‘CEO’ Naidu back as Andhra CM as economic challenges loom

Vijayawada, June 12 (UNI) Nara Chandrababu Naidu has taken over as Andhra Pradesh chief minister for a fourth time in a scenario where he needs to leverage his strength at the Centre to bring in the much-required funds to fulfil his costly poll promises and shore up the state’s economy.

With the BJP failing to get a majority of its own, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government-led by the saffron party at the Centre is dependent on the crutches of parties like Naidu’s Telugu Desam and Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United). Naidu, with his 16 MPs, happens to be the second largest NDA constituent after the BJP.

The shrewd 74-year-old leader, who was called the “CEO” during his first two back-to-back chief ministerial tenures from 1995-2004 in united Andhra Pradesh for his ability to deliver and adaptability to fast-changing technology besides deft economic management, has already bagged the crucial Civil Aviation portfolio for Ram Mohan Naidu and MoS rank in the ministries of Communication and Rural Development for Chandra Sekhar Pemmasani – the two union ministers from his party.

However, while there is no formal word on any wish-list placed by Naidu, there are no prizes for guessing that the veteran politician with over four decades of experience in public life would use his famed bargaining skills and political clout in Delhi to help him in running the administration in Andhra.

The son-in-law of three-time Chief Minister of united Andhra Pradesh NT Rama Rao, Naidu, first and foremost needs generous Central assistance to fulfil his poll pledges. His opponents have already alleged that the state would need Rs 1.21 lakh crore annually to implement the promises made by the Telugu Desam Party during the Assembly election campaign.

Topping the list of Naidu’s pre-poll pledges are Super Six promises which include free travel for women in state buses, monthly cash doles to adult women, support to school students, pension for the elderly, unemployment allowances to the the youth and three free cooking gas cylinders to every household.

According to an estimate, the government needs Rs 4,500 crore in July alone to give social pension to around 65 lakh beneficiaries, besides requiring to mop up Rs 6,500 crore on salary and pension.

Another challenge before Naidu could be the condition of the state’s economy. According to the state budget for 2023-24, Andhra Pradesh has a public debt of Rs 4.83 lakh crore, translating to around 33.3 percent of the Gross State Domestic Product.

Economic experts have been saying that the plethora of social welfare schemes of Naidu’s predecessor YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government have drained the finances of Andhra. During his election campaign, Naidu has also time and again said the state coffers “are empty”.

Another priority item in Naidu’s agenda is Amravati — which he has declared as the sole capital of the state soon after his election as TDP legislature party leader.

Creating Amravati as the permanent capital of bifurcated Andhra Pradesh (with the united state’s capital Hyderabad going to the new state Telangana), and developing it on the lines of Singapore had been a dream project of Naidu during his third stint as CM of the state from 2014, which he could not fulfil as his party lost power in 2019.

Jagan Mohan Reddy, who had replaced Naidu, instead floated the idea of three capitals for the bifurcated state.

The lack of support for his grandiose plans for Amravati and the failure to get a special package for Andhra by conferring on it a special category status were the prime reasons for which Naidu had in 2018 snapped ties with the NDA after being part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of 2014.

In today’s changed scenario, it remains to be seen whether and how Naidu flexes his muscle and gets his demands fulfilled.

Another issue that could be crucial in shaping the relationship between the TDP and the BJP in future could be their respective attitudes to minorities, especially Muslims.

With political pandits claiming that perceived distancing of minorities was one of the factors in the defeat of Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP, Naidu cannot afford to alienate these sections. His son and TDP National General Secretary Nara Lokesh has already gone public with his statement that his party supported the four percent reservation given to Muslims under the OBC list by the Jagan Mohan Reddy government.

The TDP stand runs counter to the BJP’s established position of opposing religion-based reservation. In fact in the recent Lok Sabha election, Prime Minister Modi had expressed his resolve while addressing public rallies that he would never allow any dilution of the quota for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes in favour of the Muslims.

Born on April 20, 1950 at Naravaripalli village in Chittoor district, Naidu joined the Congress in 1978, and at the young age of 28, became a Minister in the T Anjaiah Cabinet. He married N Bhuvaneswari, the daughter of Telugu Desam founder NT Rama Rao (affectionately called NTR).

After NTR floated TDP, Naidu joined it and played a significant role in launching massive protests when NTR was dethroned in a coup hatched by the Congress with a disgruntled section of the TDP.

He later became the state Finance Minister. However, Naidu revolted against his father-in-law and removed him as CM in 1995, to become the Chief Minister himself.

As Chief Minister, Naidu had given top priority to the Information & Technology sectors and establishment of industries. He unveiled the vision 2020 in 1999 itself and envisaged the growth of IT. He built the HITeC-city and created Cyberabad city.

Naidu escaped a bid on his life made by the People’s War Group Naxalites by blasting Claymore Mines when Naidu was going to hill shrine Tirumala on October 1, 2003. He suffered injuries in the incident.

Naidu was arrested in the Skill Development scam on September 9, 2023 and he was in Rajahmundry Central Prison for 56 days.

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