Contrasting the Four

These four are very important politicians in Andhra Pradesh. They had the wherewithal to influence and change the course of events. Among the four, one person is no more. The four are: late Y. S. Rajeshekhara Reddy (YSR) of Congress, Chandrababu Naidu (CBN) of Telugu Desam, K. Chandrashekhara Rao (KCR) of Telangana Rastra Samithi and N. Jayaprakash Narayan (NJN) of Lok Satta.

All the four are political rivals; their rivalry has often been intense. It is normal for anyone to think that they are different from each other. They are, but they are not as well. All the four have some common traits. All the four display a definite, hardline stance, which cannot be influenced by anyone including their die-hard supporters. But this is public posture. For a long time observer, one can see that they are very vulnerable and always guarded themselves against threats. Their vulnerability comes from their own personality traits.

They are autocratic and dictatorial, not brooking any dissent. Both CBN and KCR are considered as intelligent, strategic and wily, whereas YSR and NCN are not credited with such qualities. Except YSR, other three have few friends. That does not mean they do not have acolytes, followers, believers and associates. However, the latter three do not have long time associates, in the closer circle. This circle kept changing, indicating a deeper socio-psychological factor. On the other hand, YSR is known to help his admirers and ‘punish’ his detractors.

YSRs dresses like a native Indian, most often. The other three are always in pant and shirt. YSR exudes a smiling and warm personality. CBN and NJN always look ‘dour’ and serious, while KCR presents a neutral countenance. All the four maintain public relations, but in four distinct styles. Except YSR, the other three are selective and would prefer appointment-based meetings. They discourage impromptu meetings. Their public appearances are organized and planned. As Chief Ministers, YSR and CBN had diametrically opposite mechanisms. YSR had established a system wherein everyday he used to meet atleast 5,000 people on an average at various places, starting from his camp office, one of the secretary said. Not that this helped, given the other factors at play, but it was better. In contrast, CBN did not meet commoners at all.

The manner of CBN’s rise to the top is well-known and discussed. But less has been discussed about how and why of the rise of NJN, KCR and YSR. In general, they all have climbed ladders, while kicking each step, and burnt the bridges they crossed, so as not to have competitors.

All the four are like ‘banyan’ trees, not allowing any other plant/leader to grow, under their shade/wings. YSR came to the top, by gradually pushing out many Congress stalwarts, especially in Telangana region. Not many know that his influence on ticket allotments in Congress has been growing continuously from 1987. It peaked in 1999 and 2004 elections. In 1999 elections Congress would have come to power, if YSR had allowed tickets for known winners. In many places, Congress lost by narrow margins, indicating wrong choices of candidates. Critics said this ‘suicidal’ step was to help his friend CBN. Whatever the truth in it, it is clear that YSR went to the extent of losing elections to make his ground clear, indicating he is a long-distance rider. This worked out well. In 2004 elections, stable was completely open for him, with no leader to compete with him, within Congress.

CBN has felled the giant NTR on his way to power, playing his cards close to his chest, for well over a decade. KCR has ‘alienated’ many leaders of equal status such as Narendra and others, to remain the unchallenged monarch of TRS. Indicating a similar phenomena, NJN is the single-most face of Loksatta, after so many years of its existence as a political party. The commonest trait among all the four is that they would not allow ‘parallel’ power growth, as long as it suits them. No doubt, all the four were aided by networks, of individuals, businessmen, industrialists, NRIs, drawing on money, caste, region and common interests. These networks benefitted from such investment largely in the case of CBN and YSR, when they came to power. Maybe in the case of other two as well.

There are differences too between them. CBN followed World Bank and DFID prescriptions in governance and had paid the price. His “Vision 2020 and Swarna-andhrapradesh” slogans were merely to help corporatization, privatization and globalization. His hobnobbing with world and national leaders, everyday media briefings and media management are the principal steps that alienated him, from party cadre, people and ground realities. KCRs flip-flops and his ability to antagonize are seen as his weaknesses. Because both CBN and KCR are considered as strategic, there are always speculations about their moves, statements and public posturing. Consequently, there is lesser dependence and confidence on their words and deeds. People are always expectant about their turns and u-turns.

YSR and NJN gave lot of hope and boost for aspirations, due to their appearances (attire and body language), statements and actions. They promised a lot. But they failed. It turns out that they are equally hollow. Except free power and a few other schemes, YSR has failed to bring about a positive socio-economic change. After his demise, skeletons started tumbling out of the cupboard, which upscaled what has happened in the previous regime.

NJN has developed lot of goodwill, due to favourable media and also in deference to his experience as an IAS officer. His constant refrain was to change the game and not just the rules of the game. However, as time passed, he failed to come up with solutions that would change the game and rules of the game. His opinions, except for his usual references to Indian constitution, are similar to CBNs. For example, both of them, of late, started talking about export-oriented agriculture.

Basically, all the four have failed to deliver on their promises. On many aspects, they are not in a position to respond to their critiques. Ofcourse, they can dodge. And yet have brought in changes which have deteriorated the political processes and culture in the State. Both CBN and YSR have concentrated power in themselves, through their different styles. While CBN did this, by not allowing anyone inside Secretariat, YSR did the same, by allowing everyone into Secretariat. Thus, both have irreparably changed the administrative culture. Present CM, who does not possess such qualities or instruments, is facing huge problems because of this. Even Rosaiah had trouble.

All the four have positives as well. Each one has brought about an alternative viewpoint, and did gather admirers of such a viewpoint. CBN is credited with his efforts on sprucing up the image of Hyderabad and the growth of software sector. YSR is admired for his stress on helping the farmers and the poor, through welfare measures. KCR is praised for his skills and strategies in heightening the struggle for separate Telangana. NJN has successfully highlighted the hollowness of politics of political parties and politicians in Andhra Pradesh.

However, they have miserably failed in responding to the needs of the poor farmers, handloom weavers, landless labour and other rural and urban disadvantaged sections. On many issues they have no stand at all. They did u-turns as well. YSR, unlike his more popular image, did u-turn in uranium mining issue in Nalgonda and Kadapa. He failed to address his promise to handloom weavers, to bring changes that would bring smiles on their faces. The other three are always careful with their words. Yet they were caught. KCRs words of endearment to Lagadapati are best forgotten. NJN’s approach to resurrect local, urban governments is on the back-burner. CBN is haunted by his neglect of agriculture, and his overzealous support for service industry.

Except NJN, other three face corruption charges and amassment of wealth. Involvement of close relatives including immediate family members can be seen in the case of KCR, YSR and CBN, in that order of intensity.

Ultimately, can any of them be role models? There would be varied opinions. For me, they cannot be, especially in times, when people are asserting their democratic rights.

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