By T S Sudhir
The last time I remember seeing Chandrababu Naidu in a white dhoti was soon after he survived the assassination attempt at Tirupati in October 2003. For several days at end, as the country’s VIPs and non-VIPs trooped in to his Jubilee Hills residence in Hyderabad to check him out, Naidu’s new attire grabbed eyeballs.
On the last day of the Telugu Desam Mahanadu yesterday, Naidu changed his profile pic once again. The dhoti made a reappearance, with TDP spindoctors editing his profile from CEO to farmer leader. All the yellow shirts hope and pray that come 2014, Naidu would take the pants off the Congress.
Sartorial whims and fancies were more N T Rama Rao’s style who used to shift from saffron to white to black robes, much like his film roles. Naidu in contrast, is 24×7 clad in his crisp but boring creams; he even holidays in them !
But leading his party back to the State Secretariat will not be a smooth ride for Naidu and his bicycle. The T-junction flashes red and Naidu, without being able to make up his mind whether to turn left or right, is getting fined every time he tries to cross the intersection. While the Congress stock is undoubtedly low, the Jagan factor threatens to play spoilsport. In 2009, Naidu did not factor the damage that Chiranjeevi on debut would inflict on the TDP and like cricket teams that crib about the Duckworth-Lewis method after losing a close rain-hit match, he kept grumbling about the Megastar doing a hit-and-run.
Naidu, who enjoyed the backing of NTR’s sons and daughters when he staged the coup against NTR and his wife Lakshmi Parvati in August 1995, now realises that the family that conspires together does not stay together for too long. His temperamental brother-in-law Nandamuri Harikrishna, who used to drive NTR’s vehicle, is reportedly unhappy with the manner in which Naidu is clandestinely encouraging a steering role for son Lokesh. With Lokesh’s posters making an appearance at the Mahanadu, Harikrishna sulked the short time he was at the Mahanadu and then walked out in a huff.
Politically Harikrishna is a zero. He has tried his luck to go it alone before, only to come a cropper. But it is his son, NTR Junior, who Naidu will need to worry about. The actor, with mannerisms similar to the late thespian, is seen as having the right name, DNA, charisma and grey matter to make a political splash, should he choose to. Probably that is why, Naidu chose a girl from his side of the family to marry NTR Junior. He used the same carrom ball to neutralise N T Rama Rao’s other actor son, Balakrishna by choosing his daughter Brahmani as Lokesh’s bride. Alliances crafted to ensure the family way is smooth for Naidu.
The TDP cannot look beyond Naidu because it has no other tall leader. The challenge for Naidu is to reinvent himself and stop using the software he installed between 1995-2004. “When I was the mukhyamantri …” repeated a zillion times sounds like a seedy line to an electorate that suffers from short-term memory loss when it comes to Naidu’s years of glory and power.
Naidu has been pilloried as an anti-farmer politician for long and it will take a lot more than just tying a dhoti to forge ties with the farmer votebank. He needs to decide what to wear fast lest others zip away with the booty.