Telugu Desam chief Chandrababu Naidu revels in being the kingmaker. A decade after he pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Mr. Naidu is back in the NDA fold, as he gets ready to play a significant role as one of the principal allies of the BJP and to anchor the NDA ship.
While BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is the king in the making -- Mr. Naidu himself acknowledged “nobody is there to compete with him (Mr. Modi),” Mr. Naidu by virtue of having two State units of his party is all set to call the shots in the NDA which has Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) under its wings and other fringe players.
That Mr. Naidu had used the occasion to tie the loose ends is to state the obvious. An enthusiastic Mr. Naidu even pipped BJP leader Prakash Javadekar’s estimate of 272 seats and boasted about crossing the 300-plus seat mark, much to the glee of Mr. Javadekar and other NDA partners. When SAD leader Naresh Gujral went a step further to call Mr. Naidu as the “co-pilot” of NDA, the latter could not hide his delight.
“Mr. Naidu will be the secular face of NDA and bring stability to the alliance. He will focus on development and social engineering,” TDP MLA Payyavula Keshav says. One thing has emerged clear in this deal. The TDP chief is candid about what he thinks will clinch the issue in favour of the TDP-BJP combine. This despite the fact that it took a long time for the alliance to be formed as Mr. Naidu had stuck to his guns and did not give too many seats in Seemandhra.
“Mr. Naidu is very much in sync with Mr. Modi on the development plank. Infrastructure development and industrial upgradation are core areas in Seemandhra and Mr. Naidu would hope to get more funds,” senior TDP leader Somireddy Chandramohan Reddy points out. Also, Mr. Naidu looks at rebuilding the residuary State of AP and hopes the goodwill will translate into electoral gains.
Though the tie-up was not to the “liking” of some Telangana BJP leaders, the TDP went ahead to stitch up the alliance despite the worry that there is palpable anger against the BJP in Seemandhra for having supported the Telangana Bill. It appears like an open-ended equation. “It will pay dividends for the combine if it goes ahead with ‘Modi for PM, Naidu for CM’ slogan,” Mr. Chandramohan Reddy argues.
Political analyst Parakala Prabhakar says 80-90 per cent of TDP followers are rooting for Mr. Modi as PM. “Both parties are likely to benefit from the alliance insofar as LS seats are concerned,” he observes. He says Mr. Naidu will certainly be an important cog in the wheel of fortune for Mr. Modi. “If the NDA falls short of numbers, Mr. Naidu will do the talking with third front leaders like Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik and others to suture up a configuration for Mr. Modi’s new regime,” he points out.
It wasn’t long ago that Mr. Naidu spoke of not allowing Mr. Modi into Andhra Pradesh after the Godhra riots. After his defeat in 2004, Mr. Naidu termed the alliance with NDA as a “historical blunder” and BJP an “untouchable” party. “It was Mr. Naidu who demanded the ouster of Mr. Modi after the Gujarat riots,” YSR Congress leader Ummareddy Venkateswarlu recalls.