This Article is From Jun 03, 2014

The Chandrababu Factor

(Patrick French is an award-winning historian and political commentator. His books include 'Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division', 'The World Is What It Is' and 'India: A Portrait'.)

Nearly fifteen years ago, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee held the reins in New Delhi, I spent a day with Andhra Pradesh's chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu driving around Hyderabad, pursued by a Jeep with an aerial the size of a flagpole. It was a jamming device to block the remote detonation of bombs, since he was then being targeted by the People's War Group. A journey to Telangana a few days before had been disturbing, both for the extreme rural poverty and the threat of violence.

Naidu was full of schemes to boost the economy of his state - a clothing factory here, an opportunity for software engineers there. "The days of revolution are over," he told me. "Now people want employment, they want their land to be developed, and to have proper electricity and water supply." He had thought up a method for monitoring the restoration work at the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple: it was filmed each day,and video clips were e-mailed to him. It seemed an innovative idea back in 2000.

This week, Telangana was born out of Andhra Pradesh as the twenty-ninth state of the Indian union, the culmination of a long and bitter campaign for recognition. We can only hope that the supporters of the new chief minister, K Chandrasekhar Rao, feel it was worth the struggle, pain and sacrifice. Rural Telangana is visibly more prosperous than it was a decade or so ago, but there is still much to change.

During the recent election campaign, I found it surprising how quickly people had grown used to the creation of the new state.

Among the political class in Hyderabad, all the talk was of the construction of a new capital city. A senior MP - one of those MPs whose residence resembles a palace more than a house - spoke enthusiastically about the huge building contracts that would soon come up for grabs. As one Hyderabad resident said thoughtfully on the subject: "Dubai has a shopping week."

Chandrababu Naidu, the imminent chief minister of the residual parts of Andhra Pradesh, was quick off the mark: he arrived in Delhi to meet Arun Jaitley, the new finance minister, who duly announced he would honour earlier promises of support.

Naidu told the waiting cameras and microphones when he came out of the meeting: "Today there is no capital, there is no infrastructure, there are no administrations, so many problems are there... Narendra Modi-ji and also honourable finance minister have promised us to help liberally to build the state... That's why I came here."

I'm not sure we can blame Naidu for this. In the same way that a diplomat is said to be an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country, so a chief minister is duty bound to extract whatever concessions or taxpayer's cash the centre is willing to hand out.

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