Thursday, March 29, 2012

Is the TDP Nai"doom"ed?

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) completes 30 years today.

Apart from the victory and losses in the elections, I believe that there are three watershed moments/periods in this 30 year old journey by the TDP. We will first discuss those events and then briefly talk about what the future holds for the TDP now.
                                                                                                                                                            The 1984 Lok Sabha elections (and the 1996 elections)
                                                                                                                                                                   The Congress swept the entire country except Andhra Pradesh. It won a whopping 404 seats out of the 491 it contested! The second largest party was the TDP! TDP swept the AP seats, winning 30 out of the 42 seats by itself. This meant that this is the first time a regional party got to play a major role in the national politics. This strength of the TDP ensured that NTR later went on to become the chairman of the ruling National Front government in 1989. The importance of this victory cannot be underestimated at all. It at once catapulted TDP to national significance. A similar situation arose in 1996 and 1998 when TDP played a pivotal role (this time CBN was incharge) in the formation of three central governments. Till 2004, perhaps no other regional party played such an important role in the national political developments. Post 2004, we see that they are playing a bigger role (most times, a destructive role, but that discussion is for a later point of time!) 
                                                                                                                                                            The 1995 August coup. 
                                                                                                                                                              The next watershed moment in TDP's 30 year old political journey was August, 1995 when a massive internal coup led by CBN and other family members of NTR (includes his sons, son-in-laws) unseated NTR from power. Popular perception now is that CBN "backstabbed" NTR for a personal gain. And the Congress party, whenever questioned about any failure, resorts to CBN's "backstabbing"! Anyways, coming back to the point :)
                                                                                                                                                               Lakshmi Parvati was clearly acting as the de facto Chief Minister, and NTR just refused to budge. Newspapers at that time even published pictures of the her attending government review meetings along with NTR and other ministers. Her involvement was not just an open secret - it was open for all to see! Certainly, it would cause a lot of heartburn amongst elected representatives to take orders from this lady who came into NTR's life just 2 years back.
                                                                                                                                                                    Her actions prompted the unthinkable to happen - a revolt against NTR! Almost the entire family was up in arms. Majority of the legislators were up in arms. Majority of his ardent supporters were up in arms. His support base amongst MLAs was just dwindling by the day. All legislators were put up in Hotel Viceroy (it is Marriott now, but for us it will still remain Viceroy :D), and within a few days, Chandrababu Naidu was sworn in as Chief Minister.
                                                                                                                                                         Unfotunately, NTR and CBN did not fight against each other in the electoral arena (NTR passed away in Jan, 1996). Crowd surges in meetings for Lakshmi Parvati made some believe that she will defeat the TDP but people just rejected her. And thereafter, it was CBN all the way with none to challenge him for the top most in the party. And the 1999 victory cemented his place.
                                                                                                                                                              This revolt and subsequent victory at the hustings meant that the TDP moved from a person centric party (it was NTR always) to a party that became performance centric (we will revisit this argument later again in the blogpost). This leadership change meant that young people (CBN was 45 when he took over as CM... majority of cabinet was young too) will bring in a fresh change and perspective. They were succesfull for a large extent before arrogance took over too :).
                                                                                                                                                          2008-2009 Tectonic shift in policy approach
                                                                                                                                                               From “vision to television” was the joke going around about Chandrababu Naidu (CBN) during the general elections in 2009! Well, we have to give it to the person who came up with this slogan, for in 3 words he/she summarized the entire political career of CBN!
                                                                                                                                                                 In these two years, the tectonic shift in their approach to policy making is too stark to be ignored. Till then CBN was perceived as the reformist that the country needed. Infact he was staunchly opposed to free power promised by YSR to the farmers in 2004. In the online world, we hear a lot of noise about the "center right economics" etc blah. Naidu's tenure as CM is a case study for such policies.
                                                                                                                                                          However, in the desperation to regain power and credibility amongst the voters, he made 2008-2009 as the year of unlimited promises that will put any socialist regime to shame! He saw that the free stuff being doled out by YSR was working out well. So much free stuff was promised to almost all sections of the society that you suddenly began to wonder if this was the same CBN who talked about a vision for the state and ushered in some much needed administrative changes. It was almost impossible to believe that this was the same CBN who was pivotal in the ushering of the IT revolution (which has benefited lakhs of people) and was the architect of some very innovative government programs. It was also during this period that the TDP said it was in favour of splitting the state. The reformist oriented TDP died along with these changes. Now, we are witness to purely populism oriented TDP. 
                                                                                                                                                                   TDP in power
                                                                                                                                                               The TDP was in power for 16 years in the last 30 years ( 1983-1989 and 1994-2004). It came across as a whiff of fresh air all the time it won the elections. The blog post will become verrry long if we go into the successes and failures of the TDP when it was in power. An earlier blogpost details CBN's rise and fall in the eye of the electorate. Also, this post by KrishnaArjun in the Centre Right India portal details the evolution of NTR's first stint as the Chief Minister. It is a very good read to understand happenings during those times. Wikipedia link on NTR's tenure is also quite exhaustive.
                                                                                                                                                                 TDP in opposition
                                                                                                                                                          TDP's first stint in opposition was quite uneventful compared to it's 2nd and 3rd. During it's first stint, the congress party was on an auto self destructive mode. All that the TDP had to do was take advantage of this. And with some dramatics thrown in (NTR refused to attend assembly for about 2 years!), they got back into power in 1994. Their 2nd stint was their hardest stint. And it was in this stint that their leader, CBN tried to connect back to the cadre and people. TDP was almost ready to give a tough fight to the Congress and that is when Chiranjeevi entered politics. This altered dynamics significantly. Coupled with some bad alliances, TDP again had to end up as the opposition party in 2009!
                                                                                                                                                                 Is TDP Nai"doom"ed? 
                                                                                                                                                             The current stint as the main opposition party is turning out to be a bigger disaster than the previous one! YSR's death and the Telangana goof up by Sonia Gandhi put TDP in a piquant situation! Jagan is slowly emerging as the alternative force. So now TDP is compelled to share the opposition space with Jagan. Earlier in the 2009 elections, they had to share that space with PRP. The goof up by Sonia on Telangana meant that TDP also lost significant ground in the Telangana region. And therefore the immediate future certainly looks very bleak for the TDP.
                                                                                                                                                             TDP has the dubious distinction of being a cadre based one man party! NTR was president of the party for ~13 years. Naidu has been the president for the last 17 years. In this time, the cadre has stuck to him and helped him to regain some lost ground. However, with a stagnation of ideas and the penetration of other parties into the main opposition space, it does look like 2014 will end up as another disaster for the TDP. In the current political scenario (unless something drastically changes), it looks like TDP is heading to a Nai"doom".
                                                                                                                                                                     I am an ardent supporter of the TDP (except from a deeply regrettable deviation towards PRP and then Lok Satta in 2009). NTR is equivalent to an icon for me, and CBN is someone I very deeply admire and like. It pains me and sometimes angers me too, when folks blurt out random statements like "he did nothing". Without some awesome grey matter, it is impossible to have sustained for so long in this field.  Earlier blogs debate this issue. It is extremely painful to see him going down like this.
                                                                                                                                                                 Would a new leader change the fortune of the party? Maybe. But there is no new leader on the horizon - after Naidu, we don't even know who is second in command. NTR's sons might be enthusiastic, but them leading will spell further doom to the party! Overall, it is sad to see the man and the party that dominated policy and politics of AP for about 2 decades go down like this.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sudhir,

aptly written... sad to see the current state of affairs in TDP. Every party is targeting TDP. As you said TDP need new ideas. Criticizing Jagan for corruption is beaten to death. It was well into public. Let people decide. Apart from that there it appears there is no other plank for them ( TDP )to fight for people. No innovative ideas. Whatever they see in the morning newspapers they make an issue of it. Nothing fresh from them. Following others or looking at others for ideas.

Anonymous said...

TDP's stupidity in a) not joining the NDA central govt and then b) dumping BJP post 2004 is indicative of their desire to always blame somebody else for their issues.
To start with they should try and ally with BJP and perhaps even TRS. Jayalalitha and MSY has proven that latent anger with state govt can be tapped in an effective 3-6 month campaign as well

Sandeep said...

Equally disappointed with TDP being the dream team in my college days, given the current situation all CBN could do is garner the entire anti-incumbency pro-Govt.-frustrated votes by forming a 2nd front with TRS-BJP-CPI-etc. Jagan has come from Cong and eventually wil go return to that backyard.

hari said...

When Naidu Killed his Father in Law that the mistake he did. that is his last working day

Anonymous said...

Good one, but not sure if your adulation for CBN is worth the man. He comes across more as an Artful Dodger, a cunning politician playing all sides, a political blackmailer, rather than a leader whom you could trust. Add to that his poor communication skills, he comes across as a man who stands for nothing. In a TN-like political environment people might vote on the basis of lesser evil principle. But AP is in such a mess requiring sincere, serious leadership on the one hand, and many equally lesser evils on offer on the other! One never writes political epitaphs, but looks like it will be very difficult for CBN!

SysErr said...

Sire the last para pains me. TDP can and will survive with the great visionary leader, our beloved Balayya. Blog is brilliant but please change last para. Or else Balayya will do so by slapping his thigh.

Anonymous said...

Cannot agree.. artful dodger, cunning politician... these are oft used words for CBN... but its far from true... can u name one instance... cunning, in today's politics show one politician who is not cunning... political blackmailer... when he supported NDA govt from outside is there one incidence where he went overboard of coilation politics?

Vamsi said...

Good title :)
But i would like to disagree that TDP is in shambles or going to be doomed. Entire AP politics is clueless at this point.Naidu is just maintaining what any one should do when in storm, be silent and strong.

The changing of reformist agenda to populist agenda was also a big setback for TDP.Should not have done that and loose some followers like me .:)

Ps- A quote heard somewhere.Never underestimate Naidu, Especially when he is silent.

Vamsi said...

Adding one more , Naidu might be cunning,using people for benefits etc.. But whatever he did was for State. State interests were never compromised with his chanakya tactics.Except for Telangana,though we understand why he was silent.

Anonymous said...

when he supported NDA govt from outside is there one incidence where he went overboard of coilation politics?

^^ He was not part of NDA. GJ did not have an NDA govt - it had a BJP govt. He kept raising issues on decisions made by that govt (then Kushubhai as CM), finally wanted them to drop Modi, threatening withdrawal of support. BJP called his bluff - he then pulled back from that step attributing to ' we have our own compulsions' Then did a full participation deal with BJP for 2004 elections. He lost and his loss (alongwith ADMK's) ensured that NDA lost power in centre. Since then he has been blaming BJP for his defeat.

In 2004 election YSR actually supported Telengana. He could not exploit the possibilities in Seemandhra. Came 2009 he supported Telengana yet lost. Post 2009 he stands for neither.

It is not my case that he did nothing - saying that will be stupid. I strongly believe that TDP's contribution (both his and NTR's) both to cultural (Telugu) and economic progress of AP is immense. He probably did more for the state as CM than many Congressis preceding him.

His problem is serious - Lack of Trust. Possibly lack of political acumen too. Not sure how he can fix this. As of now Jagan seems to be blindsiding him on a dubious political agenda and CBN does not seem to have any answers!

Personally I feel it will be good for the state if TDP comes to power, but difficult to see that happening!

Anonymous said...

Good Retrospection.....This Time, Time will solve the problems. Be patient with Time.


Aravind said...

A watershed moment was in 1984 when Nadendla Bhaskar Rao engineered a coup with support of Governor, remote controlled by Indira Gandhi. All opposition forces in the state and country supported NTR and they all toured the state for restoration of democracy.

Perhaps due to some admiration for Naidu, I noticed few glaring omissions in your analysis:
1. Naidu characterized alliance with BJP in NDA as mistake and apologized to people. To compensate for his 'mistake' and show his 'support' for Muslims, he resorted to communal and divisive politics of caste and religion - 4.5% reservation for muslims, 52% OBC quota and third front.

2. Naidu usurped power from NTR, whatever his motive. Would he have won election by himself in 1994? Highly unlikely. People voted for TDP as it went to people with NTR as their leader. Having usurped power, he should have sought fresh mandate to lend credibility to his theory of resuing TDP from a woman. Apparently, Naidu was ok with her involvement in campaign and selection of candidates in 1994 elections.

3. TDP never moved to performance-centric. It was NTR and then Naidu. Like YSR, Naidu never allowed anyone to come close to challenging him on the party leadership. The results are there to see. There is no alternative leader who can keep the party united post-Naidu or other than Naidu. There is strong cadre but no leaders who the party can turn to.

4. If one were to move away from media-mania over 'reform' guru Naidu, his rule led the state to worst performing state on all major social and economic indicators. Just an example, state GDP grew by 5% during 1994-2001, the lowest mong southern states and lower than national average. I am not sure what your metrics were to say 'successful to a large extent'.

5. On almost all issues and policies, the stand of Congress and TDP are indistinguishable from each other, under Naidu's leadership. From using liquor auctions to support social welfare programs to neglect of basic necessities and to corruption and to populism and to pandering to communal agenda, TDP and Congress follow same script under different directors.

6. A scheme that would have bankrupt the state or would have deceived voters was 2000 rs cash transfer subsidy that was uncconditional and marketed as 'successful developmental economic strategy' for poverty alleviation. This is worse than NREGA as there is no productivity enhancement to the economy with this dole.

7. Despite your strong and ardent support for TDP, your blog readers would be interested in knowing if you would vote for a party that promises following:

Free color TV, free rice, free power to farmers, KG to PG free education for all, 2000 rs per poor family, 1000 rs per unemployed till they find job, 4.5% muslim and 52% OBC reservation

Please consider these promises in light of 1+ lakh crore of state debt and minority reservations. These put cong in better light. I hope you will make a prudent decision that will not betray your loyalty to center-right agenda.

prashhanthkpp said...

Sudhirji, a neatly laid out chronology of what was and is what is called the TDP. No doubt, CBN had all the qualities of a futuristic visionary. He did carry out his mission quite well too until he fell short of vision, partly blurred out of arrogance and partly due to repeated political misconstruing. There was obvious flashes of fast track development throughout AP. Sadly, those flashes of development were limited mostly to the welfare of the urban and the elite class only. Farmers and the less fortunate were not just ignored but left out to struggle on their and left to exist on meager if not no assistance at all from the State Govt.

CBN took most of his progressive thinking lessons from none other than Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, a Visionary who hoisted the Emirate of Dubai to unlimited heights until the balloon bursted in mid air and fell so hard that the place got literally wiped out from the map of the world. They were great buddies - both rose and fell the same hard way.

Anyway, you have underlined and underscored all vital aspects of the pros & cons of what was once CBN very beautifully and in your inimitable style. Kudos to you.

Sudhir said...

@Anonymous1 - thanks :). You are right - the freshness is missing today. Some issues that are coming out today are the ones they raised earlier, but like you said, these are beaten to death issues. Hope they find out new ways to do it.

@Anonymous2 - I don't know what is stupid in not joining the NDA government. 3-6 month campaign might be effective, if the opposition space is not packed up. TN and UP are different cases.

@Anonymous3 - so?

@Syser - Jai Balayya, Jai Jai Balayya!

@Vamsi - I'd be glad too if he comes back to power. And hence I am distressed about the current state of affairs.


Sudhir said...

@Anonymous5 - fully agree with you. Somehow Naidu doesn't seem to have answers. I wonder what is going through his mind in these difficult times though.

@Aravind - Thanks for the detailed comment.

Glaring omission 1&6 - I have already mentioned his appease all policy is very disturbing. Merely not mentioning all of them wouldn't constitute glaring omission I think.

Glaring omission number 2 - When one aruges "whatever the motive, he usurped power", what more can I really say after detailing what happened then. There was a clear cut need to stop LP from enjoying such unlimited power. The revolt was necessary. And Naidu won the 1999 elections. Hypothetical questions on what would have happened if NTR was alive are a waste of time.

Glaring omission 3&4 - Compared to NTR, Naidu had no charisma at all. He had to bank on performance. An earlier blogpost linked above details his performances too. Even today, there are sarpanches, MROs, govt. officers, scientists etc who talk about his initiatives. Some of these people also talk about YSR's good things.

Naidu also won the 2001 local body polls in a closely contested fight. It is impossible to win if he was not "largely successful" in his 6 year rule till then.

I am not privy to GDP till 2001 or after it. One look around me, and I can see the fruits of some his schemes. Many like me personally benefitted because of his rule. To merely rubbish it off is naive.

Glaring omission 5 - I mentioned that post 2008, the changed persona of Naidu was undesirable. Your conclusion is that TDP and congress are therefore not distuinguishable. How does that amount to a glaring omission? Apart from the control over administration and less corruption, with the current policy draft, there is little to distinguish between the two.

Glaring omission 7 - Despite being an ardent supporter of the TDP, given his tectonic shifts in policy, I moved away from that party in 2009. I thought PRP will be a whiff of fresh air, but alas. Frustrated, I voted for Lok Satta. And now I regret doing that too.

In the 2-3 years since, my thinking and understanding of politics/administration/leadership has undergone a thorough change. In the limitations that he has had, Naidu does still seem the best bet to me. I became a fan of him because of his vision. And later I realised that it will be tax payers like me who will be burdened with his free for all schemes. Plus look at the options we have - KKR and Jagan.

Currently, I am in no state to decide on whom to vote for 2014. All I can say is it will not be the congress and Jagan for sure.


Sudhir said...

@prashantkpp sirji :) welcome back to the blog again :). It is news that he learnt stuff from the ruler of Dubai. Interesting tidbit really!


Aravind said...


Thanks for the response. I felt the details were missing that out of state readers would need to know to understand the path TDP is on. 'Appease all' didn't seem to convey the extent to which they have gone from 'reform and vision oriented'. In hindsight, it could have been 2 or 3 parts blog with details. Still, great analysis and agree with most of it. Just curious, why not BJP? I seriously believe Naidu should lose for all the promises he is making and if he wins, our future generations will not forgive us for encouraging bankrupt populism. After all, we are voting, not for helping party X to come to power but for the party that best serves us.

Arun said...

In the initial days, TDP was a party of Telugu pride and primacy of locals and their language. I believe CBN never had faith in this and distanced the party from this, focusing more on corporate investments and IT. I see a similar transition happening in Samajwadi Party under Akhilesh.

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