Elections
Apart from Farooq Abdullah and Arvind Kejriwal who have already campaigned for the TDP in the state, Naidu is set to bring in Mamata Banerjee and Deve Gowda.
All images: Facebook/Telugu Desam Party

With elections just days away, politicians in Andhra Pradesh are sharpening their campaigning strategies to reach out to people and pull votes. In the biggest sign of this yet, Chief Minister and ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) President N Chandrababu Naidu is roping in national leaders from other parties to campaign for him in the state.

Earlier this week, Farooq Abdullah, former CM of Jammu and Kashmir, campaigned in parts of Kadapa and Kurnool districts, where there is a large population of the Muslim community. While the YSRCP blamed Naidu for trying to divide Muslims, Chandrababu in a rally stated that he would stand by Muslims who are under threat under the central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Farooq has also drawn attention by making stunning allegations of bribery and corruption against YSRCP chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.

Apart from the Aam Adami Party chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal who was in AP on Thursday, the TDP chief is also all set to bring other leaders from the anti-BJP front from across the country, including Trinamool supremo and Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and former prime minister and JD(S) chief HD Deve Gowda.

Post-poll plan behind anti-BJP rhetoric?

Observers feel that attacking Narendra Modi and posing as an anti-BJP stalwart or roping in national players will not yield results or add much to Naidu’s tireless efforts for a comeback.

“TDP bringing in national leaders for campaigning in the state will not work, given the state’s highly polarised political atmosphere… their presence will not change the electoral result,” said Prof C Ramachandraiah, political observer and faculty at CESS-Hyderabad.

Prof Ramachandraiah also feels that elections in Andhra are not hinged on political issues or things that are good for the country or the state.

He said, “Though there is opposition against Modi and the BJP, that won’t work in favour of the TDP. The TDP has never officially spoken against mob lynchings and other national issues like demonetisation.”

He also feels that the so-called national leaders are not in a position to tell the people why Naidu should be re-elected.

However, observers like senior journalist Telakapalli Ravi see post-poll plans behind Naidu roping in national players.

Ravi observes, “TDP bringing in national players is being done with an eye on post-poll expectations and Mahagatbandhan. If not a massive effect, there would be at least a limited impact of their presence, it will help the TDP portray itself as a major anti-BJP force.”

Ravi further believes that national opposition leaders may favour the TDP or Pawan’s Jana Sena alliance rather than Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSRCP.

Ravi said, “There is obvious public discontent against the BJP but the major disadvantage for YSRCP is that they’re not talking about the BJP at all. YSRCP may ignore the AP-BJP conflict but the people will not, so the anti-BJP vote bank will not favour YSRCP.”

The Andhra sentiment

During the 2014 polls, when Chandrababu Naidu had an alliance with the BJP and with actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party, PM Narendra Modi and Pawan were his star campaigners. Political observers say that Naidu’s win in that election was thanks in large part due to the consolidation of BJP and Jana Sena votes.

Now, with all parties contesting individually, barring the Jana Sena which has a tie-up with BSP and the Left parties, Naidu seems to be also banking on the Andhra sentiment to sway votes in his favour.

Naidu seems to be employing a tactic similar to the one used by his Telangana counterpart. During the recent Assembly elections in the state, CM K Chandrasekhar Rao urged people not to vote for the Congress-TDP alliance as it would result Andhra ruling in the state. Naidu’s message as he campaigns across the state is clear – a vote for Jagan is a vote for KCR and for the BJP.

Addressing a gathering along with Farooq in Kurnool recently, Naidu said, “Whoever gives support to KCR will remain anti-Andhra/state.”

A show of unity, says TDP

TDP national spokesperson Dinakar Lanka called the rallying of national leaders for the state a demonstration of opposition unity in the country, saying “We are all together, we took part in several rallies and programmes together. In view of the momentum we are continuing it. After the first phase of elections, Chandrababu Naidu would also campaign in other states on behalf of Mahagatbandhan parties.”

When asked if the party thinks that these rallies by national players will pull in votes, Dinakar said, “Our strategy is to show the unity of the opposition at the national level, elections are one opportunity to show the strength of the opposition.”