If there is ranking for cynically insecure politicians in India, CBN should top the rankings by huge margin. The fact that he lacks basic leadership skills aggravates his insecurity. A poor communicator with no charisma, so far he failed to convince people of Andhra Pradesh that he represents an alternative even when there is all pervasive political gloom in the state across regions. People at large are not enthused about his leadership even after 8 years of disastrous congress government. Even TDP supporters are not convinced about his ability to bring party to power.
As a party TDP had glorious history of decimating congress in the state when national parties of all ideological hues failed to even challenge congress in the state for a very long time after independence. TDP also became a pole of anti-congress politics at national level when it was principal opposition in parliament during Rajiv era. NTR took the initiative to bring all anti-congress forces across the board on a common platform as national front chairman in 1989. All that is glorious history for TDP, as soon as CBN took over TDP and CM of AP in a coup he started politics of convenience, calculations and cronyism.
Politics needs calculations, strategies but they are not substitutes for credible leadership. In 1996 parliament elections TDP went into elections under CBN for the first time, it got 38% of votes, a massive 14% drop from 52% votes in 1994 assembly elections under NTR in seats contested. TDP won 16 MP seats and took the support of its rival in state congress to form the United Front government. CBN played key role in UF government formation. Media hailed him as the modern Chanakya who even turned down PM offer to serve his dear state of AP.
The people of Andhra were not convinced about CBN’s chanakya niti, they saw the UF govt for what it is, a rag-tag combination of pigmies surviving on congress ventilator support. In 1998 elections TDP won just 12 seats. There was massive swing towards Bjp, it won 4 seats on its own and an unprecedented 18% vote share. People rejected CBN Chanakya strategies even after his massive PR overdrive presenting himself as a moderniser and visionary. CBN politics is communist-cong combo in political strategy and neo crony-capitalist in vision, infact he was baptized and schooled in congress before he switched over to TDP after NTR’s historic 1983 victory.
Bowing before the pressure of people CBN supported NDA from outside while getting his party man as speaker to avoid any prospective shift in TDP MPs loyalty, another example of his extreme caution and insecurity. In 1999 Bjp-TDP alliance secured massive mandate in MP seats but couldn’t manage same level of success in assembly tally. Some argue that CBN benefited from Bjp alliance, it was a mutually beneficial tie-up though after winning CBN made all efforts to eat into Bjp base forgetting congress still had huge base waiting to be squeezed
After 2004 rout of TDP-BJP in AP, CBN was devastated and moaned that people of AP failed his vision. He hastily snapped ties with “communal” Bjp blaming it for the rout. After 9yrs as CM he donned the role of opposition leader, YSR made mince-meat of his opposition at each step. YSR aggressively focussed on squeezing the TDP space with carrot and stick policy. CBN was no match to the aggressiveness of YSR in power. He was ridiculed, lampooned for his insecurity, backstabbing history by rank and file of congress party with active cheer leading by YSR.
In 2009 elections CBN managed to form a grand alliance with left and TRS, parties that joined YSR in 2004 now joined him against YSR. In a three cornered race between TDP alliance, congress and chiranjeevi party, YSR won with simple majority. TDP improved its tally mostly because of its performance in telangana.
After YSR’s death and telangana fiasco there is massive shift in political equations in telangana. In coastal Andhra Jagan became rallying point to Christian, muslim minority and his caste. Chiranjeevi merged his party and is rewarded with a central ministry. Recent assembly by-polls suggest jagan has achieved traction among voters. It’s going to be a 3-way fight and each percent vote is precious for all parties.
Bjp, as a party has no credible leadership in the state, but andhrites responded to national trends and rewarded bjp more than what they deserve. In 1991 at the peak of Rama Janmabhoomi movement 10% andhrites voted to Bjp. In 1996, 1998 parliament elections 6%, 18% andhrites voted for bjp respectively without any major alliance. In 2009 even in a multi-cornered contest bjp got 4% votes for parliament election. So there is huge vote vacillation for bjp in Andhra between 4-18%.
In coastal Andhra right thinking andhrites are concerned about rise of Jagan, they would either prefer TDP or congress. This vote is the natural constituency of TDP, but TDP needs a national party to reassure this constituency about its capacity to challenge congress, jagan. An alliance with Bjp with a leader like modi at helm could add huge X factor and bring incremental vote to the alliance. In telangana Bjp could easily get 10-15% votes on its own in the changed scenario. General consensus among political circles is TDP badly needs incremental votes and a credible message to boost its campaign and Modi-CBN alliance could just do that.
It seems Modi has realised this ground reality and extended his hand of friendship inviting CBN and Balakrishna to swearing ceremony, recognizing Balakrishna’s popularity among TDP base. He has done that despite CBN’s unilateral snatching of ties with Bjp. CBN could have used this occasion to again build bridges with Bjp. Even if he is not interested at this time as a party president, he could have let Balakrishna to attend the ceremony when he received invitation in the name of NTR. Infact many supporters of TDP were jubilant over the invitation. But CBN shamelessly interfered in a personal invitation, had Balakrishna decided not to attend on his own, nobody would have questioned his personal choice. After this episode questions will be raised on whether sons of legendary NTR have any individuality of their own.
What explains this behaviour of CBN? It’s just pathological insecurity. He is ready to get humiliated by his enemies, but would never let anybody from his party to gain importance. He would rather take TDP down than letting somebody else to share limelight both within his party or in an alliance, that too modi who succeeded where he failed.
CBN would rather like to win no parliament seats at all if he can’t make up to a majority in assembly in the fear of creating alternative power centres in Delhi within party. What if Balakrishna becomes an MP and decides to become a minister in Modi government, the thought itself most likely would send shivers in his spine. With this kind of insecurity, lack of leadership it’s not surprising that many political watchers predict doom for TDP under CBN.