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BJP gambit pays off, but Naidu holds trump card. Focus shifts to TDP chief’s demands & dependability

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However, all eyes are now on TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu, who, commanding 16 MPs, has emerged as the principal mover and shaker in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Though he affirmed his support to the Modi government to be formed this weekend, Naidu, political analysts say, would like to keep the Centre on tenterhooks in the process of extracting his pound of flesh.

The unkept promise of the Special Category Status (SCS) which led to the TDP’s exit from the NDA in March 2018, massive funds for the completion of multipurpose Polavaram National Project on Godavari and huge financial support for his brainchild, Amravati mega capital project are among the major concerns for the TDP, according to party sources.

While then CM Naidu was shown the door in 2018 over the SCS demand, his successor Jagan, who rode to power promising to deliver the special status, also could not succeed as the BJP itself was in absolute majority the last 10 years.  

Not now. The BJP’s own nationwide tally of 240 is 33 seats short of the majority figure in the Lok Sabha to form a government, leaving Modi dependent on allies. And the TDP is the BJP’s principal ally now. Naidu’s demands in the interest of AP — special status or funds, new projects — will inevitably find the support of JSP, which has two MPs.   

However, while Naidu might desire to retain his glory in Delhi power corridors from 1999 to 2004, political analysts say “Modi-Amit Shah are not Atal Bihar Vajpayee-L.K. Advani.”

Back then, the TDP with 29 MPs provided sustenance for the then NDA, and Naidu extracted many things in return for united AP – funds, projects, support in various sectors especially IT.

“And BJP senior leader Venkaiah Naidu was there supporting AP’s cause. Now, Naidu is dealing with Modi-Shah who are extremely smart, shrewd politicians. By managing to bring in more allies in support of the NDA in the coming months, they would want the dependency on TDP, JD(U) diluted, thereby reducing the bargaining capacity of allies, and also constant pressures,” says D.A.R Subrahmanyam, chairman of the Guntur-based Navyandhra Intellectual Forum.

Subrahmanyam points out that “with their history of flip-flops, JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar and Naidu have also earned the disrepute of being undependable allies.” “It is a marriage of convenience between BJP and allies,” he adds.

In 1999, Naidu allied with the BJP under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and they won 29 and seven respectively of the 42 seats in united Andhra Pradesh. Even as he made critical remarks against the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi for the 2002 riots, Naidu re-allied with Vajpayee in 2004. The partnership proved detrimental for both. The TDP ended with five seats, while the BJP drew a blank in the state.  

Naidu then went with TRS and the Left parties in 2009, but was again trounced by his friend-turned-foe, Congress Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. Five years later, following AP’s bifurcation, Naidu allied with the Modi-led BJP. The fledgling JSP supported the duo while itself not entering the poll fray.

But TDP exited the NDA camp in March 2018 over the issue of the unfulfilled SCS for Andhra Pradesh, a topic Jagan was focussed on hammer and tongs.

In 2019, the TDP, the BJP, the JSP went separate and suffered badly while Jagan stormed to power with 151 assembly seats. The YSRCP also won 22 Lok Sabha seats, and proved reliable to the Modi government in passage of bills, etc the last five years.

That year marked a bitter war of words between BJP and TDP leaders. Naidu called Modi a terrorist, while the PM called him a “U-turn Babu”. The TDP chief even reminded the minorities at a rally that he had called for Modi’s resignation following the 2002 riots.

Post elections, in June 2019, the BJP weaned away TDP Rajya Sabha MPs Y. S. Chowdary, C.M. Ramesh, Garikapati Mohan Rao and T.G. Venkatesh, delivering a big blow to out-of-power Naidu. 

But, facing a powerful Jagan, Naidu patched up with Modi and BJP with help from Pawan Kalyan. The alliance clicked as a silent wave of anti-incumbency and the kootami unity reduced Jagan’s YSRCP to 11 MLAs, including himself, and four MPs.


Also Read: Jagan, Naidu & Kalyan’s post-campaign sojourn abroad sparks curiosity in AP’s political circles


‘Will be our strength for 5 yrs’

On Wednesday, before leaving for Delhi, Naidu affirmed to the media that he is with the NDA. The clarification came as the INDIA constituents reportedly were sending feelers to the TDP and the JD(U).

After exiting the NDA last time, Naidu allied with the Congress for the 2018 Telangana polls and shared the stage with Rahul Gandhi in the campaign rallies.

On the question of Naidu’s reliability, a freshly elected BJP MP told ThePrint, “He will be our strength for the next five years, wait and watch.”

Satya Kumar, a national secretary of BJP and Dharmavaram MLA elect, says the acrimony is a thing of the past and that “even Naidu on several occasions regretted the episode and the NDA exit decision.”

Though the SCS demand lost public momentum, Jagan kept it alive, reiterating the demand with the PM in almost every visit to Delhi the last five years, along with the issue of funds for the completion of Polavaram project. The latest such meet was in February, before the poll schedule announcement.

“Whether the SCS demand will be revived is a hypothetical question. The TDP, the BJP and the JSP rejoined as Jagan has put the state in a path of regression. The combine will function in the best interests of the state,” Satya Kumar told ThePrint.  

TDP national spokesperson Deepak Reddy said that Naidu would strive for what is best for the state, “be it SCS or something better.” “The central portfolios being sought would be keeping Andhra Pradesh needs in mind. Yes, Amaravati, Polavaram will be our focus areas,” he told ThePrint.

Naidu’s latest position on controversial issues like the Uniform Civil Code, One Nation-One Election, is also to be known. After the meeting in Delhi, Naidu tweeted saying that all NDA partners have unanimously endorsed Narendra Modi as the coalition leader.

 

While the TDP MPs anticipatedly will join the Modi government, some of the BJP MLAs are expected to be in the Andhra Pradesh government to be formed in a few days. This was the arrangement in 2014, that continued till 2018.

Among the elected BJP MLAs are Sujana Chowdary, a former Union minister (then with TDP), and Kamineni Srinivas, a former state minister from 2014 to 2018, from Vijayawada West and Kaikaluru, respectively.

Andhra Pradesh BJP chief and former Union minister Daggubati Purandeswari, who is among the 3 BJP MPs elected from the state, is likely to get a berth in Modi 3.0 cabinet.

(Edited by Tony Rai)


Also Read: Telangana lost, big zero on Lok Sabha scoreboard, KCR’s BRS stares at existential crisis


 





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