A Window for Pan-Indian Parties in Andhra Pradesh?

(Image Source: TSNEWS.COM)

-Nawed Akhter

BJP has been a past master in collaborating with regional parties and annihilating them totally and dumping them or reducing them to a me-too status and making them dependent on itself for survival. The list is long – with Goa, Assam, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Jharkhand, etc. Employing a similar game plan and in the same scheme of things it also targeted Andhra Pradesh. There was a talk of BJP trying to expand its base in Andhra Pradesh so as to be able to not depend on Chandra Babu Naidu in the future. The options were many:

  1. starting with creating a rift between Rayalaseema and Amravati,
  2. denting Chandra Babu Naidu’s status and moving his voter base to itself in the Rayalaseema region;
  3. aligning with Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), and dumping TDP
  4. coming together with Jana Sena Party of actor Pavan Kalyan, who is popular among the youth.
  5. declaring a financial package and claiming credit for it and lastly
  6. its popular tactic of creating a fear psychosis among Hindus and effecting a religious divide by projecting itself as its only savior in the state. However this usually viable option was unable to bring substantial success this round.

When Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the then Congress government as part of Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act had promised to accord a special status for five years to Andhra Pradesh, so that it could tide over the loss of revenue and for it to develop a new capital and infrastructure base. BJP as part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) aligned with Chandra Babu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in the 2014 parliamentary elections and promised the same special status to Andhra Pradesh. But once BJP secured a simple majority on its own, its dependence on coalition partners vanished and it started playing big brother and ignoring TDP’s financial demands. Finally it refused to grant it the special status with excuse that the 14th Finance Commission didn’t provide for such treatment to Andhra Pradesh and therefore it could not be done.

Narendra Modi had been avoiding meeting Chandra Babu Naidu as was publicly stated by the Andhra CM. He openly admitted that four years of his repeated requests for an audience with the PM did not fructify.

Chandra Babu Naidu the politician got the opportunity he was looking for. He recalled his ministers from the central government but did not announce his party’s dissociation from NDA. This provided him a window of rapprochement in the future if BJP should concede to his demand of additional funds.

Jaganmohan Reddy could not be left behind and cede the entire space to TDP. He decided to bring in a no confidence motion against the NDA, and in the same breath perhaps also aimed to call the bluff of TDP and force it to take a stand one way or the other.

TDP initially gave the indication that it would support arch rival YSRCP’s no-confidence motion but later on declared that it would move a no-confidence motion on its own.The latest UP and Bihar  bypoll results made it easy for TDP to take the plunge.

As any no-confidence motion has to have a support of 50 MPs in the Lok Sabha the ball is in Congress’ court now. Congress knows that BJP is sitting pretty in parliament and the no- confidence motion will fall through but if it has to regain any sort of support in AP it cannot be seen doing nothing for the interests of AP.

This more or less forecloses any possibility of BJP and YSRCP coming together if BJP does not or can not provide for the additional finances demanded as no local party will align with a party that is seen as having betrayed the interests of the state. In any situation TDP has to live without BJP for sometime.

This move wipes out most of the anti-incumbency concerns it could have had,since now there is BJP to blame for all its failures and shortcomings.

Narendra Modi did finally speak to Chandra Babu Naidu but it was too late and TDP will put it down as the climb down by BJP from its exalted position.

If at a future date additional funds do come it will be a success story for Chandra Babu Naidu and Jagan Mohan Reddy but the Telugu Desam Party will try to get most of the credit for it as it initiated pressure on the central government by removing its ministers,and that lead to YSRCP bringing the no-confidence motion. If the expected funds aren’t forthcoming BJP loses its locus standi as a stand-alone entity in Andhra Pradesh, at least in the near future, and TDP gets to be the martyr and gain public sympathy.

Now BJP  is openly spelling out its plan for expansion in AP, which so far was done clandestinely. Amit Shah held a meeting of party functionaries from Andhra Pradesh and GVL Narashima Rao blamed TDP for the entire fiasco as a cover up for TDP’s shortcoming in governance.

In a very unlikely scenario if YSRCP and BJP come together in the future it will provide a foothold to Congress in the state, which neither of the two would like. Congress’ re-emergence in AP will only affect YSRCP and BJP and will have the least impact on TDP. TDP can also align with Left parties in that situation.

Pavan Kalyan will not be wanting to take the great risk of joining hands with BJP and losing his own support base in these volatile times.

Now in the unlikely event of TDP fighting alongwith NDA in 2019 it won’t have to concede any additional space to BJP. As the present situation suggests, BJP will need all its allies in order to come back to power in 2019 and thus TDP stands to gain more bargaining power.

It will be interesting to see how Congress behaves at this favourable political juncture. Will it remain in its chosen inertia or will it finally take some bold and positive steps to get renewed acceptance among voters and regain some of its lost glory in Andhra Pradesh.

One possibility that can’t be ruled out is Pavan Kalyan joining hands with the Congress if new party president Rahul Gandhi reaches out to him.

The result of  the Karnataka assemly polls particularly, and from Rajashthan, MP and other Hindi states will be a huge determining factor for Andhra politicians’ decision for a future course of action.

The current fluid state of Andhra politics, though, provides a window to both BJP and Congress to move in and make a kill.

Nawed Akhter is a filmmaker and political analyst based in Gurgaon. The views expressed in this analysis are personal.

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