South Asian Insider
Chandrababu Naidu opts out of PM race, says any Oppn leader better choice than Modi
Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu has ruled himself out of the prime ministerial race, should no party get a clear majority in the Lok Sabha. (Agencies)- Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu has ruled himself out of the prime ministerial race, should no party get a clear majority in the Lok Sabha. The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader was named by two top leaders of the coalition, former PM and Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Deve Gowda and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, as a possible PM candidate if the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) loses. Naidu said his decision has been conveyed to the others. "I said very clearly that I am not an aspirant for PM. I am doing this now through the media. I am only here to move things forward,'' he told HT in an interview. On the day that his review petition (along with other opposition leaders) to have 50% VVPATs (paper trail machines) matched with EVM (electronic voting machines) counts was dismissed by the Supreme Court, Naidu said that his decision is influenced by a desire to focus his attention on his state which is still new. The 69-year-old leader said the PM's post is something he was offered decades ago and even then he said no. "In 1995-96, I got an opportunity twice to be prime minister, during Deve Gowda's selection and IK Gujral's selection. The job was first offered to me and then they asked Deve Gowda ji. He was also reluctant and we all then chose Jyoti Basu, but CPM [Communist Party of India - Marxist] said no." At the time, Naidu was the convener of the United Front. Naidu's peer from Telengana, K Chandrashekar Rao is currently meeting leaders of other regional parties, pitching for a non-BJP, non-Congress front, but Naidu says this has worked only once in the past, during the United Front government in 1996, but that even then it was with the support of the Congress. If he wasn't keen on being prime minister, Naidu wasn't very encouraging of Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati's articulated aspirations either. "If anyone will come out openly, then there will be confusion. Some people may come out , but some [other] people have overall interest of the nation. So we have to maintain restraint." On Sunday, Mayawati hinted at her aspirations in an election meeting at Ambedkar Nagar. So is the Andhra Chief minister partial to his friend, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (also named as a possible PM by Pawar)? He refused to comment but says he is sure of one thing - all of the leaders on his side, be it Mayawati, Banerjee or Akhilesh Yadav, are better contenders than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "Narendra Modi keeps asking who is the leader in the Opposition and I keep saying, every leader in the Opposition is as strong or better than Narendra Modi,'' he said. "He's not done anything positive, he is only an 'election Prime Minister'." Naidu added that it is almost as if elections were Modi's hobby and said that never in the past have "PMs attacked local leaders, stooping to that level". Naidu also took issue with Modi's recent reference to the late Rajiv Gandhi that at the time of his death he was "Bhrashtachari No1" (the most corrupt person). "Generally in India, if someone dies, you wouldn't refer to it; that is our culture. Even after death, 28 years, is it right to bring it up?" asked Naidu. "Modi's performance is poor," Naidu said. "Balakot [the air strike against Pakistan] also failed, attacking Opposition also failed, Gujarat model also failed, now he is bringing in those who died." Naidu, among the first tech-savvy politicians in the country, is also not impressed by Modi's use of technology, especially social media saying this is "for personal gains, not for public consumption". He added: "I used IT for public purpose, there is a difference. I promoted technology during Vajpayee government and recommended deregulation of the telecom sector.'' And that's what Chandrababu Naidu with his democratic front is hoping voters will see. He is trying to convince other opposition leaders to meet after voting on May 19 to decide on a common PM candidate. failed, Gujarat model also failed, now he is bringing in those who died." Naidu, among the first tech-savvy politicians in the country, is also not impressed by Modi's use of technology, especially social media saying this is "for personal gains, not for public consumption". He added: "I used IT for public purpose, there is a difference. I promoted technology during Vajpayee government and recommended deregulation of the telecom sector.'' And that's what Chandrababu Naidu with his democratic front is hoping voters will see. He is trying to convince other opposition leaders to meet after voting on May 19 to decide on a common PM candidate.
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