Andhra verdict: Chandrababu Naidu back in the national limelight—and how!

Steering the Telugu Desam Party to a landslide assembly election victory, the veteran kingmaker is also the man on whom the NDA's future and the Lok Sabha verdict impinges

King himself, kingmaker or a solid ally—what will Chandrababu Naidu choose? (photo: @ncbn/X)
King himself, kingmaker or a solid ally—what will Chandrababu Naidu choose? (photo: @ncbn/X)

Suresh Dharur

Nara Chandrababu Naidu, who steered his Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to a landslide victory in the Andhra Pradesh assembly elections, is back in the national limelight after a gap of nearly three decades.

Winning 16 Lok Sabha seats out of 25 from Andhra, the TDP is the biggest alliance partner of the BJP and is all set to play a key role in the formation of the NDA government at the Centre.

After failing to secure a majority on its own, the saffron party is now dependent on its allies to become a stable government at the Centre.

Clearly, Naidu (74), a three-time chief minister, is the man of the moment.

“The BJP leadership has offered him the post of convenor of the NDA,” TDP sources say.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will reportedly fly down to Vijayawada on 9 June to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Chandrababu Naidu as he commences his fourth term as chief minister.

The incumbent YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), headed by Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, has suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the TDP-led alliance, which included actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party and the BJP.

Facing anti-incumbency and massive public anger over rural distress, unemployment, financial crisis and vendetta politics, the YSRCP is headed for a total rout with a majority of the ministers biting the dust at the hustings.

The ruling party’s tally is set to be reduced to a paltry 9 in the 175-member assembly, while the TDP is set to win 137 seats on its own, followed by its allies—the Jana Sena Party at 21 and the BJP with 8.

This is a full reversal of the 2019 assembly results, when the YSRCP swept the polls, bagging 151 assembly seats.

Naidu in the spotlight

And so, yes, Naidu is now back in the national limelight, in a context reminiscent of the coalition politics of the 1990s, when he played the role of kingmaker in the formation of both the United Front and the NDA governments at the Centre.

In the wake of a fractured mandate in 1996, Naidu, as the convenor of the United Front, helped bring together parties not aligned with either the Congress or the BJP and propped up the H.D. Deve Gowda government with outside support from the Congress.

In 1999, his party contested the Lok Sabha polls in alliance with the BJP and supported the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, which had also fallen short of the majority mark. Even with just 29 seats, the TDP was the BJP’s biggest ally then as well.

In 2014 too, Naidu contested in alliance with the BJP and joined the Modi government — only to leave the alliance in 2018, ahead of the assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh, in protest against the Centre's denial of special category status to Andhra Pradesh.

And now, again, the 2024 Lok Sabha mandate has thrown up an opportunity for him to play kingmaker and herald the resurgence of his party, which has suffered serious setbacks in the past few years.

That the whole nation's fate hangs in the balance thereby, however, is why history will remember his next choice.

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