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Chandrababu Naidu looks to re-enter NDA

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As Amit Shah and Chandrababu Naidu discuss Andhra Pradesh, the two parties are believed to be set to come together once again to give a united fight to the currently looking ‘unbeatable’ YSRCP in the state.

The sweeping victory of the YSR Congress party in Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections and the local self governance elections has now made the party have full control over the affairs of the state. But this has caused the two key Opposition parties, the Telugu Desam Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party to come closer in time so that a formidable challenge can be presented in the next elections for the change of guard. 

The latest developments entail that something has begun to cook between the TDP and the BJP. Just recently, Home Minister and ‘Chanakya’ of national politics – Amit Shah – held a discussion with TDP President N Chandrababu Naidu over the phone about the recent developments in Andhra Pradesh politics. This, experts say, is a hint that the ex-NDA partner’s return to the old fold. 

It was about a year before the 2019 general elections that Chandrababu Naidu parted his ways with the BJP and walked out of the National Democratic Alliance on issues pertaining to state and national levels. The TDP supremo had reportedly regretted his decision to quit the alliance and is trying to re-join in NDA after continue losing polls in Andhra Pradesh. But that did not prove well for his party as they lost the state elections miserably and performed really poorly in the Lok Sabha elections. 

Naidu realised his mistake immediately after the 2019 elections. In a rally conducted the same year, the former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh had admitted openly in a rally his untimely decision to quit the alliance with the saffron party at the Centre had badly impacted his party's poor performance in both Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. And it was there itself that Naidu asserted that now onwards his party would extend ‘issue-based support’ to the Narendra Modi Government. 

Political analysts opine that Naidu, in the past two years, has done calculated politics as far as the BJP is concerned and made indirect attempts to get closer to the BJP. The TDP has not merely remained silent on some of the important decisions taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi but has gone ahead to back the Amendment of Article 370 and the subsequent bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories. 

The TDP even decided not to question the saffron party of its central leadership on the question of language, which is a burning issue as far as the southern states are concerned. Naidu did not counter Union home minister Amit Shah’s comments on he said that Hindi was necessary to ‘unite’ the country. Other south-based parties honked upon the Home Minister on the issue but not the TDP. Naidu had told the media that it was an emotional decision taken by him at the time of breaking away from the NDA considering the sentiments of the people and the demand for a special status. 

Common adversary  

The key question is what brings the two closer now? In the adjoining Telugu state of Telangana, the BJP is a rising factor as they secured four Lok Sabha seats to the surprise of many and raised their vote share to a considerable level. They also hold sway in the urban areas which is evident from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections held last year. But when it comes to Andhra Pradesh, the YSRCP has left no space for the Opposition to feel safe about their future. BJP has many states to look after and has resources at hand, but the TDP has just Andhra Pradesh as a field to play on. 

In the Assembly elections, YSRCP conquered a massive 151 seats of 175 total with about 50 per cent vote share. In the Lok Sabha polls, the party garnered 23 seats out of 25. The TDP, on the other hand, had to contend with 23 seats in the Assembly and 2 seats in Lok Sabha. The Gram Panchayat polls and the urban local bodies polls held recently have thrown the TDP to re-strategize if it wants to remain relevant in the state. To defeat Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, who has created a strong party organisation, Naidu will need the BJP and other small players in near future. 

BJP too offers olive branch to Naidu 

Sources in the BJP say that Amit Shah had called up Naidu over the phone and discussed recent developments in Andhra Pradesh. Naidu was in Delhi and Shah couldn’t meet him physically as the Home Minister was on the visit to Kashmir. The TDP chief has said that there is a complete breakdown of law and order in the state and the President's rule should be imposed in the State. He alleged that the YSRCP workers are attacking the TDP offices and party leaders in the state as the opposition party was raising its voice against increasing drug trafficking; the government is responding by slapping false cases against the TDP leaders. Naidu called the situation in Andhra as ‘state sponsored terrorism.’

In the middle of this, confusing statements are coming from the saffron party. Senior BJP leader GVL Narasimha has said that there is no question of alliance with the TDP. Immediately after that, some more statements have come from the BJP leaders indicating that the party will definitely join hands with TDP to oust the ruling YSR Congress in Andhra. BJP launched a scathing attack on YSR Congress over the alleged abduction of its leader, saying that the ruling party has been threatening people to ensure its victory in the Badvel Assembly by-polls. 

The third statement of BJP gives more hope to the TDP where BJP leader, party Secretary and co-incharge of Andhra Pradesh, Sunil Deodhar alleged that this time, the YSR Congress leaders are following the Bengal model and threatening people along with government employees during the election campaign that if they do not vote for YSR Congress, they will not get the benefits of government schemes.

BOX - War of Words 

The YSRCP has been watching the developments quite closely and its Parliament leader V Vijaysai Reddy has said that Chandrababu Naidu’s visit to Delhi is of no consequence to the party at all. He ridiculed the TDP Chief by saying, “Naidu had walked out of the NDA alliance and realised that it was a mistake and to mitigate the mistakes of the past he is coming to Delhi to draw the attention of the central leaders. I haven’t seen a more power-hungry and selfish person than Chandrababu Naidu.” 

Reddy said that even if the TDP and the BJP become friends again, it doesn’t matter to the YSRCP as it’s in control of affairs and very much in a situation to come to power again in the next election; they have 51 per cent votes to back them. 

To demean Naidu, Reddy said that Amit Shah had actually denied an appointment to the leader and nobody in the national capital was ready to meet Naidu as they know Naidu's colours. He further said that Naidu finally met President Ram Nath Kovind. But immediately after his comments, the BJP held that the Home Minister had indeed spoken to the TDP Chief and discussed a range of issues. 

TDP leaders K. Narayana and Devineni Umamaheswara Rao lambasted Vijay Sai Reddy and asked him to introspect about Jagan Mohan Reddy’s failures rather. They said that it’s an open secret as to how Jagan was made to wait for days and yet could not get an appointment with Amit Shah in the past.

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