What’s in store for Naidu in Seemandhra?

The lane leading to Nara Chandrababu Naidu’s house in Hyderabad is bustling with activity. With umpteen security personnel at the gate, guests and officials visiting the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister-designate, his office is a crowded place. The same can be said about his office, where his core team of officials is seen working laboriously round-the-clock; over dense files.

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president has returned to power after a 10-year-long wait, and is keeping a low-profile until his swearing-in ceremony which is on June 8, six days after the state’s bifurcation, say party sources. It is learnt that Mr Naidu is gearing up to prove his administrative skills, which is an indicator of his commitment to develop the Seemandhra region of the divided state of Andhra Pradesh.  “We are proceeding with vengeance when it comes to development and will do justice to the people of Seemandhra region,” says Mr Naidu, in an interview to this reporter.

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Picture credit: PTI

 Seemandhra Victory

Electoral victory in the 2014 assembly elections came to Mr Naidu at a cost. After his failed alliance with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and two left parties in the 2009 elections, he took a leaf out of the late ex-Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy’s padayatra and poll promises.

According to political analyst Prof. Nageshwara Rao, Mr Naidu who had opposed free power sop of Mr Reddy in the 2004 elections, now used the same bait to return to power (by promising loan waiver and nine hours of free power to farmers). ”This has won him huge margins in Seemandhra which is predominantly an agrarian economy.”  Prof. Rao reveals that “Naidu’s track-record of welfare and development has proved him a stronger contender against Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, president of YSRC party and son of late YSR, who is still hanging onto to the sympathy of his father’s death.”

Chandrababu’s campaign across Seemandhra and Telangana and the promises of waiving loans for farmers and self-help groups; have brought him back to power while TDP’s  alliance with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) under Narendra Modi was the perfect icing on the cake. “My experience and ability in development has proved fruitful this time. Narendra Modi and I are a great combination for Seemandhra. And, with good leadership at the helm, I believe India will be back on growth path,” says Mr Naidu.

Interestingly, Mr Modi mirrored Mr Naidu’s words; commenting on his working relationship with the latter at a public meeting in Tirupati where he said: “Chandrababu and I have the same software. We both think of development. We never compromise on great and grand ideas.”

The TDP-BJP alliance has won 106 Assembly seats in 175 member assembly. The Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress (YSRC) which gave a good fight has managed to win just 67 seats. The Congress had failed to win even a single seat while the others won 2 seats.

Why he lost the 2004 polls

While Naidu was successful in branding Hyderabad as a major contender among the IT-rich cities of the world and portraying himself as the CEO/statesman of Andhra Pradesh between 1995-2004, experts feel that his one-sided focus on the services sector was responsible for his 2004 debacle.

“His focus on IT and IT-enabled services industry in Hyderabad became the hot-topic across the world. Infrastructure development like international airport, road connectivity too made him look good. However, he couldn’t balance rural and urban development,” reveals K. Padmanabhaiah, retired IAS officer and former home secretary.

According to government data, AP is the fourth largest IT exporter in India, accounting for 12.5 per cent of the country’s total IT exports at Rs 3.41 lakh-crore ($62.6 billion). The state has 39 operational special economic zones (SEZs) and 56 IT SEZs, higher than any other state in the country.

Despite his lopsided vision of development, Mr Naidu was praised for simplifying bureaucratic levels in the state. “Clearances were granted quickly, files moved, projects progressed, investments poured in and things fell into place,” says Y. Harishchandra Prasad, an industrialist in the state.

Asked if his Hi-Tech-focus, neglecting the rural masses, brought him down, Mr Naidu informs: “I had introduced development models which have been implemented and re-modelled by Mr Modi. I had also lost because there was drought in 2004 and that proved a big dampener.”

The former chief minister had played his cards right in acquiring huge tracts of land from farmers for infrastructure development around Hyderabad. “The city had a huge land bank (mostly dry land) and that was easier to acquire,” adds Mr Padmanabhaiah. However, he points out that it would be difficult to acquire land in Seemandhra region as most of it is cultivable land and the new Land Acquisition Act passed by UPA-II would make it difficult for industrialists to acquire land.

Challenges ahead

Given that Seemandhra has to begin its innings with a revenue deficit and limited availability of non-cultivable land, it will be an uphill task for Mr Naidu to go on a mammoth infrastructure development spree, says Vemuri Radhakrishna, political analyst and head of media group in the state. On the other hand, farmers are awaiting the implementation of populist giveaways like the loan waiver which will require nearly Rs82,000 crore.

Often known for his bold moves as an administrator, Chandrababu Naidu says: “I have to build this region from scratch. It is a new challenge. There is no infrastructure, no capital, no employment opportunities and no reputed educational institutions.”  “It is a crisis. I would like to convert this crisis into an opportunity,” adds the TDP president who is optimistic about developing the region with the Centre’s help.

Unravelling his plans for Seemandhra, Mr Naidu says: “Firstly, I will work on decentralization and quick clearances. Setting up growth centres and economic zones where each district will specialize in one service is another focus area. For instance: One district as an agro-processing centre, another for automobiles, manufacturing, the others for services, bio-technology, pharma industry, etc. This will set pace for development of the region in all sectors.

On his progress with a zero budget scenario in the new state, the CM-designate of AP said initial hiccups would remain and that the first two years wouldn’t be easy. Given his proximity to Prime Minister Modi and TDP’s prominent alliance with the NDA government, Mr Naidu is expected to convince Mr Modi to grant special status to all the 12 districts of Seemandhra region and channel funds into the state.  However, Mr Naidu will have to focus on wealth creation within Seemandhra as the region contributes only 32% revenue to the state while Hyderabad alone (due to services and pharmaceutical industry) contributes over 50 per cent to the state’s revenue.

Advantages for Seemandhra

With Naidu being the darling of foreign investors, sources in his core team say that World Bank funding is on cards. Even investments from overseas are pouring in. “There is an advantage of developing Visakhapanam into a services hub due to the presence of software companies like IBM, Wipro, Tech Mahindra and HSBC” says J.A. Chowdary, one of the key architects in transforming Hyderabad into Cyberabad and the man responsible for setting up Software Technology Parks in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The government could also offer IT incentives to those firms interested to set up a facility here.

On the other hand, Visakhapatnam bears witness to silent surge of pharmaceutical companies with Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Hospira, Actis Pharma and others setting up shop in the district.

With Seemandhra producing over 40,000 IT graduates every year and having the reputation of a knowledge hub, Mr Naidu foresees a bright future for the region. “I have brought companies like Microsoft to Hyderabad. The reason I brought it was because it was world’s top technology giant. I thought If Microsoft saw an opportunity to tap talent here, other IT firms would follow,” continuing, “I’m confident that these companies will invest in Seemandhra too.”

Experts, on the other hand, say Seemandhra is likely to be the manufacturing hub with concentration of industrial units both in Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. The Sri City SEZ houses manufacturing units of companies like iSuzu, Mondelez, Pepsico, Alstom, Kelloggs, Lavazza and Danieli which will generate employment on a large scale.  “Mr Naidu’s excellent relationship with the industry and his grip on administration will bring in investments. The abundance of natural resources in the region will prove beneficial,” reveals Mr Prasad.

The socio-economic Development Plan prepared by the Federation of Andhra Pradesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FAPCII) notes that the presence Gangavaram, Visakhapatnam and Krishnapatnam ports will improve trade and exports.

“Given that AP’s coast lies geographically between West Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, every port in Seemandhra will become a hub of industrial activity,” adds Mr Naidu.  The availability of power plants and gas-based plants and the upcoming Chennai-Bangalore corridor will propel the state’s manufacturing capabilities.

While Mr Naidu has promised to model and build the capital city of Seemandhra as world-class city like Singapore, he reassures that it will stand as an example for generations to come. “My dream is to build a city where future generations will live peacefully.”

Even as people of the new states await their leaders to unleash their administrative powers and political acumen, Mr Naidu will first have to douse the flames of bifurcation sparked by his Telangana counterpart K. Chandrasekhar Rao.

 

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