Naidu’s Triple Talaq

With Chandrababu Naidu's   declaration of triple talaq from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA, all pretence of ‘development for all’ is over. It has taken the Telugu Desam ‘warlord’ four years to realise that even if BJP wants development in Andhra Pradesh, it wants the development to be BJP-driven. The credit must go to Narendra Modi, not to Chandrababu Naidu.

Even though neither side is saying it openly, that is the crux of the matter. The divorce is not taking place because the Centre is refusing to give money to build a new capital city of Amravati for the residual State of Andhra Pradesh. The quarrel is over who should get the praise and acclaim.

It is not in the long term interest of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar if the Telugu people feel a surge of gratitude towards a regional player like TDP. That would make Naidu the hero, not Modi. Nobody will admit it, but at one level, it is as mundane as that.

Then again, perhaps it is not as trivial or petty as ordinary citizens might think. Image-building is the key to success in public life. Politicians go to extraordinary extents (often using despicable methods) to project themselves as grand personalities who are sacrificing their lives for the good of the people.

Political ambition and narcissism are two sides of the same coin, in many cases. Ruthless and undemocratic strategies are regarded as necessary to achieve the goal of lasting public adoration and tightening the grip on power.

Beneath the surface in the Naidu-Modi rift many factors may have been at play. Personal chemistry could be one factor. It is whispered in both BJP and TDP circles that during their numerous face-to-face meetings (more than 28 in the last four years according to the Andhra CM's count) there was always a slight awkwardness, a conversational constraint of some sort.

But that apart, BJP chief Amit Shah's aggressive geographical expansion drive in recent months appeared to arouse misgivings in the minds of Telugu Desam local leaders and workers. Suspicion was growing that attempts were being made to identify and woo disgruntled party members. As one TDP MP put it—"They were trying to do to us what they did to the Congress party in States like Goa, Assam, Manipur and latest in Tripura".

If true, this is a serious allegation. Everything may be fair in the game of politics but poaching from NDA's own coalition partner is bound to be resented.

Coalition politics is difficult in the best of circumstances. Only some Prime Ministers have been successful in keeping a motley flock of parties with disparate ideologies together and Atal Bihari Vajpayee is the oft-cited example.

In Narendra Modi's case, the problem is compounded because of pressure from the RSS and his own personal image of himself as the undisputed leader of 125 crore people, a figure he seldom fails to proclaim.

Moreover, the BJP currently is not only the biggest party in Parliament but it has enough MPs on its own to defeat any no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha. But the problem with the idea of one-party rule in a nation as diverse as India is that the next election invariably cuts over-confidence down to size.


Vol. 50, No.40, Apr 8 - 14, 2018