The first implication of the electoral earthquake in Andhra Pradesh is for the NDA in Delhi. And it will unfold in 24 hours. If the scale of defeat in the assembly polls reflects in the Lok Sabha results as well, the NDAs prospects at the Centre are in big trouble. In 1999, the TDP-BJP alliance won 192 of 294 seats in the assembly. They swept 36 of 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state. The Congress-Left-TRS alliance has walked off with over 230 seats. What sort of harvest will they reap at the Lok Sabha level?
The crushing defeat suffered by Mr. Chandrababu Naidus Telugu Desam Party (TDP) covers every region. Coastal Andhra, as well as Rayalaseema and Telangana. The TDP won less than a third of the seats in its north coastal region stronghold. Nor was the rout mainly driven by the issue of Telangana statehood. It was a mandate against Mr. Naidu, his policies and his style of governance. This was the second biggest defeat in the states electoral history. Coming days will delight the number crunchers, as margins, regional dispersal, caste composition and other data become clearer.
Even at first glance, though, the scale of Mr. Naidus rout is phenomenal and disturbs many assumptions. He has been rejected as fully in urban as in rural areas. In the 13 seats of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, the TDP has won just two and the BJP only one. (This suggests the BJP might be blanked out in the LS seats of the state. The last time, it won seven of the eight it contested.)
In other urban centres, too, the voters of Andhra Pradesh decimated the TDP-BJP. Whether in Vijayawada, Vishakapatnam, Kurnool, Nellore, Tirupati or Rajahmundry, the TDP-BJP have been mauled. Clearly, this verdict goes beyond even the gigantic levels of rural distress that have plagued Andhra for years now. It raises questions about the whole economic model and philosophy of governance Mr. Naidu brought to the state. Particularly about the gross inequality and suffering it promoted.
Mr. Naidus Vision of Andhra Pradesh endeared him to donors, corporates and the media. It distanced him from ordinary people. Drought in parts of the state only added to a resentment and anger that already ran very deep. That, even in a district like East Godavari. Here, the Congress have struggled to get any seats in the past 20 years. This time, they took 18 of 21.
In the rural areas, the anti-Naidu anger was palpable. This is the state that has seen more -- recorded -- farmers suicides than any other. Something that has been on for years without ever getting the kind of attention it needed (see The Hindu Sunday Magazine April 29 and May 6, 2001). Last year, it was the one state where hundreds of gruel centres sprang up, distributing lakhs of free meals to a devastated rural populace. Not a single one of these centres was supported or run by the state government. It declared on record in the assembly, an absence of hunger in the state.
Incidentally, this is perhaps the only state in the country where the Congress party went into something of an agitation mode. It protested, even if mildly, the unpopular power tariff hikes. The Left was far more forceful on that. Mr. Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddys padayatra of 2003, though, was a winner for his party. It touched the mass mood at the right moment and focused attention on the terrible distress sweeping the countryside. The idea that the timing of the polls was bad for Mr. Naidu is wrong. Had they been held later, the defeat would have been worse. As it was, countless thousands from the regions of Telangana and Rayalseema had left the state in distress migrations. They were the least likely to vote for Mr. Naidu.
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If the results come as a surprise to many, the media have much to answer for. The fault lines in Andhra are not located in IT or software (though there will be much theorising on that front). The failure was far more basic. A state run with little regard to the wishes of its people. With an indifference bordering on contempt for their most basic needs. Mr. Naidus influence and impact went way beyond his state. He enjoyed a near iconic status amongst the leaders and top bureaucracy of several other states. Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan under the Congress were good examples of this. Naidus model was eagerly mimicked there. Same methods. Same results.
Mr. Naidus model gave more time to image-building in a - willing - media than to addressing the issues of his people. As for the media, they committed that most basic sin of journalism: a willing suspension of disbelief.