Vijayawada: In Andhra Pradesh, once the buzz over the high profile visit of US President Donald Trump to India calmed down, many began to wonder why Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy was not among the chief ministers invited for the banquet hosted by the Centre.
Just eight chief ministers, representing Odisha, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharastra, Haryana, Bihar and Telangana received the invite. Predictably, Narendra Modi’s vocal opponents such as Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal and Pinarayi Vijayan were excluded. Telangana’s K. Chandrasekhar Rao, Maharastra’s Uddhav Thackeray and Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik were the only non-NDA chief ministers to receive the invite. Since the Jagan dispensation has been on relatively good terms with the Centre, sources in the government expressed disappointment at their exclusion.
Hyderabad gets a special mention from Trump
Trump’s daughter Ivanka visited India in 2017 for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, and KCR did his best to showcase the state’s brand. The US president recollected this during the ‘Namaste Trump’ rally in Ahmedabad and the city received a special mention from him.
During the banquet, Chandrasekhar Rao reportedly gifted the Trump family items that showcase Telangana’s heritage. First lady Melania and Ivanka received hand-woven silk sarees made by weavers of Gadwal and Pochampalli. A silver Charminar filigree made by artisans in Karimnagar was given to Trump. Such gestures by KCR could help him build a brand image for his home state and making an impression on the US president.
AP feels ignored
With the neighbouring state getting a rare chance to exhibit its brand, the ruling establishment in Andhra Pradesh felt excluded. Politically, Jagan’s YSR Congress is on better terms with Prime Minister Narendra Modi than the Telangana chief minister. Jagan backed the NDA government’s controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the Parliament while the Telangana Rastra Samithi opposed it.
Three weeks ago, Jagan established his proximity with Modi by engaging in a prolonged 100-minute one-on-one interaction.
A senior minister in Jagan’s government, wishing to stay anonymous, expressed disappointment at his government’s exclusion from the Trump banquet. “It is the prerogative to decide on who is invited to the banquet. It should have sent the right message across by involving the Andhra Pradesh CM along with Telangana’s. Even if Hyderabad, endowed with an enormous potential for foreign investment, is cited as the reason for extending the invite to KCR, one should remember the fact that Hyderabad is still a combined capital of the two Telugu states,” the minister said.
Jagan’s exclusion from the banquet with the US president provided a chance for his critics and even political pundits to draw parallels with his predecessor N. Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party, especially with respect to the art of pitching the state to investors. Naidu’s pro-industry overtures and the clout he enjoyed with business leaders, both domestic and foreign, was contrasted with Jagan’s apparent shutting out.
Naidu’s admirers recollected that then-US president Bill Clinton, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and who’s who of the IT industry visited Hyderabad around the turn of the millennium, when the TDP chief’s ‘hi-tech city’ was taking off, making the city an IT hub. “Had our leader been in power he could have successfully showcased AP’s brand image during interactions with Trump and his entourage. But the state missed out on this great opportunity,” said TDP spokesperson Panchumarthy Anuradha.
A member of the AP Chamber of Commerce and Industry, wishing to be anonymous, said that Andhra Pradesh has vast potential for investment. Foreign investments could tap into areas like petrochemicals, but the state needs a pro-industry climate, the member observed.
Jagan a scarecrow?
Though no official explanation has been provided for the Andhra Pradesh chief minister not receiving an invite, Jagan’s detractors have blamed his alleged anti-investor image. Controversial decisions such as reviewing power purchase agreements that were signed during the previous TDP regime and the reversal of tenders pertained to the Polavaram irrigation dam works have alarmed investors. Kia Motors, a South Korean car manufacturer which established a plant in the Rayalaseema region, was recently in the news after reports suggested it may shift base to Tamil Nadu. This was allegedly as an offshoot of the YSR Congress government’s decision to introduce a policy that will force private industries to reserve 75% of jobs for locals.
K. Nageswar, an analyst, said that Andhra Pradesh has failed to make concrete progress to develop a capital like Hyderabad, with huge investment potential. It could be one of the reasons for the NDA government snubbing Jagan for the banquet. He recalled how Hyderabad, over a period, has become a hub for flagship US companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, turning Telangana’s state capital into a pivot for Indo-US economic relations.
The much-hyped Amaravati also failed to take a concrete shape during Naidu’s regime. The TDP chief blamed the NDA government for the lack of progress, accusing it of not delivering financial assistance. After the change of power in 2019, the prospects of Andhra Pradesh having a Hyderabad-like giant capital appear dim in the light of Jagan’s plan to have three decentralised capitals.
AP’s industries minister Mekapati Gowtham Reddy, however, refused to buy the argument that Jagan’s failure to build confidence in investors was the reason he was not invited for Trump’s banquet. “Trump’s visit focused on bilateral cooperation and defence deals. Andhra Pradesh has a little relevance at the event in this context,” he said.
Gowtham Reddy described Naidu as a salesman but with no products to sell. Jagan, he said, is a leader who takes action.
Gali Nagaraja is a freelance journalist who writes on the two Telugu states.