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“In NDA, Going For Meeting”: Chandrababu Naidu Amid INDIA Switch Buzz

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TDP boss N Chandrababu Naidu – who pulled off stunning wins in the Andhra Pradesh Lok Sabha and Assembly elections – underlined his support Wednesday morning for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance that is expected to form the next union government. Mr Naidu’s remark comes amid speculation the opposition INDIA bloc, which is 40 seats shy of majority, could make a late attempt for an alliance.

But the incoming Chief Minister, in Delhi today to attend a meeting of NDA partners, appeared unwilling, at least publicly yet, to play ball, and told reporters, “I’m in the NDA and am going for the meeting…”

Sources, though, told NDTV the veteran politician – aware of his importance to the BJP – does have demands of his ally – the Lok Sabha Speaker’s seat and a minister’s post for every three MPs.

Mr Naidu’s party swept the Assembly election with 135 of 175 seats and he is set to return as chief minister for a fourth time. More significantly, perhaps the TDP also won 16 of 28 Lok Sabha seats.

Mr Naidu hailed the historic result and thanked the voters of Andhra Pradesh and lost no time in taking a jab at the outgoing YSR Congress Party, declaring, “In my long political career, I have never seen a government like that in the past five years. We witnessed how they troubled all constitutional systems.”

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The results mean the TDP has emerged as a potential kingmaker after the BJP’s grand ‘abki baar, 400 paar‘ plans were thwarted by a resurgent opposition, which has slashed the ruling party’s advantage in key states, including Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra.

The TDP’s 16 Lok Sabha seats are key because the BJP – contrary to exit polls – failed to cross the majority mark of 272, and now requires active backing from NDA partners to form the government, or risk conceding ground to the INDIA bloc despite being the largest party.

The BJP won 240 seats and 293 with its allies; this gives the party little margin for error. The loss of Mr Naidu’s 16 MPs and the 12 of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar – who helped found the INDIA bloc before re-joining the NDA – means the BJP’s government will collapse.

The INDIA bloc is meeting in Delhi today too. 

On counting day, as it became apparent the BJP had been pegged back, opposition leaders made noises about reaching out to both Mr Naidu and Nitish Kumar in efforts to cobble together a majority, or at least finish closer to the magic number of 272 than the NDA.

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Uddhav Thackeray – whose Shiv Sena faction won nine seats – was the first to go public on this topic, saying bloc leaders Congress would speak to the TDP and JDU leaders.

The Congress, however, has been more circumspect; at a presser Tuesday evening party leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi both said any such decision would be taken jointly.

Mr Kharge even said the opposition would be wary of revealing its hand too soon; “If I reveal our strategies now, Prime Minister Modi will be wary (‘hoshiyar ho jayenge’).”

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The potential problem for the INDIA bloc, though, is that both Chandrababu Naidu and Nitish Kumar are, relatively, unreliable allies. 

The TDP leader was part of the NDA before he quit before the 2019 general election, and his return could be conditional on demands like preferential status for Andhra Pradesh.

And Nitish Kumar has acquired something of a reputation for frequent change of sides – five times in the last decade; the last one, from INDIA to the BJP was just four months ago.

Neither Chandrababu Naidu nor Nitish Kumar have commented so far.

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The Bihar Chief Minister is en route to Delhi today. Interestingly, he is on the same flight as former ally Tejashwi Yadav, whose RJD picked up four seats in the Bihar Lok Sabha election.

Mr Naidu and Nitish Kumar’s importance to the BJP was underlined Tuesday by the Prime Minister making special reference to them in his victory speech at the BJP HQ in Delhi.

 TDP boss N Chandrababu Naidu – who pulled off stunning wins in the Andhra Pradesh Lok Sabha and Assembly elections – underlined his support for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance that is expected to form the next union government.    

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