Chandrababu Naidu is a maker, not a disrupter. As a serious political ally, he has helped build and save coalitions in power, not rock. Dissenters should look at his track record and compare it to those of his contemporaries, dead or alive, who failed to play the same role.

Naidu can indeed draw on his experience of managing difficult alliances. (PTI photo)

After styling himself as an icon of development in Andhra Pradesh, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader has had a hand in making three prime ministers so far: HD Deve Gowda, Inder Kumar Gujral and Atal Bihari. Vajpayee. When he takes oath, Narendra Modi will be fourth in the order.

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Naidu played the indomitable Mr Sagacious in difficult political situations in the first three episodes. His managerial skills and ability to balance his priorities with the alliances he had at stake shone when he dealt with difficult-tempered powerful colleagues. They stayed the course because they were well regarded by others who competed with each other. It was also because he never claimed the office of Prime Minister.

Also read: Naidu will take oath as Andhra Chief Minister on June 12 in Amravati.

This lesson of the past should be instructive for the BJP leadership on how to deal with Naidu. He should not be given the short shrift of walking out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2018. He responds to reason and is not allowed to rage like Jayalalitha and Mamata Banerjee did with Vajpayee.

The United Front Experience

During the 1996-98 United Front coalition, a constant thorn in Naidu’s side was Sitaram Kesari, the benevolent Congress president who had an ax to grind with Deve Gowda. Others with wild ambitions and pathological rivalries included Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Lalu Prasad (RJD) and, to a lesser extent, Harkshan Singh Surjit, Marxist veterans who, on the whole, had their own preferences. He was a worthy one.

For example, on the fall of Deve Gowda, the CPI-M general secretary lobbied hard for Mulayam who Lalu did not want. But for the solid advice of Naidu’s political savvy and former prime minister VP Singh, Gujral could not have become the prime minister. As a technocrat unchallenged in popular politics, he became the consensus choice not by election but by a process of elimination.

The UF-2 government finally fell to the internal maneuverings of the Congress when Arjun Singh made a major issue of the Jain Commission report (on the conspiracy aspect of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination) which “needle of suspicion” in the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). pointed out. . By using Gandhi’s name, Singh could predict Congress’s support for the DMK’s ouster. Gujral refused.

Losing patience with the UF, which was heading for extinction in any case, Naidu resigned as convener to ally with Vajpayee for the 1999 elections. His explanation for what appeared to be an ideological paradigm shift to this writer was: “The people of Andhra want to see Vajpayee as Prime Minister. I have to participate in the spirit of being relevant in the state — without which I The center cannot remain relevant.” In the same breath, he promised to be a ‘restraining’ influence on the BJP, which he really was as a key external supporter of the Vajpayee government.

Falling with Modi 1.0

In 2014, Naidu became the first major regional player outside the NDA to express support for Modi. He even shared power before falling over the TDP’s demand to grant “special status” to Andhra at the time of secession from Telangana.

Naidu A strong case was made for it in the presence of the Prime Minister at the foundation stone laying ceremony of the new capital in 2015 in Amravati. Of all the southern states, Andhra alone did not have a “revenue generating” center after losing Hyderabad to Telangana.

In 2018, when the proverbial straw broke the camel’s back, there was no progress on the matter for a good three years. As the Center failed, Naidu left the NDA for an alliance with the opposition United Progressive Alliance (UPA). This was followed by a bitter verbal spat during the 2019 elections in which the UPA lost nationally and the TDP regionally.

Historical irony

The wheel has now turned full circle. In a repeat of 1999, Naidu is backing a weak Modi, a la Vajpayee, from a strong position. After their first talks in Delhi, they indicated that terms of engagement were in the works. “The (separation of power) issue did not come from him, nor did I raise it,” he told this writer. The only point of certainty is that the TDP will survive in the NDA: “We fought the elections together. My credibility with the people is non-negotiable.

Be that as it may, there is a historical irony about this equation. A Vajpayee-like votary of “Unity and Raj Dharma”, Naidu made a tough call to continue supporting the government at the Center after the 2002 Gujarat riots. Instead of withdrawing his external support, which would have brought down the NDA edifice, he allowed himself to be persuaded by Farooq Abdullah who privately argued that if Naidu decided to resign, he would With what face will the National Conference remain in the government?

The middle path Naidu took thereafter was to symbolically distance himself from the BJP. He did not take the Speakership of Lok Sabha after the death of his party’s candidate GMC Baliyogi who was killed in a helicopter crash. This set the stage for Shiv Sena’s Manohar Joshi to get the prize job. In another rear-guard action to consolidate his minority support base, Naidu played a key role along with the SP. Amar SinghIn the 2002 elections, APJ Abdul Kalam was elected as the 11th President of the Republic.

But the damage control effort did not succeed. The political price Naidu paid for being a reliable, dependable ally of the BJP was evident in his failure in 2004 and the emergence of the Congress’s YS Rajasekhar Reddy in Andhra.

He later cited his inability to withdraw support from the NDA as a major reason for his defeat, and also his disproportionate focus on developing Hyderabad as a cyber hub to rival Bengaluru. He told this writer later: “It was a mistake not to plow some of the countryside out of the extra income we got because of the first-generation reforms.”

Against this backdrop, the TDP chief has a legitimate case to revive his demand for special status for Andhra. In the case of TDP’s direct participation in the government, their choice of ministerial portfolios is closely linked to it. The bridge will be crossed when the alliance reaches it.

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