Look who's learning Hindi - Chandrababu
He goes through two Hindi newspapers every day and even has teachers to help him pick up the language. Now that N Chandrababu Naidu is looking for a larger role in national politics, the former Andhra Pradesh chief minister is dead serious about learning Hindi.
Hailing from southern India, that too from the Rayalaseema region where Telugu is the dominant language and even Urdu is not spoken unlike in state capital Hyderabad, it is not an easy task for him.
But as convenor of the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) comprising six regional parties from across the country, Naidu knows he has to reach out to people in the Hindi heartland in the north.
And the 58-year-old Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief is trying hard.
He is learning Hindi from a journalist as well as a teacher and is also taking help from his wife N. Bhuvaneshwari, an entrepreneur who has good command over the language.
Naidu, who had learnt the Hindi alphabet in school, goes through both the Hindi dailies published from Hyderabad every day. "He makes it a point to go through the headlines, if not the entire text," said a source.
"He is a very avid learner. The only problem is time. After spending a few hours on learning Hindi, he gets busy with party affairs. He tries to revive it when he has to address public meetings outside the state," said a close aide.
Before going for meetings, he rehearses his speeches and his teachers and wife help improve his pronunciation.
Sources close to Naidu say though he began learning the national language in 1996, a year after he became chief minister, he focused on it only in 2004 after losing power to the Congress party in the state.
"When he was in power he could spare little time to learn Hindi and even now he is so busy with meetings that he does not have time to regularly learn the language," a source told IANS.
After forming the UNPA with the Samajwadi Party and other parties last year, Naidu realised the importance of Hindi for communicating not just with other UNPA leaders but also with the people at large.
As the UNPA is addressing a series of meetings on farmers' issues in different parts of the country, Naidu is delivering his speeches in Hindi.
When such public rallies were held in the Uttar Pradesh towns of Etawah in February and Azamgarh last month, he delivered the speeches in fluent Hindi much to the surprise of his UNPA allies and the public.
"Since he is yet to get a hold over the language, he is reading out the prepared text written in the Telugu script," said a close aide.
"He knows that English is not going to help him in sending his message as the majority of the people can't understand the language. He felt this is also essential to communicate with UNPA leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav," said a TDP leader.
TDP sources said Naidu had been keen to learn Hindi after he became convenor of the United Front in 1996. "However, he was preoccupied with day-to-day governance and could not spare the time," said a leader.
He also felt the need when he emerged more powerful at the centre in 1999 and left the United Front to back the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
The IT savvy leader, who was chief minister of the state from 1995 to 2004, could finally spare some time for learning Hindi after he lost power in the last elections.
Learning Hindi is difficult for politicians in the south, especially if they have no exposure to national politics. Former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, who is from Karnataka, in fact stunned everyone by delivering his Independence Day speech in chaste Hindi.
In Andhra Pradesh, many leaders who come from Hyderabad and other parts of Telangana can speak Hindi or Urdu but those from the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions are not known to be familiar with the language.
Naidu holds a masters degree in economics from Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati.