While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has toured the north-eastern parts of the country and the three southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in recent days, principally attacking the Congress Party, Andhra Pradesh CM N. Chandrababu Naidu and Karnataka CM H.D. Kumaraswamy, he has not sought to dwell on any claimed achievements of his tenure as PM. This is causing some surprise as the next Lok Sabha election is approaching.
His opponents, on the other hand, are challenging the PM on unfulfilled promises. Perhaps taking a cue from his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee, the Andhra Pradesh CM played this hand to perfection on Monday when he moved to the nation’s capital for a sit-in protest to highlight the BJP’s and Mr Modi’s “betrayal” of Andhra Pradesh.
Mr Naidu recalled the “special package” for five years promised by former PM Manmohan Singh when Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated. The BJP, then in Opposition, had deemed this too little and demanded a package for 10 years. But on coming to power the saffron party overlooked this commitment. The same was true, Mr Naidu noted, of the Centre’s commitment as bifurcation compensation to Andhra Pradesh in the form of aid for making a new state capital at Amravati, the Polavaram irrigation project and a steel plant at Kadpah.
In election season, it became evident that the Telugu Desam Party leader wasn’t taking on either the YSR Congress or the Congress, the parties he will be pitted against at the state level, but firing salvos at the BJP, which is a minor force in Andhra. This stance once again underlined the national role the CM has already begun to play as the virtual coordinator for common action for the Opposition parties against the BJP. The message was underlined when Congress president Rahul Gandhi visited Andhra Bhavan, the venue of Mr Naidu’s New Delhi sit-in protest. Other Opposition leaders also arrived to reinforce the basic point being made by Mr Naidu against the BJP more broadly, and against the PM.
It was noteworthy that the CM recalled the importance of the venue. Andhra Bhavan was the staging ground for the late NTR when he had mounted his assault on the Congress, then the pre-eminent and all-powerful national party. Mr Naidu also recalled his own crucial role as the coordinator for the United Front of Opposition parties which came into being after the end of the Congress government led by late PM P.V. Narasimha Rao. It’s no secret that in that era Mr Naidu’s name was speculated on for the PM’s post, though he didn’t thrust his own case forward.
Unlike some other Opposition leaders, Mr Naidu is at this stage pushing for common action by the Opposition parties against the BJP. The rest will doubtless depend on how the Lok Sabha polls turn out....