Thursday, May 21, 2009

Much ado about nothing

The only hope I had for Chiranjeevi was that he would provide a third non-casteist platform for voicing socio-economic issues. I heard rumors that some of his candidates were distributing money for votes and that even he took money from some of the candidates. Some of these were allegations by defectors from his party. And various stories unfolded.

I had blogged earlier saying that he was grossly mismanaging his campaign and that surrounding himself with people like Allu Arvind was not going to win elections. A disciplined approach to convincing the electorate that his party would be a viable alternative at the state level was completely missing. He resorted to announcing populist schemes that lacked economic rationale - these were good in getting PR but not votes.

A sane advisor would have told Chiru that it is very unlikely that he would win the majority. At best, he would have made a dent in TDP and Congress. If Chiru had run on that premise he could have argued that he was here to stay and that he was concerned about the state's populace. He would have had legitimacy as a leader and created a strong presence for himself in the state's political arena. People would have respected him for what he intended to achieve. However, he let people like Allu Arvind go live and denounce the exit poll results saying that they would win at least 160 assembly seats. What was he thinking? This is not making a stupid movie like "Bunny" with Allu Arjun as the hero.

The people clearly showed that they were not stupid and that they can see through the lack of political legitimacy. Chiranjeevi is no NTR and 2009 is not 1984.

The sole positive was the hope that he would offer a third alternative to the lacklustre performance of the congress party and the caste-ridden politics of TDP, not to mention its film stars. However, he failed miserably due to the masterful leadership of YSR. Full credit to him for making Andhra the former bastion that it was for the INC. Congress strengthened its position at the state level and the usually anti-incumbent Andhra electorate trusted YSR to continue to lead the state. I have little hope for urban development under the congress party. For that we need Babu. YSR has put bigger holes in the state's finances by the pro-poor policies that he had adopted - a good tactic for winning elections but a poor strategy for the development of the state.

It would have been nice if he can make tough choices by focusing on industrial development and incentivizing entrepreneurs rather than subsidizing farmers. My recent trip to Hyderabad indicated that corruption is rampant and the stat infrastructure is falling apart. Hyderabad's residential real estate market is continuing to plummet and commercial real estate has fallen even further. The roads are back to pre-TDP days and APSRTC, once a crown jewel, is shabby and unclean once more.

Although I do not agree with Atanu Dey on many things, he has really convinced me that only cities can be the engines of growth for the 21st century. There are economies of scale at work in urban centers, the benefits of which can never be matched by its alternative - rural centers. The sooner YSR realizes this, the better. One credit that Babu deserves is that by fluke or by design he seemed to have realized this. YSR is yet to show that he understands what is good for the state and not just for himself.

On a final note. I like that fact that all the pesky small regional parties have been wiped out. Stability is boring, but it is good.