Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu's ongoing foot march entered the 100th day today after covering over 1,500 kms in 41 assembly constituencies across Andhra Pradesh. The former Chief Minister's walkathon "Vastunna Meekosam" (I am coming to you), that began on October 2, is all set to continue it till March 29, though as per the original schedule it is supposed to end on Republic Day.
Chandrababu has so far walked past 702 villages in 41 Assembly constituencies spread over nine out of 23 districts in the state. Now, he has entered the 10th district after covering a total of 1587 km in 99 days. On January 4, he broke the previous record of 1,468 km
(in 68 days) set by the then Leader of Opposition Y S Rajasekhara Reddy in 2003 at the age of 54.
The "Praja Prasthanam" foot march led YSR to the Chief Minister's chair in 2004 and 63-year-old Chandrababu -- now the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly -- hopes to achieve a similar feat. The wind, however, is apparently blowing against the TDP
in the current political scenario prevailing in AP. YSR's son Jaganmohan Reddy has emerged as the main challenger for Chandrababu in the "mega fight" set for 2014.
Chandrababu has been virtually promising everything in the state "once I become Chief Minister again". From loan waiver for farmers and women self-help groups to free houses to the poor, free education to all from "KG to PG", 10 LPG cylinders to each household and almost every thing that one wishes.
During the course of his 100-day walkathon, he has desperately sought to shed the "hi-tech CEO" image that he acquired during his stint as CM between 1995 and 2004. He is trying to re-invent not only himself but also the TDP that is facing an unprecedented crisis in its 31-year history. The TDP chief donned the farmer's robes and tilled the land, became a blacksmith, ironed clothes, tried his hand at
weaving clothes, tapped toddy (without climbing the tree, though), did some carpentry, weaved cane baskets and played every artisan's role as he mingled with people of all hues all through his yatra.
Sipping tea at roadside petty shops and dining with villagers, including tribals, have been common features of his yatra. People in general are amused with what Chandrababu has been doing.The TDP rank and file, on the other hand, is elated as their leader is "connecting with people like never before" and "generating tremendous response". Chandrababu is also making calculated moves to attract
various sections of people. He has come out with a "declaration" for the backward classes promising among several other things, 100 Assembly tickets in the next elections.
He announced his party's support for classification of Scheduled Castes into sub-groups. This helped in the Madiga sect among SCs throwing its lot behind the TDP, particularly in the Telangana region where it is in a sizeable number. In the process, though, the predominant Mala sect has drifted away from the party.
He also has "packages" ready for tribals, minorities and youth. By re-affirming the TDP's support for formation of a separate state, Chandrababu also sought to regain lost ground in the region. This may, however, mar the party's prospects in Andhra and Rayalaseema regions where it already finds itself battered by Jagan's YSR Congress.
Chandrababu still has to cover a lot of distance in his yatra even as the path leading to 2014, does not appear smooth for him.
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