The blistering heat of Andhra Pradesh and the stress of an election campaign has taken a toll on senior leaders of all the parties. Amid the scorching summer heat, the rhetoric is shrill, nerves are frayed, politicians call each others names, red lines are crossed –indications that campaigning is on its final leg.
Facing the combined might of YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy, K Chandrasekhar Rao and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu said at a rally he could be arrested anytime.
“They may also arrest me tomorrow or day after. Let them do. I will go to jail but I will not be cowed down,” he said. Naidu is also trying to whip up “anti-Telangana” sentiments by portraying Jagan and KCR as two sides of the same coin. At a rally, he reminded voters that KCR had promised him a ‘return gift’ for contesting the Telangana polls and claimed that the ‘return gift’ was meant to help his rival Jagan through resources.
Facing the heat from the trio of Jagan, KCR and Modi, Naidu is slowly losing his cool too. Recently, he called Modi a “dreaded terrorist who is murdering democracy”.
Earlier, he compared Modi, K Chandrasekhar Rao and Jagan Reddy to the United States that attacked Vietnam. “But the Vietnamese were brave. They did not surrender to the might of the US. They fought and defeated the most powerful nation in the world,” Naidu said.
Modi also shot back, calling the Andhra CM “U-turn Naidu”, referring to his severing of ties with the NDA. Modi even compared Naidu to Bhallaladeva of the Telugu blockbuster ‘Baahubali’, a character who wants to be all-powerful without caring much of the means to acquire the same. He also said that the Telugu Desam Party was using the Polavaram project as an ATM.
For Jagan and KCR, Naidu has a more colourful choice of words. He called them “pet canines of Modi”. Jagan, on his part, called Naidu a “liar” and was seen on national television as saying that people might beat the CM up for not fulfilling his promises. This is probably the first time that attacks have become so personal and vicious in Andhra Pradesh.
Despite all the rhetoric, Naidu and YSR never seemed to have such personal enmity in the past. Though they were extremely critical of each other in the Assembly and fought their campaigns with all their might and resources, there was a line they never crossed.
Perhaps it was because they were friends during their stint in Congress and had a fairly cosy relationship even as rivals. During the five year reign, neither did YSR foist cases against Naidu nor did Naidu foist cases against YSR. There was certainly a “gentleman agreement” between them. However, during the last days of YSR a certain animosity had crept in between the duo.
In an earlier interview, YS Vijayalakshmi, wife of YSR and mother of Jagan, had recalled that YSR and Chandrababu used to be so close that they were always seen together. Naidu was also a frequent visitor to YSR’s house, she recalled. Naidu too had recalled his friendship with YSR in a nostalgic tone in various interviews.
As politics gets vicious, personalised, brazen and cut-throat, voters can only hope that campaigning ends and they get to exercise their franchise for the candidate or party of their choice.