New Delhi: Telugu Desam Party: Lacking the charisma of his late father-in-law, Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, or the youthful drive of his Andhra rival, Yeduguri Sandinti Jagmohan Reddy, Nara Chandrababu Naidu is seeking a comfort zone with Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, but he has to get his own political vision clear to reach anywhere. On hurt Telugu pride, Rama Rao, the star of mythological cinema, rode to a breathtaking victory in Andhra Pradesh, and Naidu became his able party manager. But when he became chief minister after the palace deposition of his mentor, he somehow did not sparkle, although he had a continuous run for 9 years.

What does Chandrababu Naidu lack, and why is the Telugu Desam Party under his leadership going down? The biggest issue confronting everyone in the state is its division into Telangana and Seemandhra, which the Centre has agreed in principle to do, but is faced with the daunting mechanics of execution. The Congress party at the Centre knows it will lose Andhra Pradesh in the 2014 election. So it has quickly agreed to Telangana to get its votes while reconciled to forfeiting the Seemandhra region. The Telangana demand may or may not be justified. But propriety demanded that the Andhra Pradesh assembly resolve in favour of the state’s bifurcation, if at all, in consequence of which the matter could have been taken up (or dropped) by the Centre. But of course the Congress only knows to play the divide-and-rule game.

Chandrababu Naidu ought to have been visionary faced with the Telangana issue, and a good deal politically smarter, which he hasn’t been. Naidu was spooked by the rise of Jagmohan Reddy and the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party, especially when it won a bulk of the assembly bi-election seats. Indian voters are emotional, and the way the Centre witch-hunted Jagmohan Reddy dramatically added to his electoral appeal. Let it be clear. He is far from clean. He will be a disaster for Andhra Pradesh, a failed dynast like Akhilesh Yadav or Omar Abdullah or Rahul Gandhi, and he can be quite vicious in power. But the voters will be blind to all this now. They will see him as their deliverer. He will unravel after a time.

Chandrababu Naidu should have developed insights about his young rival. He should not have vacated the opposition bastion. Instead, faced with the Jagmohan Reddy juggernaut, he compacted with the Congress on Telangana, thereby yielding Seemandhra to an upstart and newcomer. And Jagmohan Reddy is not the sort to let grass grow under his feet. He has gotten grittier with his long incarceration. What should Naidu have done? He should have taken a principled stand on Telangana. As a former chief minister, he ought to have positioned himself as a well-wisher of both regions and the state in its entirety, and demanded that the decision be put to a conscience vote in the assembly. It would have given a face-saver to the losers, whether the verdict favoured or rejected Telangana. Now, Naidu seems to be flowing with the current, not knowing where he is headed. This happens to all politicians who lose touch with the grassroots, are unable to take risks, and cannot visualize the future.

Chandrababu Naidu’s gamble with Narendra Modi may yet pay off, but there is much he has to learn from the Gujarat chief minister. For all his experimentation with governance, his understanding of the need for big industry, his accent on development and so forth, Modi has not lost touch with the ground. His capacity for political micro-management is astonishing. Always modest in his assessment, he has done better than his own expectations, especially in the Gujarat assembly elections. It is these lessons that Naidu must apply in Andhra Pradesh. He must think hard and deep about where he is stuck, and then perhaps arrive at some solutions. For starters, a return to the roots would be beneficial. If he can reach properly and effectively to all the districts of the state, whether or not it remains united, he would begin, by the time of the 2014 election, to get a grip on things. Rating of the Telugu Desam Party: 1 out of 10.

National Conference: Because it is one of the two chief regional parties of Jammu and Kashmir (the other being the People’s Democratic Party), it gets a higher national profile than it would otherwise obtain, but it has nevertheless limited relevance for any discussion of the 2014 general election. In one respect though, the National Conference resembles the dominant structure of most other mainline political parties, in that it is comprehensively dynastic. It was founded by Sheikh Abdullah, and after perilous mutations, inherited by his son, Farooq, passed on in turn to his next-in-line, Omar, and is back with him, though his son continues as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, an assignment that he has thoroughly mismanaged.

In the 2002 election, the Abdullah clan got a shock and a scare when the Congress turncoat, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, and his daughter, Mehbooba, got the People’s Democratic Party to power in the state for the first time. That and the present are coalition governments with the Congress as an ally, but they haven’t done a world of good to the state. Expectations aren’t pitched high because of the dispute with Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir, but this sentiment runs contrary to the finality of the accession, which should spur development and progress level with the rest of the country, but this has not materialized.

The political space in the state would liven up and throw more interesting and valuable options were the separatists to quit their churlishness and participate in the electoral process. While such participation would certainly destroy their separatist credentials, it would also test their popularity with the people, a prospect perhaps not entirely to their liking. So in their absence, the electorate is stuck for choice, with the People’s Democratic Party being communal and neglectful of development and delivery, while the National Conference is directionless, which is made worse by Omar Abdullah’s lack of political engagement. The chief minister is not as visible among people as his gregarious father was, and there is not much hope from the opposition as well. The state needs to elect a national party for a change, and two back-to-back coalition governments with the Congress may be pointing in that direction, but such convulsions are still far out in the future. At any rate, the National Conference will go on as before, muddling along, creating one or two controversies, but it will never amount to much. Just another family enterprise that has become a millstone around the people’s neck. Rating: 1 out of 10.

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To be continued...

Editor’s note: The allegations against Tarun Tejpal of Tehelka are shocking and scandalous. This is perhaps the second big scandal to hit the mainstream media after the Radia tapes. Credibility of the media is at an all-time low. This is indeed one reason for the rise of the social media, and the process will become irreversible unless corrective actions are taken. Media credibility absolutely hinges on taking a unanimous stand against the alleged violations of Tarun Tejpal, and to demand their fair and speedy investigation, and the award of, if it becomes the case, exemplary punishment. Too many journalists have become a law unto themselves, protected by friendly regimes. The trend will destroy the media.