The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jobs, water, power log out CEO

Hyderabad, May 11: So sure was . Chandrababu Naidu of victory that as late as afternoon yesterday he talked about the Telugu Desam Party securing 160 seats in the 294-member Assembly.

He was not the only one who was confident. His in-house astrologer and municipal administration minister B.V. Mohan Reddy even fixed the muhoortam for oath-taking at 1.53 on Wednesday afternoon.

But by 12 noon today, it was clear that voters in Andhra Pradesh had logged out the laptop chief minister.

Before going to Raj Bhavan to submit his resignation even as counting was in progress, a crestfallen Naidu said people had not accepted his “development” plank. Analysts, however, said development without a human face was his undoing.

The self-styled CEO had talked about turning the capital Hyderabad into a Singapore. He spoke of e-governance and e-commerce, but people talked about jobs, power, drinking water and water to irrigate their fields. Information technology was last on their list of priorities.

Naidu’s USP — development — remained only a mantra. Like his ally the BJP’s India Shining campaign, Andhra Pradesh Shining (Suvarnadhra Pradesh) did not sell.

Good roads are the only visible sign of the development work he undertook. “But people cannot eat roads,” was a common refrain during the campaign last month.

Even in Hyderabad, dubbed Cyberabad because of the stress on information technology, people were not impressed. The Desam won only one of the 13 Assembly seats in the district, a drubbing that even Naidu’s worst critics did not anticipate.

While a section of the media hailed him as India’s role-model chief minister, his detractors saw him as a city slicker who had no concern for the rural folk.

Analysts said many factors worked against the Desam. They are:

nNine years of anti-incumbency and five years of double anti-incumbency (after the Desam aligned with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance)

• A strong Opposition alliance

• The absence of any wave unlike as in 1999, when the BJP and the Desam had cashed in on the Kargil war and the acceptability of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In 2004, the Vajpayee factor was as insignificant as Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin

• Fourth consecutive drought year. The Desam government did nothing to alleviate the misery of farmers. Crops failed because of lack of irrigation facilities. Over 3,000 farmers committed suicide during Naidu’s rule

• Privatisation of power in the name of reforms led to higher tariff beyond the capacity of ordinary farmers who were already reeling under consecutive droughts. To compound their woes, prices of pesticides and fertilisers shot up and spurious brands flooded the market

• Crippling power shortage

• Naidu’s threat of downsizing government departments and offer of VRS turned a large number of employees against the Desam

• The Desam-BJP seat sharing also did not gel. In many places, their workers demonstrated against the party bosses for unimaginative seat sharing

• Muslims did not vote for the Desam unlike in 1999. Naidu did not protest much after the Gujarat riots, alienating them

• Desam candidates could not effectively campaign in interior areas because of the People’s War Group. The party may have lost between 20 and 22 seats due to the Naxalite factor

• Weavers were also angry after the termination of the Janata Vastra scheme under which the government supplied yarns to help poor weavers

The writing was on the wall as early as February when the party lost civic byelections in Naidu’s Chittoor district. Congress candidate C.H. John won a place in the Eduru Kuppam Zilla Parishad Territorial Committee defeating the Desam’s Leelamma. The CPM wrested a seat in the Bonakal zilla parishad (Khammam district) from it while the Telengana Rashtra Samiti nominee was elected to the Marted committee in Nizamabad.

The Congress cashed in on the neglect of agriculture and the irrigation sector. Between 1996 and 2003, cultivable land shrunk by 19 lakh acres. A Rs 57,000-crore loan as on December 2003 from external agencies pushed the state into a debt trap.

Women also were not impressed by Naidu’s attempts to court them by forming self-help groups — their membership touched 75 lakh — and fielding as many as 51 women candidates as against the Congress’ 23.

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