The 2019 General Election has witnessed a number of tall leaders losing political ground on unprecedented scales. Rahul Gandhi from Amethi, Mallikarjun Kharge from Gulbarga, HD Deve Gowda from Hassan, Ashok Chavan from Nanded are just a few names who were swept away in what is being called TsuNAMO 2.0. Strong Regional parties also felt the force of this wave with parties suffering major electoral loses both to BJP and other regional opponenets.
Topping the list is surely Nara Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam party in Andhra Pradesh. Facing anti-incumbency in the state, Naidu faced humiliating defeat to Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSRCP in both state assembly polls and the general elections in the State. Naidu led TDP has been reduced to just 23 seats out of the total 175 Assembly constituencies in the state, compared to more than 100 seats in the last assembly elections. Even in the Lok Sabha Elections TDP lost huge political ground to the YSRCP, TDP is now reduced to just 3 Parliamentary Constituencies in the state out of the total 25 in the state.TDP, as a part of the NDA in the 2014 general elections, had emerged victorious on 15 seats.
From being one of the most popular leaders in Andhra Pradesh for decades to being reduced to a handful of seats, Chandra Babu Naidu’s political journey has surely been on a downward path. Naidu had started his career with the Congress as a youth leader. After the imposition of emergency in 1975, he became close supporter of Youth Congress president, Sanjay Gandhi and Narala Saikiran. Not long afterwards, he won assembly election from Chandragiri constituency in 1978, and was appointed as technical education and cinematography minister in T .Anjaiah’s government at the age of 28. The party’s 20% quota for youth to run for the office was beneficial for Naidu on this occasion.
During his tenure as the cinematography minister, he became acquinted with N T Rama Rao, a popular film star in Telugu movie industry and the founder of the Telugu Desam Party. NCBN married NTR’s second daughter Bhuvaneswari in 1980.
In 1983, Chandrababu lost the assembly election to TDP candidate and sensing the rise of TDP, soon abandoned the Congress to join the NTR led party.
Chandrababu Naidu, under the mentorship of his father-in-law, soon reached to the top ranks in the TDP. What followed was a family feud between NCBN and NTR. On 1 September 1995, Chandrababu Naidu staged a coup against NTR and captured the CM seat. In an interview with Reuters, Mr. Rama Rao compared himself to Shah Jehan, a 17th-century Mogul emperor who was imprisoned by his son, and predicted that he would get his revenge against what he called “the backstabbers” in his family, especially his son-in-law and successor as Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu. After leading the state for almost a decade till 2004, TDP lost to the Congress under the leadership of YS Rajasekhara Reddy.
Naidu, as a part of NDA, made his comeback in 2014 when he won the popular support and became the first CM of Andhra Pradesh post bifurcation. As a part of NDA, TDP was also awarded with cabinet berths in the first Modi government. However, almost a year before 2019 general elections and assembly elections in the Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu led TDP formally quit the NDA in the March of 2018. Naidu had claimed that he had taken this decision in the interest of Andhra Pradesh and not for selfish reasons. However, political commentators believed Naidu’s move was aimed at countering rising pro-YSRCP sentiment in the state, which was itself building steam over the issue of special status for Andhra Pradesh.
“We are fighting a dharma yuddham (crusade) against the Centre to secure our state’s legitimate rights. TDP has credibility at the national level; so many parties are coming forward to support us. I will soon speak to those who are ready to support us,” Naidu had told reporters. Despite knowing the futility of his efforts, Naidu even led a no-confidence motion against the Modi government. The theatrics, however, would be of no help to Naidu as he was about to learn.
In September 2018, KCR resigned from the post of CM in Telangana paving way for early elections. Naidu thought it was the perfect opportunity to show his strength on the national level. Betraying the very principles his party was founded upon, Chandrababu joined hands with Congress to form an alliance called Mahakutami. In the elections, however, this opportunistic alliance was squarely rejected by the people of Telangana. Despite being cut to size by the people of Telangana, Naidu refused to learn any lessons.
In the run-up to the general elections, he ran a bitter campaign against PM Narendra Modi in the run-up to the elections 2019.
NCBN was also seen mingling with several top leaders of other political parties to further his political agenda. Naidu left no stone unturned to stitch a so-called third front, a non-BJP, non-Congress alliance with clear ambitions to secure the top post.
The YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) chief’s ‘padyatra’ and his party’s aggressive campaign promising a wide range of freebies also rattled Naidu. His announcements of welfare schemes and even the implementation of some of them were too late to convince the voters.
Rattled by new political realities setting in, Chandrababu Naidu had gone into a state of meltdown. Claiming widespread malfunctioning of EVM’s throughout Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu had sought the Election Commission to conduct repolling on around 150 polling booths. He also accused the Election commission of being biased.
Behind this swift fall of Naidu are surely a multitude of reasons. Naidu led no-confidence motion against the NDA which failed miserably in the house, further eroded the credibility of TDP. Failed promises and inefficient Governance during his tenure as the CM had also contributed partly to this huge embarrassing defeat. Naidu’s dream project, Amravati has also been a disappointment. Even after more than 3 years of its announcement, little or no work has been done in Amravati in this regard.
A second term for Narendra Modi with a massive majority also has voided NCBN of any leverage over the central government. Also facing the tide of time, 69 years old Chandrababu Naidu is unlikely to be at the same level of involvement in the next campaign. The electoral defeat of Nara Lokesh has also shattered Naidu’s dream of grooming his son as his political successor.
In a way, the end of Naidu’s political relevance in absolute ignominy is poetic justice. The man who betrayed the very principles of his party, betrayed his mentor and the mandate of the people was bound to get his comeuppance. And that is exactly what happened.