“We are fighting fit. We are ready for polls anytime,” asserts Nara Chandrababu Naidu, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) boss. The veteran of many poll campaigns can feel good times coming. <b1>
He feels that the tide is turning against the ruling Congress party in the state and if any party was in a position to benefit from it, it is TDP. And he has been telling his party men to get ready for the mid-term polls.
During this past week, a retired High Court Judge Motilal Naik (a weaker section community member hailing from Telangana) as well as hundreds of activists of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (the Telangana Centric party) joined TDP. “Tell me are these not indicators. Why would people join a losing party?” questions Prasad, TDP office bearer.
The Congress government of YS Rajasekhara Reddy is clearly not winning friends or voters. There is talk of rampant corruption at all levels. “They seem to be in a tearing hurry to make money,” says a political observer. Naidu says the anti-incumbency against the Congress is quite perceptible now. While that will help him to a great extent, the TDP is not exactly lying on its oars.
The party has been periodically launching agitations against government’s anti-people policies, the latest being ‘Project Baata,’ an audit exercise by party workers to highlight the low quality of various construction and irrigation projects in the state.
This measure is an offshoot of the recent collapse of a flyover in Hyderabad and washing away of the Gundlavagu dam (costing Rs 7 crore), wiping out several tribal hamlets. The TDP has also published several booklets to highlight the corruption and nepotism in the government.
But TDP is aware that harping on the omissions and commissions of the Congress government alone would not suffice. The party, therefore, has resorted to major course corrections. Firstly, Naidu, once the votary of World Bank-initiated reforms, has reinvented himself by becoming a champion of the farmers and the poor by blasting the same reforms he initiated.
Once the same Naidu had denied Rs 1 lakh ex-gratia to families of farmers committing suicides by saying that the money “would encourage more farmers to commit suicides”.
TDP circles say the party cannot return to power without obtaining the votes and support of the farmers and other poorer sections into its fold. Infotech is all right for the shop window, not for winning elections. Secondly, the party has jettisoned the BJP and NDA as Naidu has realised that he cannot win back the Muslims (who account for 8 per cent of the total electorate) as long he is seen in the company of the saffron brigade. The Muslims, feeling let down by the Congress after the Babri Masjid incident, had supported the TDP, but the party disappointed them by joining hands with the BJP-led NDA, senior leaders reckon.
Naidu is now actively working on a new electoral alliance with Left parties. He has already established a working arrangement with CPM, the dominant among the left parties by joining them in
(land struggle) agitation and supporting each other’s candidates. Now, he is trying to charm the CPI. The TDP founder NT Rama Rao (or NTR) had a similar alliance with left parties in the 1980s and 1990s and it worked for him beautifully.
TDP leaders reckon that Telangana issue, which harmed the party badly because of its strong opposition to the division of the state, has lost much of its sting. “While TRS has lost credibility, Congress is going to face anti-incumbency because of neglect meted out to the region,” said Dr Mysoora Reddy, TDP member of Parliament.