TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu (Image: PTI)
As Andhra Pradesh for the first time witnesses the arrest of a former chief minister -- TDP Chief N Chandrababu Naidu -- in a corruption case, analysts said the development could leave a dent on the clean image of the party projected by his supporters.
This is also the first time that Naidu has been arrested on corruption charges in his political career spanning over 40 years.
A local Court in Vijayawada on Sunday remanded the TDP chief in judicial custody for 14 days in an alleged multi-crore corruption scam.
Naidu was arrested in connection with a fraud case involving misappropriation of funds from the Skill Development Corporation, leading to a loss of Rs 300 crore to the state government, AP CID Chief N Sanjay said on Saturday.
After Naidu's early morning arrest on Saturday in Nandyal town, he was taken by road to Vijayawada, over 300 kilometres away, where he was produced in court early on Sunday morning.
The arrest comes just months before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls when political temperatures are soaring and at a time when the TDP is struggling to return to power in the state while trying to project Naidu's son Nara Lokesh, who is on a marathon statewide foot march, as the future leader of the party.
TDP and Jana Sena have dropped enough hints that both parties may go for a pre-poll alliance. However, the BJP, which is in alliance with the Jana Sena in AP, is tight-lipped about the pact with the TDP.
The state BJP chief and Naidu’s sister-in-law D Purandeswari condemned his arrest, alleging that the police did not follow proper procedure.
Senior journalist and political analyst Telakapalli Ravi told PTI, “The arrest may dent the image of the party. No one is beyond the judicial process. Every irregularity has to be probed and fixed." He further said that even if Jagan (CM Jagan Mohan Reddy) wants to "fix" Naidu, he cannot do it without the centre’s “cooperation”.
Naidu, who began his political career in the Congress, later switched over to the TDP after it came into power in the early 1980s, when his father-in-law and popular actor N T Rama Rao became the chief minister.
Naidu played a key role in the party and the government until the early 1990s. In 1995, Naidu dethroned the NTR government in a political coup and became chief minister with the support of disgruntled legislators.
He won the polls in 1999. In the subsequent elections in 2004, Naidu lost to the Congress. His bête noire Y S Rajasekhara Reddy became the CM.
Reddy’s untimely death in the September 2009 chopper crash presented YSR’s son Jagan Mohan Reddy as a new opponent to tackle.
Jagan floated his own party, the YSR Congress, but landed in jail after the CBI levelled corruption charges and filed "quid pro quo" cases against him.
After the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, Jagan emerged as the principal rival to Naidu.
While the TDP managed to get a majority in the 2014 polls and formed the government as an NDA partner, Naidu later had a falling out with the BJP and joined hands with opposition parties such as the Congress and TMC.
Jagan then went on a padayatra (foot march) and came to power with an astounding victory by winning 151 out of 175 seats in the assembly in 2019. The TDP managed to get just 23.
In his bid to come back to power, Naidu recently met Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national chief J P Nadda in the national capital. Though there was no official word on what transpired between them, sources said Naidu offered an "olive branch" to the saffron party.
Today’s arrest may not impact the political equations in the state as of now, and it is too early to comment on the outcome, a political analyst said.
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