Whatever his critics may say, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu happens to be a lucky man. In a State known for brief tenures of its Chief Ministers, nine of whom could not even complete a five-year term in office, it is more than a miracle to get a mandate for a second term as well.
While APís first Chief Minister Neelam Sanjiva Reddy could put in five years and two months in two spells, Naiduís father-in-law and Telugu Desam founder N T Rama Rao clocked seven years, six months and 16 days in office in three spells!
In the Stateís 46-year chequered political history, only Kasu Brahmananda Reddy could have long, uninterrupted innings of seven years and seven months as Chief Minister despite the violent separate Telangana agitation that he faced for over nearly three years.
Thus, Naidu is poised to become the second longest-serving Chief Minister without a break. When he faces the Assembly elections two years hence, he will set a record as the Chief Minister with an uninterrupted nine-year long spell.
Naiduís achievement is commendable since he is totally different not only from his mentor and former Congress Chief Minister M Channa Reddy but also NTR. As a Telugu matinee idol, NTR had a charisma of his own.
He could be counted as the most popular personality in Andhra Pradesh in recent times. Channa Reddy, on the other hand, was a dynamic leader who brought Congress to power twice, in 1978 and 1989.
NTR was considered to be an invincible leader till he was toppled twice, once by Nadendla Bhaskar Rao in 1984 and by Naidu in 1995. Besides, NTR had suffered the humiliation of losing power once in the 1989 Assembly polls.
Even Channa Reddy could not remain in power for long. The first time, he was in power for two years and seven months during March 1978-October 1980.
His tenure lasted just one year and four days when he served as Chief Minister for the second time during December 1989-December 1990.
How has Naidu managed to score a feat which eluded many of his predecessors? Naidu is no jadugar, notwithstanding the flattery compliments from magician P C Sorcar Jr. He is also not a charismatic leader like NTR or rabble-rousing capabilities like those of Channa Reddy.
He is neither an ďintellectual CMĒ like P V Narasimha Rao nor an able administrator like Vengala Rao. He neither commanded the political dexterity of Kasu nor the stature of Sanjiva Reddy.
When he grabbed power from NTR in August 1995, he could be categorised in the league of other lame-duck Chief Ministers like Damodaram Sanjeeviah, Kotla Vijayabhaskar Reddy, T Anjaiah, Bhavanam Venkatram and N Janardhana Reddy who got the post due to the dissidence in the Congress.
For a change, Naidu seemed to have learnt from the fiasco of Nadendla Bhaskar Rao, who could remain in power for just a month. Bhaskar Rao lost the game because he could not manage to get and retain the support of a majority of TD legislators.
Unlike Bhaskar Rao, Naidu first mustered the support of party MLAs before dislodging NTR.
It is another matter that Naiduís career would have taken a different course if NTR had survived till the 1996 Lok Sabha polls. Within four-and-a-half months after he lost power, NTR died in January 1996.
After NTRís demise, his second wife Lakshmi Parvathi, who was the cause for Naiduís revolt, tried unsuccessfully to claim his legacy by floating NTR-TD (LP). She contested the Lok Sabha polls but drew a total blank, thereby bringing her meteoric career to a dead-end.
NTRís maverick son, Nandamuri Harikrishna, who sided with Naidu during the 1995 revolt, sought to take on his younger brother-in-law later in 1999.
But, Harikrishna and his elder brother-in-law Daggubati Venkateswara Rao, due to their political inexperience, could not appropriate NTRís legacy for Anna TD founded by them. Their venture, too, came a cropper in the Assembly polls.
The fact that Naidu has been able to stay in power for seven years is largely owing to the inability of the Congress to expose the acts of omission and commission of Naidu regime on the one hand and to project itself as a viable alternative on the other.
To attribute the TDís victory in 1999 Assembly polls to its electoral tie-up with BJP is to oversimplify facts.
The Congress stormed into power in Karnataka despite a poll tie-up between the BJP, the Lok Shakti and the JD(United). In Maharashtra too, the Congress and NCP grabbed power despite contesting separately against the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance.
There was no reason why the result should have been different for Congress in AP. A faction-ridden Congress, under the stewardship of Y S Rajasekhar Reddy was no match to TD. This was because the Congress leaders were at loggerheads.
In retrospect, it can be said that the TD-BJP alliance managed to capitalise on the dissensions in the Congress camp to secure 36 Lok Sabha seats and 192 Assembly seats. Of course, YSR crows about the fact that as an opposition party, the Congress scored its highest tally of 90 Assembly seats in 1999 even as it failed to wrest power.
Yes, YSR has a point. Earlier, in 1985, when he headed the PCC, the Congress tally had come down from 60 to 50 seats in the Assembly polls.
He had a formidable foe in NTR then but only a contemporary former colleague in Naidu this time. So, for Naiduís seven years in office, hail YSR!
Published in Deccan