Tough Lessons for BJP as Jagan Reddy Sweeps Andhra Municipal Poll
The BJP won no civic body seats in the state even as TDP managed to win just two seats.
The BJP called him a 'Christian' chief minister and the TDP accused him of corruption, but YS Jagan Mohan Reddy emerged a winner as counting of votes for Andhra Pradesh’s civic body polls concluded on Sunday, 14 March.
Reddy’s YSR Congress Party swept the elections winning 11 municipal corporations and 73 out of 75 municipal local bodies. While the Bharatiya Janata Party drew a blank, the Telugu Desam Party won just two of the 75 municipalities.
Political scientists based in AP say that YSRCP’s win has proved that the BJP’s “communal strategy” has not worked in the state. Moreover, the anti-BJP sentiment in the state goes back to what had happened during the run-up to Andhra Pradesh bifurcation in 2014, experts say.
BJP Supported State Bifurcation
Before 2014, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were a single state. A spate of people’s agitations for a separate Telangana state gained momentum in 2009 under K Chandrashekar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). While the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government did not want to bifurcate the state, the BJP, which was not in power, pledged to support the formation of Telangana.
“The stand which the BJP took on state bifurcation, supporting formation of Telangana from the beginning, hurt the people of Andhra Pradesh. The sentiment has not died down in the state even seven years after Telangana formation,” said Ramesh Kandula, author and senior journalist who has been studying Andhra Pradesh’s political history since the 1960s.
In 2009, BJP leader LK Advani had promised to carve Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh if the BJP-led NDA was voted to power in the next election.
Advani even said that the Vajpayee government would have created Telangana during the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government (1998 to 2004), had the people’s demand reached them.
Subsequently, the Congress allowed the bifurcation of the state in 2014 expecting the TRS to back the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. After the bifurcation, however, in Telangana, TRS was voted to power and the Congress was routed. In Andhra Pradesh too the Congress was decimated as N Chandrababu Naidu's TDP formed a government with the BJP as alliance partner.
Andhra Pradesh which lost its revenue capital, Hyderabad, to the new state of Telangana, has ever since been demanding Special Category Status (SCS) under Article 370 of the constitution. SCS offers states Central aid, apart from exemption from heavy taxation.
“Ät first, in 2014, people expected that the BJP will help Andhra Pradesh with SCS, since its alliance partner, the TDP, had been voted to power. But the BJP did not offer the state any such aid during five years of TDP rule,” Kandula explained.
BJP-TDP Standoff in AP
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls the TDP broke off its alliance with the BJP and joined the UPA, but got no benefit from that. Instead it was Jagan's YSRCP that won 22 out of 25 Lok Sabha seats. The party also won 151 out of 175 Legislative Assembly seats, relegating the TDP to the opposition benches.
“TDP and BJP always had a symbiotic relationship. The BJP did well in AP whenever it was in alliance with TDP. For instance, between 1998 and 2004,” Kandula said. Another political scientist G. Haragopal said, “In AP, people have accepted an alliance with the BJP in the past, but they have not accepted the communal politics of the party. They would prefer the TDP over the BJP any day”.
K Venkateshwarlu, a senior journalist based in AP explained, “Unlike Telangana, Andhra Pradesh’s history does not have communal tensions. In a state with such a history, it will be difficult for a party like BJP to perform. BJP has always played 'second fiddle' to TDP in AP."
However, the TDP and BJP may not form an alliance anytime soon. In 2019 when TDP supremo Naidu left the NDA, Home Minister Amit Shah had said that he will never be accepted back. “Political equations can change overtime,” Kandula vouched.
For the BJP, the approaching Tirupati by-poll could prove to be another litmus test.
Will BJP Perform Better in Tirupati LS By-Poll?
BJP’s accusations against the religious beliefs of Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy have been calculated to score well with voters in the Tirupati Lok Sabha by-polls, political observers say.
“As there were a spate of temple desecrations in AP since the end of December 2020, the BJP has tried to capitalise on Hindu religious sentiment by claiming that Hindu religious places are under attack when a Christian is the CM,” Venkateshwarlu said. Jagan Reddy is a Christian by religious practices.
However, in these recent civic body polls YSRCP swept Tirupati as well, winning in 48 of the city's 59 wards. Dates for the Lok sabha by-poll have not yet been announced by the Election Commission.
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