With almost no honeymoon period, his rule began against odds on all front. And the man seemed stuck in an old template of development from the late '90s – and came unstuck fast.
A doomed rivalry
The biggest outwardly feature of Naidu’s first year has been his keen rivalry with Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhara Rao, better known as KCR, whom he tried to match, instead of realising the circumstantial differences. If Naidu read the contrast in mandates won by his Telugu Desam Party and his rival Telangana Rashtra Samithi's mood of victory right, he would have kept away from any chest-thumping. Telangana was on a high of victory, while Naidu inherited a gloomy populace, hurt by the loss of Hyderabad. Instead, Naidu tried to focus on outdoing KCR, who once served as a minister in Naidu’s cabinet before he formed TRS and started a successful campaign for a separate Telangana from Andhra Pradesh.
In this, Naidu made another mistake of not anticipating the difference in the NDA regimes under Vajpayee and Modi. Back then, Naidu had numbers, Vajpayee did not. It ensured that the IT Czar of Hyderabad could descend upon Delhi with a long wishlist and take it all back. Modi never needed to please Naidu and the BJP could do with weakening the TDP in Andhra for its own growth.
Stuck between an unobliging Modi, a needless face-off with Telangana government and a belligerent opposition leader YS Jaganmohan Reddy back home, Naidu had little space to manoeuvre.
Pushing his old-laptop-driven vision on a mobile phone era, he put off the farmers in a big way with two actions. One, inability to waive the loans – his manifesto’s biggest promise. Second, forcing farmers out of their lands to build the capital and certain key projects.
Naidu took to a series of foreign trips for investments. Naidu’s son Lokesh went to the USA to invite investments at the same time as KCR’s son, KT Rama Rao. In both cases, Telangana came back with a bounty – KTR returned with a solid investment offer from Google to build their largest campus outside the USA in Hyderabad, the best Lokesh managed was a selfie with Obama.
While Naidu’s repeated attempts to rouse people in Andhra to a mood of resolve to build a new state despite odds got lukewarm response, Jaganmohan Reddy was rousing farmers successfully against TDP moves to acquire their land forcefully.
Trouble in Andhra made Naidu spend more time in the common capital Hyderabad, focusing on rebuilding his party in Telangana. A move that backfired, as KCR, riding high, took to targeting TDP concertedly. Legislators and leaders of the TDP moved to TRS. When Naidu resorted to face-saving rhetoric ("we will rule Telangana in 2019"), it created a backlash in Andhra that he had lost interest in that state.
Cash for vote
In such a backdrop, TDP’s young belligerent leader in Telangana, Revant Reddy, took to some vociferous strides against KCR, making allegations of corruption against the Telangana CM. He was arrested a few days ago, caught red-handed offering a bribe of Rs 50 lakh to Elvis Stephenson, a nominated legislator, for cross-voting for TDP in Legislative Council elections. Worse, the Anti-Corruption Bureau says they have recorded telephonic conversations between Chandrababu Naidu and the MLA, where he said, “Our people briefed me. I am with you, don't bother. What all they spoke, we will honour."
It may not be of any great interest to the Telangana government to push the cases against Naidu to a logical conclusion, but it already has given enough political fuel to both rivals in Telangana and opposition in Andhra. KCR can have him questioned, embarrass him politically, push for gubernatorial permission to prosecute him under Prevention of Corruption Act, or go after him after simpler acts like abetting bribery.
While no politician would gain arresting another for corruption, KCR would keep Naidu on the edge for a while because it would push Naidu from any possible plan to strengthen his party in Telangana. Naidu’s clean image claims are in tatters, his promise of being pro-farmer in this term have been proven to be a lie, and his stock is falling in both states. Worse, his ally at the centre can afford to ignore him for a long time.
The worst piece is that pushed to new legal troubles in this matter, he will hardly have the ability or strength to push the Centre for a special status of his state or huge funds for building a new capital. And his image of a "can-do" leader is slowly falling apart. Every political force – TRS, YSR Congress and the BJP – will benefit from him weakening and they are all already pushing him.
It is a nightmare that will only worsen. And his claims that he built Hyderabad will sound more hollow – the reality-escaping ploy of a man who knows he cannot escape the matrix.