhi, recently. The praises Modi receives through letters and on calls for the fight against COVID-19, shows how desperate the TDP leader has become. Though Naidu would have to leave NDA for obvious reasons, he would be repenting the most for not heeding Modi’s advice, around two years ago. One year is too short in politics but, more than enough to turn someone into a no one. Also a play ground where people can make grave mistakes while thinking that they’re winning.