When the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu returned home on Tuesday (June 25) from a family vacation in Europe, more bad news was in store for him.
The security cover for his family members has been scaled down by the new government, headed by his bete noir Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy. The Telugu Desam Party chief’s son Nara Lokesh, a former minister who was earlier provided ‘Z’ category security, has now been placed under ‘Y’ category. He will now get 2+2 security guards as against 5+5 provided earlier.
The security for all the other family members of the opposition leader has been completely withdrawn. The TDP dubbed the move as yet another act of vendetta politics.
Naidu, who had escaped an assassination attempt by Maoists in October 2003 when he was the Chief Minister of the combined Andhra Pradesh, is a Z category protectee. He is on the Naxalite hit list as his tenure between 1995 and 2004 saw major operations to neutralise the ultra-left wing extremists in the state. Several top leaders of the then CPI (ML) People’s War group (PWG) were eliminated in the police encounters.
Galore of troubles
The TDP is facing a series of troubles ever since it lost power in the April 11 assembly elections. As Naidu was holidaying with his family in Europe, four of his six Rajya Sabha MPs deserted him and crossed over to the BJP. Particularly shocking was the exit of two of his close confidants—Sujana Choudary and C M Ramesh, considered the ‘eyes and ears’ of Naidu in Delhi.
On the other hand, Naidu is facing the heat on several fronts from an aggressive new regime. It has ordered demolition of ‘Praja Vedika’, a swanky conference hall adjacent to Naidu’s riverside residence in Vijayawada, on the ground that it was an illegal construction.
While the demolition drive, unveiled by Jagan with a dramatic flourish, is ostensibly aimed at removing ‘illegal structures’ that have come up on the riverbed in violation of the environmental laws, the real target appears to be Naidu who lives in a palatial riverside rented house at Vundavalli on the city outskirts.
The first building to be pulled down is ‘Praja Vedika’, a sprawling conference hall next to Naidu’s residence which was being used for both the government and his party activities when Naidu was the Chief Minister.
The demolition work has already started at the premises and the drive is expected to reach Naidu’s doorstep soon.
For Naidu, who had weathered many a storm in his four decade long political career, this is the toughest crisis. His party faced the worst drubbing in the recent elections, managing to win just 23 seats in the 175-member Assembly and three out of 25 Lok Sabha seats.
The exit of Rajya Sabha MPs reflects a sense of gloom enveloping the party. Many more desertions appear to be on the cards. As part of its ‘Look South’ mission to make inroads in the southern states, the BJP has drawn up plans to poach the TDP leaders in AP and occupy the opposition space in the state.
The names of senior TDP leaders like J C Diwakar Reddy, Paritala Sunitha, Kesineni Nani are doing the rounds.
Kapu leaders’ coup?
Following the party’s drubbing, the TDP leaders from the influential ‘Kapu’ community have been holding informal parleys to chalk out their future action plan. The ‘Kapu’ community accounts for nearly 20 per cent of the state’s population.
A split in the community’s vote in the recent elections, because of the presence of actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party in the poll fray, had benefited Jagan’s YSR Congress Party.
Several prominent Kapu leaders in the TDP are said to be preparing to cross over to the BJP and have been in touch with the state BJP president K Lakshminarayana, himself a popular Kapu leader.
A former TDP MLA Thota Thrimurthulu has taken the lead in mobilising the party leaders from the community to formulate a common strategy. The leaders from East Godavari and West Godavari, the Kapu-dominated districts, held a series of meetings at Kakinada in the last few days where it was felt that BJP could be their best bet as it held out ‘bright future’ in the state.
The Kapu leaders targeted the TDP Chief’s son Nara Lokesh, who is also the party’s general secretary, and held him responsible for the poor show at the hustings.
Lokesh’s autocratic style of functioning, growing casteist tendencies, lack of inner democracy and the raw deal meted out to the loyal workers were the factors responsible for the TDP’s rout, they felt.
“It is possible that the TDP here will encounter a situation similar to the one being faced by the Congress in Telangana. A political vacuum created by the possible exodus from TDP will give enough space for the BJP to launch itself as a viable alternative,” a senior political analyst G Nagaraja said.
AP is known for strong caste loyalties. However, only a few influential communities like Kamma and Reddy have been controlling the levers of political power. There is a possibility of BJP targeting some of the ‘ignored’ communities and attempting a social engineering experiment of the kind that it successfully implemented in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. woes in Andhra