Taking centre stage in national politics, TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu has been holding series of meeting with leaders of various parties to forge a non-BJP coalition at the Centre and all his efforts appear to be aimed at making himself relevant in Delhi.
He held talks with leaders that included United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia, Congress President Rahul Gandhi in Delhi on Saturday and Sunday.
He also flew to Lucknow to meet Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati and her alliance partner Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav. Back in Delhi on Sunday, he briefed Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi on the meetings with BSP-SP leaders.
Naidu also called on Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) head Sharad Yadav, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader S. Sudhakar Reddy, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechuri and many others.
Even Sunday’s exit polls, which predicted a second term for BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre, could not deter Naidu from embarking on another round of meetings.
Rubbishing the predictions and exuding confidence of his Telugu Desam Party (TDP) retaining power in Andhra Pradesh and non-BJP parties coming to power at the Centre, he left for Kolkata to meet West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee to discuss the post-poll strategy.
From Kolkata, he arrived in Delhi, where he is expected to hold talks with more leaders over the next two days. “I will continue my efforts till May 23,” declared Naidu.
Since the time he pulled out of the BJP-led NDA last year over the issue of special category status to Andhra Pradesh, Naidu has held talks with various non-BJP parties in order to bring them together in an coalition headed by the Congress.
His efforts hit a pause when parties like the BSP, SP, TMC and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) decided not to have pre-poll alliance with Congress. However, Naidu was back in action as soon as the Lok Sabha polls ended.
Though facing a tough challenge at home from his main rival the YSR Congress Party, the 69-year-old remains confident about his poll prospects. And instead of just confining himself to state politics, he is trying to play a key role at the Centre.
TDP leader Khambampati Rammohan Rao believes it is Naidu’s urge to serve the nation that gives him the confidence to pursue his efforts.
“He is doing all this in national interest. The need of the hour is to bring a change at the Centre,” Rao told IANS.
Rao pointed out that Naidu earlier proved his skills as a national leader in 1996-1998, when he cobbled up the United Front (UF), a coalition of 13 parties which then ruled at the Centre. As the convenor of the UF, Naidu played a key role in making H.D. Deve Gowda and later I.K. Gujral the prime ministers.
The TDP leader also recalled how Naidu played a vital role in the candidature of A.P. Abdul Kalam as the President of India in 2002.
Expressing confidence in Naidu’s skills, he said: “We feel he will bring many parties on the anti-NDA platform.”
Political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy, however, felt that Naidu was putting in all the hard work only to stay relevant in the national politics.
“Whether Naidu wins or loses elections in his state, his next destination is Delhi. He has to be relevant in national politics irrespective of the result in Andhra Pradesh,” Reddy told IANS.
According to the analyst, if Naidu loses the polls in Andhra Pradesh, he may not sit as leader of the opposition in the Assembly, where Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy is sitting as the chief minister.
“In such a scenario, Naidu may make his son Lokesh or some other TDP leader the leader of opposition and do his politics from Delhi,” said Reddy.
He said that even if Naidu retained power in Andhra Pradesh, he needed support from whoever came to power at the Centre.
“The state will need all the support from Delhi to implement his poll promises and execute ongoing projects like Polavaram and construction of state capital,” the analyst said.
He believes if the NDA falls short of numbers, Naidu may even extend support to it. “If Modi forms the government again at the Centre and Naidu retains power in Andhra, the latter may join hands with the NDA even if it needs no support because he needs handholding by Delhi to run the state,” Reddy said.