Chandrababu Naidu: Modi’s coalition partner complements his global outlook

Chandrababu Naidu, leader of the Telugu Desam Party, centre, attends a swearing-in ceremony for Narendra Modi on 9 June (Prakash Singh/Bloomberg via Getty Images)


India’s 2024 general election resulted in a coalition government ­– the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party leading the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) but falling short of majority to rule on its own right. The outcome means alliance partners will have the potential for a reasonable sway over policy making in Modi’s third term – perhaps also in the presentation and direction of India’s foreign policy.

A key player to watch is the second largest coalition partner within the NDA, the Telugu Desam Party, or TDP, headed by Nara Chandrababu Naidu.

Naidu is one of the few regional leaders to have outlined a national roadmap in addition to a regional manifesto.

Commonly known as CBN, Naidu is presently Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, the southern Indian coastal state and seventh largest in the country. Serving his fourth term in office, the second after Andhra Pradesh was split in 2014 with the creation of Telangana, he holds the distinction of being the longest-serving leader of the erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh. In the recently concluded election for the Andhra Pradesh state assembly and the General Assembly (Lok Sabha), TDP won 135 out of 175 AP state assembly seats and 16 out of 25 general assembly seats. The result solidified Naidu’s position as number two in NDA coalition.

Notably, Naidu also played a crucial role in the previous Vajpayee government from 1999­–2004. At the time, he actively engaged foreign governments to attract investments, often touted as India’s commercial diplomat. This made him “one of the most visible faces of India’s economic reforms and growth story”.

Naidu was successful in persuading global corporate giants for investing and setting up offices in Hyderabad. Notably this included global IT giants such as Microsoft, IBM, Dell and Oracle. He vigorously branded Hyderabad as a favoured IT destination and spent significant effort in lobbying with the top leaders of the world such as the then US President Bill Clinton and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. After Andhra Pradesh was split, he courted investments from Japan, and Singapore for his pet project, a new capital “Amravati” (plans which fell into abeyance due to political shifts after the 2019 assembly polls).

Chandrababu Naidu: Modi’s coalition partner complements his global outlook
Hyderabad was branded as a favoured IT destination (Shesha Magi/Unsplash)

These efforts stamped Naidu’s credentials as a reformer and a wooer of foreign investments. It reflected a global outlook that overlaps substantially with Modi’s brand of diplomacy.

Naidu is one of the few regional leaders to have outlined a national roadmap in addition to a regional manifesto. The document titled “Vision 2047” lists strategies to position India as a global leader. This very much resonates with the incumbent Prime Minister’s own vision of “Viksit Bharat 2047”. In fact, Naidu’s version gives great prominence to enhancing India’s global outreach.

Naidu puts an emphasis on the growing role India should and will play in the global political and economic apparatus as its power grows. He lays out a tripolar vision of world where the United States, China, and India will be the key player in the global system. The document argues that India’s potential surge in domestic demand, driven by the rise in the middle class, needs to be leveraged. This could involve securing favourable trade agreements in exchange for access to domestic markets. Again, this approach aligns with the Modi government’s policy, and the desire look again at existing free trade agreements.

Naidu was successful in persuading global corporate giants for investing and setting up offices in Hyderabad.

Naidu’s ideas further see developing India as a global supplier of skilled workers, along with “India Inc” for global corporations. His vision document recommends tapping Indian diaspora for knowledge transfer as well as for investments and network needed for positioning India at the forefront of global economy. The emphasis on the role of diaspora as a significant actor in India’s journey to be a superpower is another key feature of Modi’s vision.

Naidu likewise sees Indian foreign policy to be a “voice of global south”.

The convergence with Modi’s is clear. So, it would be no great surprise to see Andhra Pradesh in the near future become a key destination for high-profile diplomatic meetings that India might host. For Naidu, it could be an opportunity to showcase his vision to the world and leverage it to attract investments – something that Andhra Pradesh, post-bifurcation, is in dire need of.

Although all coalition governments will experience some internal friction, there appears to be no fundamental conflict regarding the global outlook. In fact, key pressure points on the BJP from allies such the TDP are likely to revolve around domestic issues. CBN will try to leverage his influence within the NDA coalition to channel investments into Andhra Pradesh, a form of competitive federalism. So far, recent decisions such as the allocation of cabinet portfolios and the election of a BJP-supported candidate as Lok Sabha speaker demonstrate the BJP’s ability to achieve consensus among its allies.

source : lowyinstitute

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