By T S Sudhir
We were flying over Eluru and our next stop was Gannavaram airport at Vijayawada. I was travelling with Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, tracking his election campaign through coastal Andhra region in April 2009.
“What would you say is your biggest strength, that gives you the confidence that people will give you a second chance and not bring Chandrababu Naidu back to power?” I asked, half expecting him to launch into all the schemes that his government has launched since 2004.
“Our biggest strength is Chandrababu Naidu,” YSR replied, pausing deliberately to savour my puzzled reaction. “His lack of credibility is our biggest plus. Whatever he says will not be believed by the people. That makes our job easy,” he chuckled, enjoying the joke at the expense of his most bitter political foe.
It was a political brownie point that YSR loved to repeat. In his first interview after the Congress victory on May 16 last year, to Uma Sudhir of NDTV, he attributed the triumph to three factors. The leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh (obviously expected from a typical Congressman), the work done by his government and Chandrababu Naidu’s lack of credibility.
It is more than a year since YSR but the barb obviously hurts Naidu. Little surprise then that the former chief minister was touchy when a journalist needled him a couple of days back, by telling him that both he and his Telugu Desam have no credibility, thanks to their ambivalent stand on Telangana.
“What do you mean by credibility? Is it looting the state and sharing the money with followers?” thundered an annoyed Naidu. That the target of the remark was a departed soul, wasn’t lost on anyone.
“I enjoy more credibility than any of the Congress leaders in the state and also outside,” explained Naidu. In the context of the demand to withdraw all cases against students and youth who indulged in arson and violence, in pro and anti-Telangana agitations, Naidu was taking a dig at P Chidambaram who had promised last year that all cases would be withdrawn. Chidambaram-speak had been parroted by then chief minister K Rosaiah, yet nothing happened.
The person in the chief minister’s chair inside the Andhra Pradesh assembly has changed from YSR to Rosaiah to Kiran Kumar Reddy but Naidu is unlikely to forget how he was often the target of YSR’s mocking tongue inside the House.
Ridiculing Naidu for the defeats in 2004 and 2009, YSR had said, “How will people trust a man who has a record of backstabbing his own father-in-law for the sake of power, even if he offered to give them the moon.”
The student of economics that he is, Naidu often points out that he had to sit in the Opposition after the last elections not because of lack of credibility but because of simple arithematic. “The Praja Rajyam split the opposition vote and gave a narrow edge to the Congress.” Plus aligning with the TRS didn’t yield the desired results.
Now emboldened by the confusion within the Congress and Jagan’s exit, Naidu wants to settle the credibility question, once and for all. “The Congress has lost credibility as it faces a serious leadership crisis in Andhra Pradesh,” says Naidu. “Such a thing never happened even once in my nine years in power.”
Naidu’s detractors ridicule his claim of credibility, pointing out that his habit of use and throw is legendary. “Remember in August 1995, he had offered to quit the TDP president’s post after six months. He still remains the party president. Similarly, after using the NTR family to overthrow him, he sidelined them and before the elections, when he wanted to woo the people, he again brought the relatives back.”
Naidu couldn’t care less for the criticism that goes back in history. Lest he be accused of blowing his own trumpet, he tags along two other politicians who he concedes are also credible like him. M Karunanidhi and Farooq Abdullah. Ironically, both of them in a spot of bother because their gen-next haven’t quite proved to be a credible alternative to their fathers.
With `credible’ politicians aplenty, little surprise we market our country as `Incredible India’.
You can also find T S Sudhir’s blogs at http://www.thesouthreports.com