Chandrababu Naidu loves to play kingmaker (Profile)

May 15th, 2009 - 3:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Mohammed Shafeeq
Hyderabad, May 15 (IANS) Once a poster boy of India’s economic reforms, Nara Chandrababu Naidu is today a changed man as he gears up to play a key role in government formation in New Delhi and Andhra Pradesh.

From his stand of “no free lunches” during his nine-year rule (1995-2004) to the electoral promise of monthly cash doles of Rs.1,000 to Rs.2,000 for the poor, the transformation of the Telugu Desam party (TDP) president has been remarkable.

A diehard reformer and strong opponent of populism five years ago, Naidu has now joined the bandwagon of political populism, making promises of free colour televisions and money to poor and middle class families.

Learning from his party’s crushing defeat in the last elections, Naidu admitted he had committed a mistake by remaining too focussed on economic reforms while not addressing the immediate needs of the poor, especially farmers.

While his critics see him as desperate, Naidu defends himself by arguing that the time has come to distribute the fruits of economic reforms among people.

The stakes are high for the 60-year-old leader as he not only took a U-turn on economic reforms and the Telangana issue but also joined hands with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and the two Left parties to take on the Congress party.

While he succeeded in cobbling up an alliance with the parties that were allies of the Congress in 2004, he faces a tough challenge in keeping them, especially maverick TRS leader K. Chandrasekhara Rao, with him.

Naidu, a shrewd politician, loves to play kingmaker at the centre. Ever since he toppled his father-in-law and TDP founder N.T. Rama Rao in 1995, Naidu has hogged the limelight in the national political arena.

The architect of the United Front government after the 1996 polls, Naidu is known to keep his cards close to his chest. He surprised everyone by joining hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1998 and continued to play kingmaker till 2004.

The defeat in 2004 not only threw him out of power in the state but also put an end to his dominance in national politics as the TDP could win only five out of 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

The longest serving chief minister in the state’s history then snapped ties with the BJP to once again come closer to the Left parties and his other erstwhile allies in the United Front. During the last two years, he again became active in national politics, bringing non-Congress and non-BJP parties together to form the Third Front.

The tech-savvy Naidu, who is credited for the emergence of Hyderabad on the world IT map, considers Congress his number one enemy and may agree to go with any formation to prevent it from forming the government.

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