Political pundits often hail TDP supremo Nara Chandrababu Naidu as Chanakya of Andhra Politics. He was even praised as kingmaker at the national level given his reported major role in the cobbling up United Front (UF) and later in anointing BJP's Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the Prime Minister.
Naidu also relished the encomium and lived till recently with a sense of unrealistic superiority. But what one should not lose sight of is Naidu's Telugu Desam Party flourished in an era when the Congress was declining. So, young Naidu looked invincible as there was no rival to match him among the old-guards of Congress.
TDP, however, was beaten to a pulp whenever he was challenged by a rival Chanakya. The just-concluded election to the Urban and Rural Local Bodies is one more example after the assault Naidu suffered in 2004.
Naidu's 2014 win happened when the situation was so uncertain following the bifurcation of the state that there was no credible opposition to take on him.
It was the projected image of an able administrator rather than his 'Chanakyam' that helped Naidu win the election in 2014.
Despite the charges that the YSRC government had misused the administration, the results of the municipal election have thoroughly exposed TDPs vulnerabilities and the rot set in.
While the timing of the election was eminently in favor of YSRC, chief ministers YS Jaganmohan Reddy has used every trick of the trade employed earlier by Naidu himself, to ensure the defeat of TDP.
In fact, he did not bring in any innovation to the campaign style. He has nothing new to offer to win the election either. Promoting defections, raising the army of volunteers on the lines of SHGS, intimidating opponents, etc are nothing but improvised versions of TDP tactics.
It doesn't require a great deal of political wisdom to say that there was no difference between Naidu and Jagan. Jagan has deftly deployed all Naidu's techniques to make the Chanakya cry for help from the courts and the state election commission.
The missteps Naidu took as chief minister with delusions of permanency of power have further weakened the TDP thoroughly. The party which once stood for social diversity has degenerated into a den of rich businessmen from all communities who are not known to have political loyalty.
Naidu's recent stint as chief minister depoliticized the party and disempowered the people who once stood for it. Amaravati capital project was universally touted as a business venture, the fall of which has not brought any sympathy for Naidu outside the so-called capital region. The millionaire politicians, whom Naidu promoted, did not hesitate to defect to other parties when they found the TDP was losing ground.
All the decisions Naidu took when in power have backfired when out of power resulting in his present predicament.
Noted political commentator Pentapati Pullarao cites five reasons for Naidu's predicament.
"All the intellectuals were forced to leave the party and the place is filled with rich businessmen who have no political sense and public empathy. Naidu tried to blackmail BJP hoping to get political mileage, but it backfired and made him unreliable in the eyes of the saffron party. On the other hand, Jagan's handling of BJP has been brilliant. Naidu's fourth mistake was joining forces with Congress. Finally, as Jagan has three more years to go, the army of government volunteers, who worked as paid workers of YSRC, ensured that all beneficiaries turned up at polling station and voted for YSRC candidates," Rao said.
Naidu has fallen victim to his own follies. However, a revival of TDP cannot be ruled out, as no other party has the wherewithal comparable to the TDP to emerge as the alternative to YSRC.