MD Ranta Kumar
The turn of events in the political landscape of Andhra Pradesh will have unintended but significant consequences in Telangana in the November 30th Assembly elections. The arrest of former chief minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu has brought a churn in the politics of AP, besides exerting influence on non-local voters of AP origin settled in TS. When one considers the two Telugu states, nobody can wish away the impression left by Naidu on the administration in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh during his chief ministerial stint that lasted eight and half years. Of particular interest is his indelible mark on initiating the stupendous growth of IT industry in Hyderabad. No wonder, the arrest of Naidu for his alleged role in the AP skill development scam triggered techies-backed protests not just in the Telugu states but also in at least 20 locations across the world. In fact, the protests in and around Hyderabad by IT professionals were so embarrassing that the Telangana government headed by K. Chandrasekhar Rao, aide-turned-foe of Naidu, to issue a warning to managements of IT companies that severe action would be taken if those protests continued in TS. Still, the protests continue. What if they are overtly backed by TDP leaders?
Whatever it be, the arrest of Naidu has united non-local people in TS, especially those belonging to the politically influential Kamma caste, in pledging their support for Naidu.
KCR may have watered down Naidu’s contribution to the IT sector’s growth in Hyderabad by crediting former chief minister N Janardhan Reddy with laying its foundation in the early Nineties. But he cannot be blind to the fact that sizeable sections of non-local people are demanding the immediate release of Naidu, who has been remanded by the ACB court at Vijayawada. Naidu is reportedly spending agonising days in the Central Prison in Rajahmundry without even basic facilities. Protesting IT professionals have questioned the propriety of the TS government in denying permission for rallies at a time when other countries granted the same for people seeking to express their solidarity with Naidu.
The TS government cannot wish away the fact that Hyderabad is still the joint capital for both TS and AP. It is a different matter that Naidu, to avoid being embroiled in the ‘cash for vote’ scam, chose to shift lock, stock, and barrel to residual AP, thereby sacrificing the legitimate claim of five crore Andhra people on Hyderabad.
Now KCR is feeling the void left by Naidu. While aiming at a hat-trick, KCR cannot afford to antagonise large sections of non-local people settled in Hyderabad and other parts of Telangana over the arrest of Naidu. Non-local people can influence the final outcome of the elections by virtue of their commanding presence in more than 40 seats out of 119 constituencies in the TS Legislative Assembly.
There being no scope for any party to win these seats with a wide margin, the votes of settlers become crucial for every party, more so for the Bharat Rashtra Samiti. In the 2018 Assembly elections, settlers had rallied behind KCR believing his word that the BRS government would treat locals and non- locals alike. Now, with Naidu behind bars, BRS must ensure its own ‘safety’. So, KCR may be compelled to ask his Andhra counterpart YS Jaganmohan Reddy to ensure the early, if not immediate, release of Chandrababu Naidu from jail.
Thanks to the friendship of Telugu states’ chief ministers, AP may not insist on TS paying more than Rs. 6,000 crore for electricity supplied by the power utility AP Generation corporation. Well-furnished buildings of AP, valued at hundreds of crores of rupees on the old Secretariat campus, had been given away to TS government gratis. On his part, KCR had extended help to Jaganmohan Reddy to come to power in 2019 by influencing TDP candidates having business interests in Hyderabad to shift their loyalties to the YSR Congress Party. For instance, Adala Prabhakar Reddy, Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy (MPs from Nellore and Ongole respectively) switched to YSRCP after being declared as TDP candidates. Jagan had the last laugh at the hustings.
Now YSRCP social media groups have urged non-local voters in Telangana to support KCR this time so that Jagan could be assured of the latter’s help in the 2024 Assembly polls. They are concentrating on certain communities, Reddys in particular, settled in Hyderabad to mould their thoughts on voting. However, the Reddy community in Telangana, at one time called ‘ruling caste’ due to their political predominance, are nursing their wounds caused by losing power to a Velama community leader post bifurcation. So, the Reddy community may look towards the Congress party, for which that caste has traditionally been the mainstay.
As KCR is desperate to achieve a hat-trick this time at any cost, seeking Naidu’s release from jail may not be a big deal in the present situation.