Amaravati: Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu's hopes of playing kingmaker in New Delhi turned to dust once the poll results started to come in on 23 May.
His rival YS Jagan Mohan Reddy's Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress (YSRC) party's resounding victory in the 2019 general elections to Lok Sabha brought Naidu's plans to a grounding halt. Despite having four decades of political experience and 14 years as the chief minister in Andhra Pradesh, Naidu faced defeat in the state.The TDP chief had hoped to call the shots in national politics as a regional satrap, as he had previously done in the role of convenor of the United Front in 1996-98.
YS Jagan Mohan Reddy's YSR Congress won 151 Assembly and 22 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh. Facebook@ysjagan
It is interesting to note that in 2004, Naidu's defeat at the hands of Jagan's father, YS Rajasekhar Reddy (YSR) had sent him into political hibernation. Though Naidu is an astute and shrewd politician, he failed to pay heed to ground realities in Andhra Pradesh. His poll strategy relied heavily on whipping up an anti-Modi sentiment against the NDA in his home state. He had also announced his plan to launch a non-BJP mahagattbandan of regional parties with the Congress at the helm. Naidu and the TDP were expecting a fractured verdict from the recently concluded elections and a subsequent hung parliament.
Naidu had meticulously cleared the decks for his son and former state IT minister Nara Lokesh to succeed him in state politics, expecting himself to play a role at the Centre. Lokesh, who became a minister in his father's cabinet through the State Legislative Council was fielded in Mangalagiri Assembly to legitimise his political entry.
Lokesh lost his maiden electoral battle from Mangalagiri Assembly constituency to YSR Congress' sitting MLA Alla Ramakrishna Reddy by a margin of 5,337 votes.
When Congress gave up its claim to the prime minister's post in the non-BJP front, Naidu had emerged as a choice of regional parties along with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. However, the poll outcome proved him wrong, giving a decisive victory to Jagan's party.
YSRC has won 151 seats in the 175-member state Assembly, outdoing the exit poll predictions. The surveys had predicted 130 seats for YSRC. Naidu had fought against Jagan and won in the 2014 elections to become the chief minister in Andhra Pradesh. He had succeeded with a slender vote margin of 1.78 percent. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and, film actor and Jana Sena leader, Pawan Kalyan's involvement had helped Naidu scrape through the elections as alliance partners in 2014.
Before turning bitter rivals, Naidu and Jagan's father YSR had once worked together as part of the Congress party in the late 1970s and early 1980s. There were several power struggles between the duo. Naidu later joined TDP, a party floated by his father-in-law, NT Rama Rao (NTR). Naidu locked horns with YSR and managed to win the elections in 1999 with the support of the BJP. After the BJP fell out with TDP, Naidu faced defeat at the hands of YSR in 2004.
Jagan has created history in Andhra Pradesh politics by surpassing the record set by his father. In 2004, YSR had won 32 out of 42 parliament seats in the undivided Aandhra Pradesh in 2004. As per the Election Commission, the YSRCP has won 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh, forcing the ruling TDP to a single digit.
Based on the Election Commission data, YSRC has received 49.1 percent votes as compared to TDP's 39.6 percent, establishing a gap of nearly 10 percent in vote share in Andhra Pradesh. Naidu strenuously built a narrative around an urban-centric agenda with a 'world-class' capital in Amaravati with the Polavaram Irrigation Project. But in the process, the backward regions of Rayalaseema and Uttarandra, and the agriculture distress starting at the state, got sidelined.
Naidu, 69, had portrayed Reddy, 47, as a brash leader with no administrative skills. Yet, voters in the state preferred a greenhorn with unconventional traits over a seasoned politician. As Naidu resigns from chief minister's office, preparations are in full-swing for Reddy's swearing in on 30 May.
The author is Vijayawada-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters