30 years of TDP – Is it still relevant?

Is TDP relevant to today's politics?

By Ramesh Kandula

It was historical necessity that catapulted Telugu Desam Party onto the centre-stage of Andhra Pradesh politics three decades back. The regional party’s continued relevance in the changing sociopolitical dynamics has now become a matter of intense debate both within and outside TDP.

Saddled in its longest innings in the opposition benches, the party is passing through one of its most difficult phases in its checkered history. Forced, as it were, into a do-or-die battle for its own survival.

The party had emerged to fill a void at a time when the people of the state were desperate for an alternative.

NTR proved more than competent to fill the shoes. He emerged as more than an alternative. He brought a freshness to politics. He imbued it with an intensity, not very dissimilar to the Independence movement. He established a connect with people that changed the way politics was played in this state.

The moment paved the way for the man; the man embraced the moment. It was a perfectly timed political experiment that was bound to succeed.

Thirty years on, TDP’s political moorings appear to have lost their anchor. From being the majestic ship that it was in the political ocean of the state, the party is now a poor sail, swayed and swerved violently by currents that have swarmed it from all sides.

The party is so baffled that it doesn’t know what hit it so hard.

A vacuum in the system, following the untimely demise of YSR, should have automatically been a resurrection for the tried and tested leader – which is Chandrababu Naidu.

But that was not to be. Historic relevance, which brought TDP into power in one fell swoop, again is playing havoc. By heavily investing in political craft rather than cultivating an emotional connect with the people, Naidu seems to have divested TDP of its umbilical cords.

TRS donned the role that TDP had played once – at the sub-regional level. And with such targeted ferocity, sharp dialectics and cleverly played divisive agenda that TDP stood no chance.

Jagan Mohan Reddy’s advent and his mercurial rise was the least expected and still unfathormable to TDP. Regional sentiments and provoked passions could be passing, the party told itself.

But how does one explain Jagan’s influence spreading like wildfire day by day?

TDP never realized that there could be other factors that could change the course of politics in the state. That its ‘alternative’ politics will have an expiry date.

The arrival of Jagan on the political scene has some of the fresh elements that swept NTR to power. In a state, where things have become rotten, the people will naturally like to welcome a new wave. Jagan is being helped by this undercurrent.

The vicissitudes of history have left TDP in a conundrum. But the party has still a chance. By going back to the roots that gave the party its fruits in the first place. By reinventing itself in tune with changing times.

By infusing fresh blood in the leadership and by giving a new direction to the party that can bring it closer to the people.

By gaining the trust and confidence of the large sections of the people. A tall order for the leadership? Only time will tell.