TDP’s days are over?

By P.S. Jayaram

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) turned 30 a few days ago, but it has little to cheer about, faced as at is with a grim political future. Party president N Chandrababu Naidu, once the media’s most sought after leader mainly because of his pro-reforms and tech-savvy image, is now fighting with his back against the wall to remain afloat amid all the political turmoil that the state has been witnessing in the past couple of years.

The TDP, founded by the legendary Telugu matinee idol N T Rama Rao, had created a sensation by storming to power in Andhra Pradesh within nine months of its launch in March 1982. The victory, which catapulted TDP onto the centre-stage of AP politics, was described as a historic necessity to mark the end of Congress monopoly in the state.

However, three decades later, the changed socio-political scenario has pushed the regional party into a battle for survival. While public disenchantment with the Congress’ monopoly, coupled with NTR’s charisma and his powerful plank of “Telugu Pride,” provided the perfect backdrop for TDP’s historic win then, the state’s political landscape has since undergone rapid transformation.

The growing impact of the statehood movement in Telangana region led by Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), and the emergence of Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy as a new political force are the two major factors that have pushed the TDP into a corner. Unlike in the past when Congress and TDP were locked in straight contests, the emergence of new sub-regional and regional players and fierce identity politics taking deep roots have complicated matters further.

Naidu, a wily strategist who took over the reins of the party after dethroning his father-in-law in a midnight political coup in August 1995, has an unenviable task of reviving the party. He is up against a formidable challenge from Jagan, a new generation industrialist-turned-politician whose mercurial rise has been giving jitters to both the ruling Congress and the main opposition TDP. And he has TRS to contend with in Telangana.

By heavily investing in political craft rather than cultivating an emotional connect with the people, Naidu seems to have divested TDP of its umbilical cords. Naidu, who ruled the state for a record nine year period from 1995 to 2004, appears a pale shadow of his former self. A sense of despondency has crept into his party cadre in Telangana region because of his continued ambivalence over the contentious demand for separate state.
In Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions, Jagan’s new political outfit, YSR Congress Party, appears to be making waves, according to an internal survey commissioned by the ruling Congress.

In the changed scenario, it remains to be seen how TDP under Naidu will fare in the 2014 general elections. The by-elections to 16 Assembly seats and one Lok Sabha constituency scheduled to be held soon will definitely prove to be an acid test for the main opposition party. [Khaleej Times]

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