The alliance between the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the BJP in Andhra Pradesh seems headed for trouble.
A TDP leader on Tuesday asked its central and state ally BJP to beware of three of its leaders, including former Union Minister and BJP Mahila Morcha in-charge, accusing them of serving as "Sonia agents".
"D Purandeswari, Kavuri Samba Siva Rao and K Laxminarayana quit Congress and joined BJP to serve as Congress President Sonia’s (Gandhi) agents," TDP MLC Buddha Venkateswara Rao told reporters gathered in Vijayawada.
This comes two days after former Visakhapatnam MP Purandeswari said that "some parties were creating misconceptions among people on the issue of special status to Andhra Pradesh," while asking the AP government to submit a report to the Centre on the funds released by it along with the government’s expenditure.
The mudslinging between TDP and BJP however is not new. The latest series of exchanges can be traced back to squabbling over a list of names.
Five months ago, when Naidu called on BJP National President Amit Shah in Delhi, it was decided that a coordination panel would be formed between the two parties in the state.
However, BJP leaders claim that they had submitted the names but the proposal did not move forward. This is the same list of names that has triggered off another row between the two parties.
“Our party suggested the names of D Purandeswari, P Manikyala Rao and P Vishnukumar Raju as the BJP’s members in the proposed coordination panel. But, so far, chief minister Naidu has not appointed the panel. Though we are sharing power with the TDP, the yellow party leadership is ignoring us in all government appointments. For instance, only one BJP leader has been inducted into the market committees so far appointed by the CM,” a senior BJP leader told The New Indian Express.
For a layman, not involved in the politics of the state, D Purandeswari may sound like any other name, but the former MP and Naidu share a history.
Purandeswari along with former Union Minister of Textiles, Kavuri Samba Siva Rao and former Andhra Pradesh Cabinet Minister K Laxminarayana, had joined the BJP last year, after defecting from the Congress.
Daggubati Purandeswari is also the daughter of former chief minister N T Rama Rao and Naidu's sister-in-law.
The friction within the ‘NTR’ family is no secret as there has been a decade-long feud between the Daggubati and Nara families, ever since the former was ousted from the Telugu Desam party by the latter.
However, with the TDP and the BJP combine ruling the state, the two leaders have no option but to shake hands in public and smile at the cameras.
The alliance between the two parties was forged 21 days ahead of polling day, with leaders of each party vowing not to eclipse one another and also promising mutual cooperation for their respective candidates.
This was preceded by protests, by TDP cadre in the Coastal Andhra region, over denial of seats to the party's leaders.
Despite their differences, the alliance was going smooth until November, when the BJP went on a massive membership drive in the state, clearly upsetting the TDP.
However, things really started going downhill after the 'cash-for-vote' scam that shook the two Telugu-speaking states of Telangana and Andhra.
On May 31, 2015, Telangana TDP legislator A. Revanth Reddy, was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) when he allegedly offered Rs.50 lakh to another nominated MLA, to make him vote for the TDP-BJP candidate, in the elections for the Telangana Legislative Council.
ACB, which had laid a trap on a complaint by the MLA, also arrested Revanth Reddy's aides. TRS leaders have also alleged that Naidu is the mastermind in the scam, and he should be booked.
Following this, BJP leaders were clearly uneasy as state party leaders like Gokaraju Ganga Raju even said, “Where will we go? We are with Naidu and we will continue to be with him. Anyway, the case is in court and the ACB is investigating. Let the probe be over," while adding “Please leave me alone. I have nothing to comment on this.”
In the months that followed, things have seemingly worsened.
As of now, the TDP is blaming the saffron party for the delay in announcing a special package for the state, while BJP leaders complain that the TDP is ignoring them and not assigning them any posts of substance.
However, top leaders of both parties are still playing it safe, maintaining that all is well in the alliance and that the full electoral term would be completed.
A report in Firstpost adds:
If for any reason Naidu’s act of omission or commission causes a rift with the Centre and widens the chasm between the BJP and the TDP, his immediate rivals – YSR Congress in AP and Telangana Rashtra Samithi in Telangana – are ready to join the NDA formation at the Centre and turn the tables against Naidu. With his four-decade-long political experience and dexterity, Naidu would be the last man to let things go from his grips at any cost. Therefore, package or not, he will still sail with the BJP, unless he strongly assesses that an association with the BJP is turning out to be detrimental to the TDP.