Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu biggest loser in Maha Kootami decimation
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s (TRS) landslide victory has left many licking their wounds in Telangana, including three working presidents of the Telangana Pradesh Congress, the president of the local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) unit and several former ministers, but the single biggest loser appears to be Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader Chandrababu Naidu, political analysts said.
The Andhra Pradesh chief minister had staked his personal prestige and political capital in trying to defeat the K Chandrashekar Rao-led TRS in his own bastion. Naidu was the brain behind the stitching-up of the Maha Kootami (Grand Alliance), comprising the Congress, TDP, Communist Party of India and Telangana Jana Sena. Not only did he strategise, he personally campaigned as well, specially in parts of Telangana having large numbers of settlers from the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions.
KCR and Naidu have shared a mixed relationship. Both started as foot soldiers in the Youth Congress and successfully migrated to become ministers in the TDP, started by Naidu’s father-in-law N T Rama Rao. KCR even served in Naidu’s ministry before their political trajectories diverged irrevocably. After KCR successfully campaigned for and won statehood for Telangana, Naidu could not forgive his one-time cabinet minister and swore revenge for what he considered a betrayal. That was why he stitched together the Kootami in the hope of dethroning KCR.
However, none of that seems to have helped the Kootami, if the assembly election results are any indication. The TRS scooped up 88 of the 119 seats in the Telangana assembly, after KCR in September took a gamble by dissolving the state assembly and calling early elections. Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh in June 2014.
According to political analyst Sriram Karri, KCR owes Naidu a big thanks for intervention in the Telangana elections. “Naidu was strutting around on the national stage, trying to stitch together a maha gathbandhan (grand alliance). Now I doubt whether the stalwarts who, till yesterday, got pictures taken at the Naidu-sponsored Opposition meet will be keen to be seen with him. Naidu’s intervention galvanised Telangana pride and sentiment, which KCR leveraged as a neighbouring state’s head with inimical intentions ,” he said.
KCR took a jab at Naidu at a post-victory press conference, saying “I will give him a return gift since he gave me a gift,” in a possible hint that he would play a role in Andhra politics. However, the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress (YSRC) and Jana Sena Party (JSP), which are significant players in Andhra and did not contest the Telangana polls in an apparent bid to help KCR beat their common enemy, seem wary of KCR’s intervention. “It’s nothing but a game of loss and gain. We will only back KCR if we gain in our state, which is unlikely in the present political situation,” said a senior JSP leader on condition of anonymity.
After all, the TRS rode to power twice as a crusader for a separate Telangana, which went against the interests of Andhra Pradesh, he added.
KCR’s comment evoked a similar response from YS Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSRC. Its former MP, Y. Vijaya Sai Reddy, said, “We are confident of winning the election in 2019 on our own. Although our party got a big morale booster with Naidu’s fiasco in Telangana, finding common ground with KCR to work together in Andhra Pradesh with a different political setting is unlikely.”
The reservations of the JSP and the YSRC leaders over KCR’s possible entry into the Andhra political arena did not prevent grassroots cadre from celebrating the TRS victory.
Activists from both parties put up huge cut-outs of KCR, cut cakes and burst crackers.
For more on Telangana assembly elections, read here