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Lok Sabha polls 2019: Why a Modi vs Naidu battle is far better than a Modi vs Rahul one


Bengaluru, Nov 20: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu's meeting with his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee at the latter's state secretariat in Kolkata on Monday, November 19, was significant. For many, it is a first major initiative to make the anti-Narendra Modi alliance a realistic one. Although there are also people who view this as part of Naidu's plan of action to see his party stay afloat in the local elections in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, but there is no harm in it if the seasoned politician tries to hyphenate the state polls with the Lok Sabha election due next year.

Lok Sabha polls 2019: Why a Modi vs Naidu battle is far better than a Modi vs Rahul one

By meeting Banerjee, one of the most vocal critics of Prime Minister Modi and who has consistently shown an interest in a national alliance against the BJP, Naidu made it clear that he has taken the role of a unifier seriously. He has also met leaders like HD Deve Gowda and Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy besides DMK chief MK Stalin in his bid to cement the idea of a national front. He will also take part in the rally which has been called by Banerjee at Kolkata's Brigade Ground on January 19.

Everyone will be the face of Opposition, says Mamata Banerjee after meeting Naidu

At other times, initiatives like these are mostly underestimated since a number of regional satraps who wish to form these alliances are limited in their appeal and reach. But with Naidu taking the lead, there could a different equation in the making and make those who aspire to see a strong federal front taking shape, feel optimistic.

Why Chandrababu Naidu looks a better candidate to lead the anti-Modi front

The first reason is Naidu's image. The man is India's original tech-savvy administrator - an image which later befitted Modi. Referred to as the CEO of (undivided) Andhra Pradesh in the past, 68-year-old Naidu is a leader who can hope to sell himself politically to the electorate of the country better than the likes of Banerjee, Mayawati or Akhilesh Yadav. Naidu has a better reach to South India which the other leaders do not have and that makes him a suitable leader to the federal front in a region where the BJP is still in a nascent stage. The geographic reach of Naidu puts him at a vantage point.

Efforts for 'anti-BJP' front: Chandrababu Naidu meets Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata

Secondly, Naidu is a leader who is seen above factors like caste, unlike Mayawati and Akhilesh. Just like Modi whose OBC identity is secondary to his ideals of development, Naidu is also a leader who has bought name because of his able administration, just like former Gujarat chief minister Modi. If India is looking for an alternative to Modi on those lines, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief fits the bill better than anybody else.

Thirdly, Naidu's coming to prominence means the Congress plays an assisting role in the alliance formation. That is a favourable development for the anti-Modi front since a number of regional parties see the Congress as their main foes in various states. But if Naidu and not Rahul Gandhi plays the role of the unifier, that obstacle can be overcome to a great extent. This is also unique that a regional leader is playing an instrumental role in making of a national alliance for in the past, either of the national parties used to play the central role. But with Rahul Gandhi seeming to be less acceptable for many of the regional leaders, an administrator-politician in Naidu makes it look more suitable for the anti-Modi front.

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For those who are criticising Naidu for taking a strong opposition to the BJP, with which he was in the National Democratic Alliance even a few months ago, the art of politics looks less clear. Naidu's TDP had risen under his late father-in-law NT Rama Rao as a force asserting Telugu identity and pride. Just as NTR has challenged the Congress's hegemony in the 1980s, Naidu is doing the same against the BJP - the dominant force of the day. Naidu's words that they are senior to Modi and also more experienced are key for it in a way suggests that the TDP supremo knows it's time to go back to the old strategy which his party had used to come to prominence in the pre-Modi era.

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