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|May 17, 2002|
The Rediff Special/ George Iype
In the last two-and-a-half years Naidu has sulked at the way Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has handled sensitive issues and the manner in which the premier has dealt with partners in the National Democratic Alliance.
Naidu's Telugu Desam Party, considered the Bharatiya Janata Party's 'most trusted and valued ally,' has often threatened to review its support to the Vajpayee coalition. The TDP has, on at least two occasions, talked of walking out of the NDA. First, during Vajpayee's crisis in March when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad threatened to built a Ram temple at Ayodhya and then in the aftermath of the communal killings in Gujarat.
But, despite his 'grave' threats to the Vajpayee government, Naidu has not withdrawn support. He is unlikely to pull the rug from under the prime minister's feet in coming months because, as both his aides and Opposition politicians point out, Naidu is the one politician who has benefited immensely from every crisis that has loomed before Vajpayee.
"No other NDA partner has exploited Vajpayee as much as Naidu has done. Naidu has managed to get rice, money and investment benefits as a fallout of every crisis Vajpayee has faced. It is a new political game he is playing, but it is a game without principles and morality," says K Ramachandra Reddy, a local Communist Party of India leader in Hyderabad.
No other partner in the NDA has the knack of influencing and winning Vajpayee over the way Naidu does. So much so, TDP leaders privately call him the most successful political bargainer in the country. Naidu's advantage stems from the fact that the TDP, with 28 members in the Lok Sabha, is the second largest partner in the Vajpayee-led NDA coalition.
TDP leaders claim Naidu has the room to demand the maximum out of the NDA government because his MPs are not ministers in Vajpayee's government. When Vajpayee patched together the NDA government in October 1999, many believe Naidu stayed out of the government because he wanted to bargain on economic matters for the benefit of Andhra Pradesh.
No other NDA partners have received the largesse the Vajpayee government has bestowed on Naidu in the last two-and-a-half years. Listed here are some of them:
K Yerran Naidu, the TDP's leader in the Lok Sabha, denies the allegation that Chandrababu Naidu has been exploiting the Vajpayee government. "Like every political party and every state government, we have also demanded economic help for the progress of Andhra Pradesh from the Vajpayee government. We have never linked our political support to Vajpayee to corner economic advantages. It is nonsense to say we have been arm-twisting Vajpayee whenever he has been faced with a political crisis," Yerran Naidu told rediff.
The crises brought about by tehelka.com, Ayodhya and Gujarat no longer affect the Vajpayee government's chances of survival. But the TDP has so deftly milked the Centre for cash and kind that it appears it is only waiting for another crisis to hit the Vajpayee government so that it can use it to Andhra Pradesh's economic advantage.
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