Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu is expected to be the vanguard of post-bifurcation Andhra Pradesh for several reasons. He is a seasoned leader and has served the state for 4 decades with poise at times of crises.
He is the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and a vocal partner of the Centre’s National Democratic Alliance, with a large number of MPs from his state in his kitty – 15.
In fact, many say this was the reason people voted him into power in 2014. Has he lived up to public expectations? The long-drawn Special Category Status (SCS) battle will determine his scorecard.
He flipped and flopped on the SCS, which Leader of Opposition YSR Congress Party’s YS Jagan Mohan Reddy capitalised on immediately. His dilly-dallying on the matter, as he is wont to do, is to be blamed for Chandrababu’s perceived policy paralysis.
Chandrababu – once seen as someone with an illustrious background, a catalyst for change in national politics against the monolith that is the Congress party – has now been reduced to supporting a no-confidence motion moved by his opponent on Friday.
As a matter of fact, Chandrababu was expected to take the lead in the issue by way of taking an all-party delegation to the Prime Minister and building pressure against the NDA regime.
Jagan gave Chandrababu plenty of time to act, having unveiled his two-pronged strategy well in advance – moving a no-confidence motion in March and, if the Centre failed to act, then his party MPs would resign en masse in April.
Chandrababu dismissed Jagan’s strategy – quickly doubting his credentials, saying he didn’t have the courage to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi given his involvement in a disproportionate assets case.
The CM took his sweet time, holding non-stop consultations with his party MPs and senior leaders after it was learnt the Union Budget had left no space for AP’s SCS demand, unmindful of his opponent’s moves. Barring the fact that two of his ministers resigned from the Union Cabinet, no major policy decision vis-à-vis SCS has emerged to this day.
Now, a resurgent Jagan is even forcing the TDP to exit the NDA, for it cannot be party to the no-trust motion when it is a partner of the NDA. A decision over the exit is expected to be taken at the TDP’s politburo meeting scheduled on Friday before the motion is tabled in Parliament.
Chandrababu may claim that his party has mended fences with the YSRCP, beyond politics in the interests of the state. But the SCS means public sentiment and a lot of politics in his home turf. The motion will in no way threaten the existence of the Modi-led government, which has comfortable numbers in the Parliament.
His flip-flop came to the fore when the CM dropped the SCS claim and settled for a special package offered by the Centre. And his credibility came under scanner when he took a U-turn and demanded SCS after reading the public’s mood.
Jana Sena leader Pawan Kalyan, who was his ally in the 2014 elections, recently elaborated on his plans to go on a fast unto death if the Centre didn’t grant AP SCS. Chandrababu may just end up backing his friend-turned-foe’s fast, just as he is doing with the no-confidence motion.
Pawan built a pressure group called the Joint Fact Finding Committee (JFC), comprising members of civil society, non-BJP and non-TDP leaders, to press for SCS. At a JFC meeting, he appealed to both the TDP and YSRCP to mobilize support from within and outside the NDA for a no-confidence motion.
Jagan responded saying he is ready to do so even if he had to join hands with the TDP. Chandrababu only said he would write to the NDA partners for their support for implementing the SCS and the other bifurcation-related promises, but there is no concrete action seen yet. He was expected to stay put in Delhi, networking with other leaders to press for this demand. But nothing of this sort happened.
TDP MP Maganti Venkateswara Rao (Babu), talking to TNM, refused to look at SCS from a political angle. “Let us not distinguish between the TDP and the YSRCP over who is taking the lead. Time has come for everyone to rise to the occasion, cutting across party lines for safeguarding the interests of the state,” he said.
YSRCP’s decision to move a no-confidence motion has to receive required support for admission in Parliament. Party MP Vijayasayi Reddy told TNM that his party has approached all the non-NDA partners, enlisting their support for the motion. He expressed hope that the TDP will also join the motion.
PM Modi, in his four years in office, is facing a no-confidence motion for the first time, albeit from a feeble opposition. The motion requires support from at least 10% of the 545-member Lok Sabha, i.e. 54 members.
TDP and YSRCP together have 23 seats from Andhra Pradesh. The Telangana Rashtriya Samiti, Congress, Shiv Sena and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, which have been voicing concerns over the plight of truncated AP in general and SCS in particular, are expected to back the motion. Besides, the Left parties, given their ideological aversion to the BJP, may also join the motion.
Therefore, there may not be any problem in generating adequate numbers for tabling the motion.
It’s a foregone conclusion that it will fail. Then what could be its fallout on AP politics? We need to wait and watch.