Those in his close political circle like former MP K. Ram Mohan Rao say they are pleased at the public response to his padayatra, particularly in Telangana.
A self-imposed punishment like a padayatra to redeem one’s premier political position can always be a taxing proposition. Telugu Desam Party president N. Chandrababu Naidu’s “Vastunna Meekosam” is no exception to this formulation.
Now into the 67th day of his walkathon which he launched on October 2, Mr Naidu is feeling the ill-effects of the wear and tear, an inevitable consequence of such a gruelling exercise. His legs are paining, feet have developed sores, while back pain has begun dogging him. Physiotherapy and foot massage bring him only a temporary respite.
“Mine is the only padayatra of its kind. YSR in 2003 did not interact as much as I do, nor did Chandra Shekhar (former Prime Minister),” Mr. Naidu claims.
Huge cost of padayatra
Nothing seems to escape his attention en route Bhainsa; not even a dirty roadside drain, a shop selling mirchi bajjis, a mosque or even a Scheduled Castes colony built when NTR was Chief Minister. He berates the government for bidding goodbye to well-established systems that have left Mudhole, a dirty village with dust and bad odour prevailing. “We took care of these things through Janmabhoomi and Shramadanam,” he tells a public meeting at the bus stand.
The logistics involved in the 2,000-km plus walkathon, slated to conclude on Republic Day, are huge, as is the cost. An air-conditioned bus, which serves as a house on wheels, is only one among the large convoy of vehicles that provides food, water and shelter to the nearly 300 people, including commandos and ordinary policemen, who accompany him every day.
Party pleased at response
Those in his close political circle like former MP K. Ram Mohan Rao say they are pleased at the public response to his padayatra, particularly in Telangana. Just about a year ago it was unthinkable for the leader of any party, other than the TRS and the BJP, to enter Telangana without encountering hostile crowds.
Quite obviously, that stage is past with Mr. Naidu’s padayatra on one hand and YSR Congress leader Sharmila on the other freely campaigning in Telangana and publicly attacking KCR for doing nothing for the development of the region. What does this indicate -- waning of the Telangana sentiment or people’s frustration with KCR for his failure to deliver?
“I will attribute it to the good work done by the TDP Governments in the past. People want development and many farmers have told me how they miss the nine hours power supply,” Mr. Naidu told The Hindu after addressing a series of roadside meetings.
Failure of governance
“Moreover, there is complete failure of governance. Systems have collapsed during the Congress rule for the past eight years. Prices of all essential commodities have skyrocketed and there is an agrarian crisis,” he said. Having walked over 1,000 km so far, Mr. Naidu is in no mood to take a break to give his body the much-needed rest. He is perhaps wary of losing momentum that is essential for his tougher journey ahead in the Telangana heartland and later in coastal Andhra.