The bitter rivalry between Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) has lasted for around a decade and half. The current tension between the two, following the unearthing of the audio tapes in the cash for vote case is a continuation of their old animosity.
Ever since they have become Chief Ministers of two adjacent states carved out of Andhra Pradesh last year, a day has not passed without one of them trying to outwit and humiliate the other. Utterly contemptuous of each other, they have even issued public threats to their rival of “ensuring your end”.
Although KCR is five years younger than Naidu, who turned 66 recently, they share many similarities in their respective public lives. Both started their political careers in the Youth Congress during Emergency and were drawn to the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) when N.T. Rama Rao founded it in 1983. KCR contested from Siddipet Assembly constituency in Medak district and lost to sitting Congress MLA Madan Mohan. Naidu, although married to the daughter of NTR in 1981, contested as a Congress candidate from Chandragiri in 1983 and lost to a TDP lightweight. However, he joined the TDP immediately after the elections. Both Naidu and KCR were TDP MLAs when NTR held snap elections to the AP Assembly and they bonded with each other within no time.
KCR played a role in Naidu’s coup against NTR in 1995 and was made the Transport Minister in the Naidu Cabinet in 1996. At the time of unseating NTR, KCR was a close member of Naidu’s coterie, but the two soon fell apart because of political reasons. Naidu dropped KCR from his Cabinet after he won the 1999 elections. Some officials of the then Chief Minister’s Office meddled with the affairs of KCR’s transport department, which resulted in the gap.
Naidu made KCR the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly in 2000, but the latter never forgot that he had been denied a Cabinet berth. KCR finally quit the Deputy Speaker’s post and formed the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in 2001. Since then, they have been fighting with each other and Naidu has made many attempts to decimate KCR.
Thanks to KCR’s leadership, the main thrust of the Telangana agitation was directed against the Naidu led TDP. Naidu was projected as the villain of the piece. As a result, KCR joined hands with the Congress in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and went on to become the Union Labour Minister in the UPA 1 government. TRS also joined the YSR-led Congress government, although only for a year.
In the 2009 elections, KCR, alleging that the Congress had gone back on its promise to create Telangana, aligned with the TDP along with the Left parties under the banner of a grand alliance, but failed to come to power. Within weeks, KCR and Naidu started attacking each other. When KCR went on a hunger strike in 2009 December, he projected Naidu as the main hurdle to Telangana.
After Parliament passed the Telangana bill in March 2014, Naidu joined hands with the BJP and contested the seats in Telangana, while KCR fought the elections alone. Even after they became Chief Ministers after the elections, they could not bury their differences. While Naidu vowed to bring TDP to power in Telangana, KCR pledged to crush the party in his state.
KCR then openly encouraged six TDP MLAs to defect to his TRS and made one of them, Talasani Srinivas Yadav, a minister without even accepting his resignation from the Assembly. So, technically, a TDP MLA is now a member of KCR’s Cabinet. Apart from that, KCR admitted six TDP MLCs into his party, thereby reducing TDP’s strength to zero in the Legislative Council.
Their intense dislike for each other has prevented both Naidu and KCR from solving some urgent people’s problems through talks in a congenial atmosphere. Naidu’s speech at TDP’s Mahanadu, annual conference, in Hyderabad on 29 May, can be described as the last straw in their straining relations. Naidu declared that he would ensure that the TDP comes to power in Telangana in the 2019 Assembly elections.
This angered KCR the most. The elections to the Telangana Legislative Council (MLCs) from the quota of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) turned into a battleground for the two. To win an MLC seat, a party should have at least 16 votes. But Naidu, who is left with only 10 MLAs, plus five BJP MLAs, fielded a candidate hoping some cross-voting from the TRS.
TDP MLA Revanth Reddy’s infamous dealing through cash for vote to buy the vote of Anglo-Indian nominated MLA Stephenson is a continuation of this war between Naidu and KCR. As both have threatened the other to cut to size and crush each other, it is to be seen to what extent they will go to fulfil their goals.