What YSRCP’s political calculations behind Chandrababu Naidu’s arrest are

Chandrababu Naidu was arrested in the skill development scam case at 6am on September 9.
What YSRCP’s political calculations behind Chandrababu Naidu’s arrest are
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The arrest of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party president Chandrababu Naidu in the skill development scam case months before Assembly and the Lok Sabha elections in the state is not a heedless strategy by any stretch. The ruling Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party’s (YSRCP) political calculations primarily involve blocking TDP’s alliance with the NDA, sources indicate. 

The TDP had given a bandh call across Andhra Pradesh to protest against Chandrababu Naidu’s arrest. But the BJP which is also in the state opposition categorically stayed away from it. “Purandeshwari, the BJP Andhra president and also Chandrababu Naidu’s sister-in-law, condemned the arrest the first day but after that she came out with a clear statement that they do not support the bandh. This shows their stand clearly,” says Telakapalli Ravi, a former journalist and a political observer. The recently-appointed BJP president Purandeshwari is the older sister of Naidu’s wife Bhuvaneshwari. 

“Most people are of the opinion that the government could not have ordered the arrest of Naidu without the tacit support or permission of the BJP. The agencies under the Union government, like IT and ED have also issued notices in this case so there is an understanding that the BJP is also on the same side,” Telakapalli Ravi points out. 

The CPI(M) had called for an all-party meeting in Vijayawada on September 11 to express solidarity with the TDP and sources say that the BJP has chosen to not attend it.

For months now, the TDP has been making overtures towards the BJP despite exiting the NDA on bitter terms in 2018. BJP’s Andhra ally, Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena party has been keen on an alliance with the TDP and has been pressuring the BJP to include TDP in NDA, sources indicate. The YSRCP hopes that with corruption charges against the tallest leader of the TDP, Chandrababu Naidu, the BJP will find it electorally injudicious to ally with the TDP for the upcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. Modi’s BJP, time and again, has made corruption an election plank and uses corruption allegations against its opponents as a political tool. 

The YSRCP too, although never formally allying with the BJP, has maintained friendly relations especially on national issues. YSRCP chief Jagan Mohan Reddy shares a good working equation with PM Modi and has supported the BJP with their numbers in Rajya Sabha. The party intended on keeping TDP away from the ruling NDA. The combination of TDP, Jana Sena and the BJP will make the elections tougher for the YSRCP on multiple accounts. 

Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan has the mass appeal, TDP still has cadre strength as well as a significant vote share retained across Andhra Pradesh. The addition of the BJP to this brings in the might of the Union government which comes with central agencies like CBI, ED and IT under them as well as the power to grant special central funds which remains the discretion of the Union government. 

Arresting Naidu is one step in keeping the TDP away from the NDA and politically isolating the TDP. 

A source in TDP says that most leaders in the party are waiting to see whether and how much  Lokesh can manage if Naidu is kept in jail for a long time. “Many are waiting to see how Naidu reacts after he gets bail and comes out. Big names of TDP have not been forthcoming. They are waiting to see how things pan out. The party leaders worry the government which has been so aggressive can also come after them,” the source adds. 

Telakapalli Ravi says that this could be because there has not been a groundswell of sympathy from the general public and many senior leaders are now worrying about their future now. “The government is confident of the evidence they have, so they can drag the case on,” he adds. 

Although Naidu was not named in the initial FIR in the skill development scam case, he has now been named as accused number 37.

Parties like CPI and CPI(M) have also only condemned the manner in which Naidu was arrested but they have not said the arrest in the case per se is wrong. Based on the initial reactions coming in, it appears that the onus of capitalising on the arrest for political gains will be on TDP.

Another political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy said that by arresting Naidu in a corruption case, the YSRCP has tried to set an even ground for themselves. “For the last decade almost, YSRCP has been facing the allegation that it was founded by someone who spent time in jail for corruption,” he says. 

He says that those who are already voters of TDP might sympathise with the party more now and a very small section of fence-sitters may be swayed. “How many people voluntarily supported the bandh call given shows how the state has reacted,” Raghavendra Reddy adds.

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