Why Does Naidu Want To Align With BJP – and Why Is Jagan Trying To Prevent It?

Why are both parties competing with each other to win the support of BJP, which has no votes to contribute in AP?

Hindi Female

Barring any last-minute hiccups that cannot be ruled out in either politics or cricket, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh is all set to join the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

However, seemingly perturbed by the swift moves of both the TDP and BJP, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and YSR Congress chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy acted with remarkable alacrity on Friday, 9 February, and held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, albeit in the guise of redressal of state demands.

It is difficult to assume that the Modi regime is now planning to positively act on the state's long-pending demands, like the Special Category status; therefore, in all likelihood, Jagan's parleys with Modi were more political than administrative. 

But why are both the YSRCP and TDP competing with each other to procure the support of the saffron party, which has no votes to contribute in the state? In fact, any bonhomie with the BJP can even prove to be damaging to these parties, as there is still simmering discontent among the people of Andhra Pradesh against the national parties of Congress and BJP.


Why TDP Cadre Is Not Keen on Alliance

The Congress suffered humiliating defeats in both 2014 and 2019 for bifurcating the state against the wishes of the people of Andhra Pradesh. The BJP, on the other hand, supported the Congress-authored Bifurcation Act – and received less than NOTA votes in the 2019 elections.

The Andhra electorate is even more angry with the BJP because it also denied the Special Category status to the state and failed to act on the promises made on the eve of bifurcation.

There are several other reasons for their disenchantment with the saffron brigade. The Modi government is hell-bent of privatising the Visakhapatnam steel plant, which the people of the state had achieved after a long struggle.

Similarly, the intransigence of the BJP-led central government towards the state government's attempts at three capitals amounts to shunning the Amaravati greenfield capital dream. 

In fact, the TDP rank and file are overwhelmingly against any alliance with the BJP – and there are valid reasons for the TDP cadres' antipathy towards the BJP.

  • They strongly believe that Jagan wouldn't have dared to act with such vengeance on TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu without the tacit support of the Modi-Shah duo. 

  • The Jagan government couldn't have abandoned the Amaravati project if the Modi regime had constrained the state government to this effect.

  • There is no progress in the cases against Jagan by the central agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED), while these agencies are relentlessly running after a host of Opposition leaders.

This alone is a barometer to judge the relationship between the YSRCP and BJP. Even at a time when the K Chandrasekhar Rao dispensation in the neighbouring Telangana was facing the central government's unfavorable attitude on the fiscal front, the Jagan-led Andhra Pradesh government was allowed to raise loans to finance its populist schemes.

This is quite contrary to Modi repeatedly denouncing 'revdi culture', which refers to freebies. Thus, the TDP rank and file is unable to comprehend Naidu's decision to go with the BJP. 


YSRCP & TDP's Relationship With BJP

It is rather surprising that even when the top leadership of the BJP is holding talks with the TDP supremo for a possible political alliance, the finance minister in the Jagan government, in his budget speech, praised the support given by the Centre to the state government.  

Both the YSRCP and TDP have supported the Delhi Services Bill, which goes against the federal spirit – an idea that is close to the heart of regional parties. Both the YSRCP and TDP have also supported BJP nominees in the election to the offices of both the President and Vice-President of India.

Further, both the parties recently voted in favour of the Modi government when the Lok Sabha voted on the no-confidence motion moved by the members of the Opposition. It may recalled that both the YSRCP and TDP moved separate no-confidence motions against the Modi government in the previous Lok Sabha, alleging that the NDA government was not fulfilling the promises made to Andhra Pradesh.

Back then, YSRCP's members of Lok Sabha resigned, while the TDP withdrew from the Modi Cabinet, protesting against the alleged injustice meted out to the state.  

Political observers now warn that any bonhomie with the saffron brigade can prove to be costlier to these parties, as certain sections would en masse vote for the BJP's rivals, evident from the Janata Dal (Secular)'s disparaging show in Karnataka, and the Congress making a dent into the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) minority vote in Telangana.  

Therefore, it is perplexing why the TDP is so desperate to join the NDA and why Jagan is equally desperate to ensure that the NDA doors are closed to Naidu.


Why Both Parties Need BJP

However, these political developments are not without a reason.

Jagan faces a slew of CBI and ED cases – and the BJP is ruthless in letting loose central agencies on its rivals. He, therefore, does not wish to face the fate of Hemant Soren in Jharkhand or Manish Sisodia in Delhi.

At the same time, he cannot sail with the saffron party as Muslim minorities and Dalit Christians constitute a sizeable support base of the YSRCP. Therefore, Jagan continues to extend unflinching support to the BJP in both Houses of Parliament, and in return, is favoured by the Modi government in the form of inaction on his cases.

Jagan wants this status quo to continue post-2024 as several surveys and reports indicate a third term for Modi.  

Naidu, meanwhile, is facing the toughest-ever political battle in his political career. Any defeat in 2024 can prove to be disastrous. The Jagan government is still a formidable force despite brewing discontent, thanks to his welfare politics. Given his age and the fact that his son Nara Lokesh is yet to be installed, the TDP supremo is not ready to lose this election.

Therefore, he is leaving no stone unturned to stage a comeback. His alliance with Pawan Kalyan-led Jana Sena Party is also appearing to yield rich dividends. 

Naidu, in other words, wants to face Jagan's politics with the support of Modi. He also hopes that the goodwill for Modi may also help in the state, though the BJP has no ground support to make an addition to the vote tally.  


Why Is BJP Weighing Its Options?

Against this backdrop, the BJP is caught in a dilemma on choosing the long-term or short-term strategy. The long-term strategy is as follows: 

As BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao once told this author in an exclusive interview, the BJP doesn't want the present political polarisation between the YSRCP and TDP to continue, as it squeezes the space for a third player. It expects one of the parties to weaken, subsequent to its defeat in 2024.

The BJP leaders, in private conversations, firmly believe that the TDP's loss in its defeat would be more debilitating. The BJP is already led by NT Rama Rao's daughter Purandeswari and the party enjoys cordial relations with Junior NTR. Therefore, as a long-term strategy, the BJP doesn't want the TDP to revive.

Along these lines, it had made every effort to prevent Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan from joining hands with Naidu. But the actor-politician is more concerned about ensuring strong representation in the Assembly now than about long-term gains.

He was clearly ready to divorce the BJP in case the latter is not ready to join the Opposition bandwagon in Andhra Pradesh.


Precisely here comes the shorter vision. The BJP will be decimated if it contests on its own, leaving no scope for the party to realise its long-term strategy. Desperate to make some presence in the current electoral landscape of Andhra Pradesh, the BJP leadership seems to be preparing to exploit the TDP's vulnerabilities.

Thus, reports indicate that the BJP is demanding sizeable MP and MLA seats disproportionate to its strength. The TDP, meanwhile, is caught in a catch-22 situation, as yielding a substantial number of seats to the BJP may prove to be costlier both politically and electorally.

In other words, the BJP is running with Jagan and hunting with Naidu.  

(Prof K Nageshwar is a senior political analyst, faculty member of Osmania University, and a former MLC. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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