Congress leaders from Telangana, who are in the race for the post of Chief Minister, in case the party comes to power in the 7 December Assembly elections, are queuing up to meet Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu. After his meeting with Congress president Rahul Gandhi in Delhi on 1 November, Naidu has emerged as the kingmaker in the “grand alliance”—Maha Kutami—which includes the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
Already, Congress Legislature Party leader, K. Jana Reddy, party’s state president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy and its Telangana working president, A. Revanth Reddy, who was a TDP MLA until recently, have met Naidu at Andhra Bhavan in New Delhi and sought his support to become the CM after the elections. A dozen others are now waiting to meet him.
Senior Congress leader and former Rajya Sabha member V. Hanumanth Rao, former state Congress president Ponnala Laxmaiah, former ministers J. Geeta Reddy, D.K. Aruna and Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka and Komatireddy Venkat Reddy are amongst those who sought an appointment with Naidu, according to sources close to him.
In Congress’ Telangana circles, the sure way to ensure a ticket is to seek the help of the Andhra CM as he has direct access to the Congress president and other top leaders. Some Congress leaders who are interested in getting tickets for their family members too are planning to take Naidu’s help. The Congress list will be announced in phases between 9 and 12 November.
Asked about his meeting with Naidu on Monday, Jana Reddy told The Sunday Guardian that he had a long-time friendship with the CM and that he just wanted to seek his good wishes or blessings for the win of the Maha Kutami in Telangana. Interestingly, some Congress leaders who camped in Delhi gave their bio-data to Naidu’s personal assistants.
In Telangana, a Congress-led grand alliance including TDP, Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) and CPI is contesting against the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), while the BJP is fighting on its own. It is becoming clear that CM Naidu, who was cut up with the BJP and left the NDA five months ago, is the architect of this Maha Kutami and is playing a major role in its seat adjustments.
Naidu on Saturday told a party senior leaders’ meeting in Amaravati that he was instrumental in forming the Maha Kutami in Telangana to teach TRS’ Telangana Chief Minister, K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) a lesson for refusing to have a tie-up with the TDP. “BJP on its own announced a year ago that it won’t have any tie up with us (TDP) in Telangana and TRS too declined to join us,” Naidu reminded his leaders. “In such a situation, it was my responsibility to save and run my party (TDP) in Telangana. So to teach both of them a lesson (BJP and TRS), I have decided to go with the Congress and form a Maha Kutami against them. After the income-tax raids on our party leaders in Andhra, I have also decided to launch an anti-BJP front at the national level. No one should underestimate me,” said Naidu.
Naidu was also responsible for the TDP seeking to contest only 14 out of Telangana’s 119 seats, in spite of the local unit of the party wanting to contest 31 seats. “Our leader (Naidu) has clearly told us not to ask for more seats and complicate the seat sharing talks. He told us to confine to a minimum number of seats, to whatever the Congress offers us,” said a TDP leader from Telangana.
Senior TRS minister T. Harish Rao alleged that Naidu was “Villain Number 1 of Telangana”. “Chandrababu Naidu has planned to pump in around Rs 500 crore for the win of the Maha Kutami and if they win, he will remote control the next government,” alleged Rao.
However, Naidu refuted the charge and said that those who were attacking him must know that “I cannot become the CM of Telangana, I confine myself to Andhra. TRS leaders are scared of Maha Kutami and attacking me to exploit the sentiments.” TDP’s Telangana president L. Ramana rejected the charge of Naidu pumping in Rs 500 crore for the Kutami candidates.