Vijayawada: If a retro is ever made of the ‘Tale of two Telugu states’, a scene that comes to my mind is the view of the future several rabid Andhraphiles had once the results were announced for the 2014 elections at the Centre and the two newly-formed states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

View of expectations in 2014

Their prognosis, and prediction, was that while Telangana does not have leadership to guide the new state they fought for, Andhra Pradesh has a statesman in Chandrababu Naidu, who is a partner of Narendra Modi at the Centre. He will ensure Andhra gets special status and tax benefits, leading to a huge exodus of capital and industry from Telangana. Andhra Pradesh will be a war path of development, jobs created in the million, and with a strong opposition leader in YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, who will further keep the government on its toes. In five years, the difference of Hyderabad will cease to exist. Andhra will find the bifurcation to be a blessing in disguise, Telangana will rue the path it chose.

Less than five years later, it is a case of total reversal. Telangana has proved it has great leadership, was led by a government that never let its non-participation in the NDA government at the Centre become a hurdle, and set several records in all aspects of governance – reforms, welfare schemes, growth, investment – and has a stellar leadership, which won a second term.

Dreams crushed, Naidu flounders

Andhra Pradesh, under N Chandrababu Naidu, has fallen out with the NDA, never received the Special Category Status, and neither the development nor investments have happened the way people had hoped for. The new capital project, Amaravati, despite the hype and marketing, remains a non-starter. The multi-purpose Pollavaram project, having guzzled funds, is not complete. The star of the opposition, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy of the YSRCP, is on the rise and the chief minister is aware that there is a high probability of an electoral washout for the ruling Telugu Desam in a few months.

Most youngsters from Andhra Pradesh quickly look for jobs outside the state – Hyderabad being the first destination of choice. Despite many attempts to force a narrative, investment in manufacturing has not reached a tipping point to scale. There are no major economic belts where heightened activity can create jobs in huge numbers.

Jagan Reddy on the rise

Jagan Reddy, who has walked over 3,600 kilometres, has endeared himself to many sections and people in the state, who were previously uncertain about his ability, or temperament, to rule the state and head a government, including those, who were fans of his father.

A self-propelled candidate for chief ministership from the moment his father died in a helicopter crash in September 2009, a few months after winning a massive mandate for a second term, he has come of age, both in his political acumen, and public perception. By most popular and anecdotal view, he is set to defeat Naidu in the coming elections – a reason that gave the Modi-led BJP government to not fret as they let go of TDP as a partner in NDA.

The Modi-Shah duo is banking on a Jagan victory, post which he can join the NDA – hopefully for them with a majority of the 25 Lok Sabha seats.

Movies slugfest

Each Indian state has an emotional barometer to follow – in Gujarat, it is stock market and business, in Bengal, it is the response to strikes and hartals, in Kerala, it is the sale of gold and remittances from the Gulf, and for Andhra, it is the movies.

More than any pre-poll survey, one must closely watch the box office fate of various movies lined up – biopics on TDP founder late N T Rama Rao in two parts, in which his son and TDP legislator Nandamuri Balakrishna is acting as his father, a movie on late YS Rajasekhara Reddy and, importantly, one on NTR’s biographer-turned-second wife, Lakshmi Parvati – which will portray Naidu as a villain and backstabber, directed by the mercurial Ram Gopal Varma.

N Chandrababu Naidu is trying to make 2019 elections a combination of several elections he has fought in the past – he is hoping to use the YS Rajasekhara Reddy ploy of exploiting a third player to retain power, he is aping his pupil-turned-rival, K Chandrasekhara Rao’s tactic of making the elections about pride, and harnessing the role at the Centre as a narrative to augment his stature.

While film star Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena remains a force, and a potential spoiler, it is a distinct third force. It is unlikely to play along with TDP calculations, or bite into anti-incumbency votes as to spoil Reddy’s chances. Naidu’s ploy of projecting his role in creating a UPA-led national coalition to bring down Narendra Modi will not divert the electorate sufficiently as to give him another term – it could more likely be a case of the magician’s carefully-enacted diversion not working – and people spotting the hat, and the rabbit, separately, beforehand.

Most importantly, TDP’s failure in delivering on special status, new capital or creating jobs is not just the undoing of Naidu’s political future, but also of the state – it has little to hope for, even with a change in government. The 2014 Andhraphiles have stopped signing. Telangana has won not just the bifurcation battle, it has won the first phase of a war to script a better destiny.

(Sriram Karri is the author of the novel, Autobiography of a Mad Nation, and The Spiritual Supermarket, whose next book, One Farmer Less, will be out soon. He is also a political columnist and commentator.)