Analysis | Naidu plays humble for son's future and Andhra's needs

BJP leader Narendra Modi interacts with TDP's Chandrababu Naidu. Photo: PTI

The political stand taken by Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo Chandrababu Naidu to remain humble by not negotiating on numbers and portfolios in NDA-3 Cabinet surprised neither the party rank and file nor the people of Andhra Pradesh.

"State interests are our concern. We are not negotiating on the composition of the Narendra Modi cabinet. We left it to the PM's decision," was the repeated assertion by Naidu and his son Nara Lokesh, the general secretary of TDP, whenever asked about getting their due in the Union Cabinet as the second largest party in the NDA-3 with 16 MPs.

TDP got only one Cabinet rank minister and one minister of state (MoS) berth in the Narendra Modi cabinet. Rumours have it that two more may be inducted during the next expansion in a couple of months.

Kinjarapu Rammohan Naidu and Pemmasani Chandrasekar. Photo: PTI/ X

Kinjarapu Rammohan Naidu, a third-time MP from Srikakulam in north coastal Andhra, has been inducted with Cabinet rank and Guntur MP Pemmasani Chandrasekar, a rich NRI who was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time, was made minister of state. Rammohan Naidu's family is like the right hand for Chandrababu in the north coastal Andhra for over three decades.  Rammohan's father Yerran Naidu had served as Union minister and Telugu Desam Parliamentary Party leader. He was part of the TDP think-tank till his death in a road accident in 2012. Yerran's younger brother, Atchen Naidu, who faced humiliation like body shaming by the YSR Congressmen in Assembly, is currently serving as TDP Andhra Pradesh state unit president (Chandrababu being the national president). Rammohan is articulate and speaks English and   Hindi fluently.

Apart from the two from TDP, Narendra Modi also inducted BJP MP from Narasapurm, Srinivasa Varma, from Andhra Pradesh.

Daggubati Purandareswari, who won from Rajahmundry, is likely to be made the Lok Sabha Speaker or Deputy Speaker.

Purandareswari is the elder sister of Chandrababu Naidu's wife Bhuvaneswari. She had served as minister in the UPA government headed by Manmohan Singh. But, after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to grant separate statehood to Telangana against the wishes of majority MPs in 2014, she switched loyalties to BJP. Last year, she was made the BJP state president, replacing Somu Veerraju who often faced criticism for having a soft corner for YSR Congress Party president and outgoing CM YS Jaganmohan Reddy.

Chandrababu, a trouble-shooter
Track record shows that TDP is a reliable partner and never a trouble-maker.
TDP, under Chandrababu Naidu's leadership, was part of the government at the Centre three times: I K Gujral, Deve Gowda and Narendra Modi's first Cabinet from 2014 to 2019. It extended support from outside to the Vajpayee government, holding the Speaker post. It never had the record of pulling down or troubling governments, though it had pulled out of the NDA-1 government protesting against the treatment meted out to truncated AP in allocation of funds and projects. In the 2019 elections, it remained out of power both in the state and Centre. It again went into the NDA fold a couple of months ago.

"Chandrababu proved to be a reliable political ally when he stood in support of the Vajpayee government during the Gujarat crisis. Things at the Centre and in Gujarat would have been different had he withdrawn support then," said a political observer.

"Holding four portfolios in the Deve Gowda Cabinet and three in the NDA-1 hardly fetched anything for the state except for the ministers enjoying protocol on par with a state chief minister. By not troubling the PM for more positions, Chandrababu will stand a chance to bargain for funds from different ministries. This is what the state needs. This is what would project him as a statesman," says columnist Chalasani Narendra.

Grooming Lokesh
Grooming Lokesh as future leader of the party and potential CM candidate is the biggest task for Chandrababu. Naidu began this exercise during the 2014-19 period by making Lokesh the Information Technology minister. However,  as a budding politician, he could not gain control over the party. Also, the Opposition targeted him for trying to make a backdoor entry to the Cabinet. He was made MLC to be accommodated in the Cabinet after he lost the assembly election from Mangalagiri constituency.

Nara Lokesh. File Photo: PTI

During the 2019 election campaign,  Narendra Modi also targeted Lokesh. "Naidu will suffer son stroke," he said, calling the TDP a family enterprise, resorting to corruption. It was during this campaign period, Naidu crossed swords with Modi and ended up as a loser with just 23 Assembly and three LS seats.

After the Covid era, Naidu sent Lokesh on a padayatra of the state. This brought a lot of maturity to the young leader, besides exposure. Significantly, he won the Mangalagiri Assembly election with a 91,000 majority.

Naidu recently declared 2024 battle as the last election for him. He may be hinting at retiring,  handing the reins to his son.

Party seniors believe that Chandrababu would keep Lokesh at the helm of affairs in the party and also involve him in the governance to simultaneously train him.

Naidu's wish list
This time, 74-year-old Chandrababu Naidu is keen on utilising the opportunity as a fourth-time CM (two terms for the undivided AP and two terms for truncated AP) to fulfil his dream of making Amravati a world-class capital. For this, he needs huge financial support from the Centre, besides sanction of offices of Central establishments. He lost power to YS Jaganmohan Reddy in 2019, just when the actual work took off in Amaravati. Jagan, hell-bent on dumping Amaravati as capital, neglected it resulting in wastage of close to Rs 7500 crore public money. His slogan to decentralise capital with judicial capital in Kurnool, executive capital in Visakhapatnam, reducing Amaravati to a legislative capital, hit a legal block. Fulfilling the world-class capital dream was the central theme for Naidu's campaign in 2024 elections.

Bihar Chief Minister and JDU Chief Nitish Kumar and TDP Chief N Chandrababu Naidu ahead of the oath-taking ceremony of PM-designate Narendra Modi . Photo: PTI

The project requires thousands of crore funds besides statutory clearances and backing from the Centre. "This time, Chandrababu would use all his good offices in the Centre to get funds for capital and various already grounded and new projects. Thus, his decision to not bother about Cabinet berths is wise and welcome," says analyst M Yugandhar Reddy.

Completion of Polavaram multi-purpose irrigation project, which was completely neglected by Jaganmohan Reddy after execution of 72 per cent engineering works in the previous Chandrababu Naidu government, is another big task Naidu has to take up. Polavaram is a national project given to Andhra Pradesh as one of the compensation initiatives during bifurcation. The project cost crosses Rs 40,000 crore, including the more than Rs 15,000 crore needed for rehabilitation of close to 1.05 lakh displaced families (5 lakh people). Hardly 5,000 crore is spent on rehabilitation. People who work with Naidu indicate that he is exploring unique ways to get more funds from the Centre for rehabilitation and completion of the project as well.

A list of things said to have been prepared by Naidu to get from the Centre includes an office of the Reserve Bank of India, offices of various Central agencies, banks and academic and research institutions. The idea is to create an ecosystem in Amaravati by bringing Central establishments first, so that private investments would come in. What Naidu needs now is the spread of a word that the Centre is with him and it is playing active role in development of capital at Amaravati.

Financial support
Financially, the state is in a very bad condition. The debt burden is put at around Rs 14 lakh crores, including the 12 lakh crore borrowed from different sources, Rs 1.5 lakh crore pending bills and the payments pending to employees. Naidu is learnt to have asked the government chief secretary Neerabh Kumar Prasad to prepare white papers on the financial position of all departments and Corporations to be released before his swearing-in on June 12 or soon after that.

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