Hyderabad: Former chief minister and president of Telugu Desam Party N. Chandrababu Naidu has walked out of jail.
But for his party, the fact that he told a team that called on him at the Rajahmundry Central Jail on October 29 that the TDP will not contest the upcoming assembly elections in Telangana, has emerged the bigger news.
The Saturday delegation led by TDP Telangana president Kasani Gnaneshwar was told to keep away from the polls as poor performance by the party could dent its chances in the Andhra Pradesh elections due next year, on which Naidu asked leaders to focus.
Today, Naidu got bail from the AP high court in a case related to an alleged scam in the skill development programme taken up by his government when he was the chief minister. He is set to be released from jail.
Naidu’s stance on the Telangana polls met with wild reactions from party leaders in Hyderabad. Gnaneshwar himself tendered his resignation from his state post and also gave up his primary membership of the party. In an eight-page resignation letter, he accused Naidu of going back on his promise to give Gnaneshwar a free hand in the matter of elections.
At the party office, where Gnaneshwar arranged a meeting on his return from Rajahmundry to inform workers about Naidu’s decision, a large crowd revolted against the former, demanding that the party contest polls.
This will be the first time in its 41-year existence as a political party that the TDP will skip an election to a state assembly or parliament.
Barring a few instances when by-elections were held to fill up vacancies caused by the killing of sitting MLAs of the rival Congress party by Naxalites and the TDP did not contest to express solidarity with slain victims, the party had never missed an opportunity to contest polls.
The TDP, consequently, took in its stride its worst ever electoral defeat when it lost the deposit in all the 12 assembly constituencies where by-elections were held in July 2010. These by-elections had been necessitated due to the resignation of Telangana Rashtra Samithi MLAs as part of their agitation for statehood to Telangana.
Thereafter, Naidu forged a grand alliance with the then TRS – led by present Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, who steered the agitation – and Left parties to ensure the victory of 15 TDP MLAs in Telangana in 2014. Immediately after the elections, the state of Telangana was formed.
In the next assembly elections that took place in Telangana in 2018, Naidu joined hands with the Congress and led a hectic campaign in the state that saw the victory of two party MLAs.
The fortunes of the party started dipping with the desertion of all its MLAs, who joined the TRS, which is now Bharat Rashtra Samithi.
Naidu was booked by the Crime Investigation Department of the Andhra Pradesh government in the current case in which he has now got four week interim bail.
His petition seeking that proceedings against him be quashed will be decided by the Supreme Court only a day ahead of the deadline for closure of nominations on November 10.
In addition, the TDP’s alliance partner in the elections to Andhra Pradesh next year, the Jana Sena party of actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan, was in touch with the BJP to contest elections in Telangana. The Jana Sena had staked claim for tickets to 33 seats initially but scaled it down to 12 later. However, the BJP conceded only six seats.
Paucity of votes
According to Kambhampati Ramamohan Rao, a former Rajya Sabha member and party coordinator for Telangana, the TDP also considered keeping away from the elections as a means of boycott in protest against the “illegal” arrest of Naidu. He also asked whether it was required at all to enter the elections to earn only the 1,500 to 2,000 votes which the party polled in Huzurnagar and Nagarjunasagar assembly by-elections in the last couple of years.
“This will be exploited by Andhra Pradesh CM and Naidu’s arch rival Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy to expose the hollowness of TDP. Moreover, where is the guarantee that the winners of TDP will remain with the party?” he asked.
Apart from 15 MLAs who deserted the TDP, including present ministers E. Dayakar Rao and T. Srinivas Yadav, in 2014, and two other MLAs in 2018, there was massive erosion of its membership, right down to the grassroots level, after the movement for statehood to Telangana picked up.
Several leaders joined the TRS and secured plum posts in government and legislature since 2014. Ten days ago, a former Rajya Sabha member of TDP, Ravula Chandrasekhar Reddy, who was the last big name left, switched sides. Earlier, the state unit president L. Ramana was made an MLC of TRS.
The party’s plight coincided with the centenary year of its patriarch and former chief minister N. T. Rama Rao.
Naidu had made attempts to revive the party by holding a major public meeting in Khammam last year. It was followed up with wide-ranging consultations with available leaders at party offices. A huge public meeting was addressed by Naidu on the occasion of the TDP’s foundation day at the Exhibition Grounds in Hyderabad earlier this year.
At the same time, Naidu picked Gnaneshwar, a backward classes leader, to head the state unit. On the contrary, the state presidents of both Congress and BJP belong to ‘upper’ castes. Gnaneshwar himself addressed an impressive public meeting – a ‘TDP sankharavam (sounding of the party bugle)’ at Karimnagar when he took over the reins of party leadership in Telangana last year.
Gnaneshwar is learned to have informed Naidu on the 190 applications he had already received from aspirants.
Meanwhile, hundreds of information technology professionals working in firms located in Hitech City of Hyderabad which was developed during Naidu’s chief ministership in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh took to the streets in protest against his arrest and subsequent shift to jail.