Behind the shadows of a bitter political rivalry, a pitched battle of a different kind is playing out in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, between two strong personalities.
The respective chief ministers, N Chandrababu Naidu and K Chandrashekar Rao, are wooing essentially the same set of industrialists with a string of sops, and the honours so far are more or less even.
Telangaga, India’s newest state, has launched a high-octane campaign with full-page newspaper ads offering 14-day project clearances, 24-hour power, a 150,000 acre land pool and 10% of reservoir waters. Rao has also promised a police station at Hyderabad’s new IT hub, Adibatla.
This marks a turnaround of sorts for Rao, who till recently opposed industrial projects as part of his broad agitation for a separate Telangana state.
Naidu, who was described as the CEO of AP (then undivided) when he developed Hyderabad into a strong infotech competitor to neighbouring Bengaluru, is rolling out the red carpet to investors as well: Hyderabad, which falls in Telangana, will cease to be joint capital of the two states in 2024.
Investors are clearly enjoying the situation. On Friday, as Rao unveiled Telangana’s first industrial policy, some businessmen could not but recall the jingoism during the statehood agitation.
“TRS had assumed a radical face and some leaders used to threaten and extract money from industrial units. With this new policy Rao sends out a clear message to anti-social elements to keep away from corporate houses,” a top industrialist hailing from Andhra told HT.
Several Andhra entrepreneurs like G Mallikarjuna Rao and GVK Reddy were sharing the dais with Rao, apart from industrialists such as YC Deveshwar and Pawan Ruia.
Since the state was split, the two chief ministers have been competing for investments often wooing the same companies, often meeting both Rao and Naidu on the same day.
Telangana jockeyed for a mega Hero MotoCorp plant, but the well-oiled Naidu machinery beat them to it. In April, Naidu took PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi for a special darshan of Lord Venkateshwara in Tirupati and later both went to inaugurate the company’s `1,200-crore plant in Chittoor district — the same place where Hero will set up a `1,600-crore motorcycle plant.
A rattled Rao pushed his officials for an image makeover, which seems to be bearing fruit. Ruia Group chairman Pawan Ruia said he will set up a rail coach factory near Hyderabad. “Our intention was to build this unit in Andhra, close to the coast, but attractive policy and quick movement of Telangana on the approvals, amenities etc. made us come here,” Ruia told HT.
Telangana’s IT minister and Rao’s son KT Rama Rao said: “We are not in competition with Andhra but Gujarat and Maharashtra.”