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Naidu, Pawan Kalyan at Ayodhya, No Jagan or KCR: What It Means for Telugu States

TDP and Jana Sena Party are in alliance in Andhra Pradesh, and have been urging the BJP to join its fold.

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The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) southern outreach ahead of the Lok Sabha elections is evident in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's frequent visits to the region. However, not many regional party leaders from the South Indian states were spotted at the Ram Mandir consecration ceremony at Ayodhya on Monday, 22 January.

From Assembly poll-bound Andhra Pradesh, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief Chandrababu Naidu and his ally and Jana Sena Party (JSP) president Pawan Kalyan were in attendance. Kalyan's brother, actor, and former MP Chiranjeevi also participated in the event. Though he has stayed away from politics for a while, he is still reportedly a member of the Congress party.

However, YSR Congress Party president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, who is known to have good relations with the BJP government at the Centre, was nowhere in the picture.

Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) chief and former Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao was also absent. His daughter K Kavitha told the media on Sunday, 21 January, that the party did not receive an invite to Ayodhya.

"We have not been invited. Our party did not get official communication, But Shri Ram is everybody's god. We are all practising Hindus and we visit all temples across the country. We will certainly visit Ayodhya one day when the time comes," Kavitha said, as per TOI.

Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are two states where regional parties, which are not part of the NDA or the Opposition INDIA bloc, have a strong presence. So, where do these appearances and non-appearances fit in the larger political picture?

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Andhra Pradesh: To Ally or Not To

The TDP & JSP

The Naidu-led TDP and Pawan Kalyan-led JSP recently entered a poll alliance in Andhra Pradesh in a bid to defeat the ruling YSRCP. Even so, the Jana Sena is still part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The JSP had contested the recently concluded Telangana Assembly elections with the BJP. But in Andhra Pradesh, the BJP has little to no presence.

The TDP, too, was once part of the NDA, but in 2018, its relationship with the BJP ended on a bitter note. Naidu was in power in Andhra Pradesh at the time and he quit the alliance after Jagan's YSRCP began gaining support in the state over the fight for Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh.

The Manmohan Singh government, in 2014, had promised Special Category Status for AP after the bifurcation of the state, but the subsequent BJP government was reluctant to accord the same. Fearing a backlash from the public, Naidu, too, decided to join the fight for the status, forcing him to end his relationship with the BJP.

After Naidu's massive defeat at the hands of Jagan in 2019, the TDP lost its momentum. He was also arrested in September 2023 for his alleged involvement in the skill development scam case.

Since then, Naidu has been trying to find a way back to the NDA, but the BJP is not too keen on allying with him. Pawan Kalyan had also approached the party for a three-way TDP-BJP-JSP alliance, to which the BJP had reportedly said no.

The visit of Naidu and Pawan Kalyan to Ayodhya, therefore, could possibly indicate a revival of their ties.

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YSRCP

The BJP, over the years, has cultivated a cordial relationship with Jagan and the YSRCP, with the latter often supporting the former's decisions in Parliament. The YSRCP, for instance, had opposed the no-confidence motion moved by the Congress against the NDA government and had also voted in favour of the National Capital Territory (NCT) Amendment Bill.

But Jagan is a converted Christian and has the support of the state's minorities and marginalised communities, primarily owing to his welfare policies.

So, despite their warm relations outside the state, an alliance with the BJP in Andhra Pradesh wouldn't be beneficial to the YSRCP, optics-wise. This could be why Jagan wasn't seen at the Ayodhya temple consecration, though it is unclear whether he received an invitation in the first place.

On the other hand, many on social media had called out Jagan for "not speaking about Ayodhya" on his handles on Monday, when other regional and national Opposition leaders – including those within the INDIA bloc – posted images of Lord Ram.

Telangana: What's Next for BRS, BJP?

Bharat Rashtra Samithi

BRS chief KCR has always proclaimed himself to be a 'practising Hindu' and not a 'political Hindu' unlike the BJP. While his party has allied with some of the BJP's policies in the past, the BJP's emergence as a solid opposition party in Telangana (before the Congress' comeback in the 2023 Assembly elections) had put KCR in a difficult position.

But the Congress – well before the polls in November 2023 – had put forth a narrative that there is a 'tie-up' between the BRS and the BJP, in a bid to capture the anti-incumbency votes.

This 'consipracy' was backed by:

  • The BJP's removal of Bandi Sanjay Kumar, who is a staunch KCR critic, as the state chief before the elections

  • The BRS intensifying its attacks against the Congress (and not the BJP) in the run-up to the polls

But on the day of the election results, the BJP walked away with eight seats (from three seats) in Telangana, with the BJP's K Venkata Ramana defeating both KCR and now-CM Revanth Reddy in Kamareddy constituency.

After the BRS' surprising defeat in the elections in December 2023, KCR's daughter Kavitha had tweeted on the Ram Mandir: "Good development... The image of Sri Sitarama Chandra Swami in Ayodhya. At this auspicious time, when the dream of crores of Hindus is about to come true... it is to be welcomed by all the people of Telangana. Jai Sitaram."

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At the time, there were also rumours of KCR joining the NDA. While this seemed like a better option for the party than joining the INDIA bloc (with the Congress being in power in Telangana), experts had told The Quint that the move may not entirely be beneficial for KCR.

"If the BJP hadn't won four states [in the 2023 Assembly elections], then KCR might have had a bargaining chip. He could say that there's some anti-incumbency against BJP and could have offered support to the party in Telangana in the Lok Sabha polls," senior journalist Roshan Ali had said.

But now that the BJP has gained ground in the state, he may not have that advantage. With KCR and the BRS being denied an invitation to Ayodhya, it is likely that both parties will go solo in Telangana in the Lok Sabha elections, while facing the ruling Congress.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Ram Mandir   Ayodhya   Pawan Kalyan 

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