Hyderabad: The occasion is celebratory, but the mood is sombre as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu sits on a day-long fast on his birthday protesting against the 'injustice’ meted out to Andhra Pradesh.
The gloom of being denied 'Special Category Status' is writ large on the stage set for the deeksha or the protest.
The birthday boy in his trademark off white dress accepts greetings from supporters, walking past in queue. Party leaders in another corner hold fort at the microphone to engage the crowd in sultry mid-summer heat.
As he plans his future politics after leaving the NDA, there is a bit of Modi in Naidu's protest fast. Remember the 52-hour fast announced by the then CM of Gujarat in 2012 just ahead of state Assembly polls. That fast was against the UPA regime led by Manmohan Singh seeking immediate completion of the Narmada project.
The larger political theme was similar to the refrain Naidu has used in his speeches - injustice meted out by a dominant Centre.
For Modi in 2012 it was all about Gujarati asmita. In 2018, for Naidu it is about Telugu pride.
On the stage, the leaders who inspired his TDP campaign are carefully chosen and garlanded. Led by Potti Sriramalu, the activist whose death during hunger strike forced Jawahar Lal Nehru to concede to the long standing demand of a separate Telugu speaking state. Then there is Gandhi, followed by Ambedkar, Jyotiba Phule and NTR.
The fact that Telugu megastar NTR picked up a fight with the all dominant Centre and won is at the core of TDP's inception. Denied the 'Special Category Status', Naidu is again playing the victim card invoking the Telugu pride.
His son and heir apparent Nara Lokesh sitting at the back of the stage explains his party's future plans.
"We will be holding a mahasabha soon at Tirupati at precisely the place where Mr Modi made promises to the people of AP ahead of the 2014 elections," said Lokesh.
He, however, remained non-committal on future alliances.
"We will decide three months before the polls. As we did by announcing a tie-up with BJP just one month before 2014 general elections," said Lokesh.
In the next nine months, Chandrababu Naidu will wait and watch and build his campaign against the Dilli Durbar.