Andhra Pradesh CM Jagan Mohan Reddy is playing nice with the BJP, which is the ruling party at the Centre. He has promised to support BJP’s one nation, one election bid in return for Special Category Status for Andhra, and has generally gone soft against the party, say analysts. He is also an amused spectator as the BJP is on a poaching spree from his main rival in the state, Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP. However, letting the BJP strengthen its roots in the state at the cost of TDP will ultimately affect Jagan’s YSRCP, say experts.
Noted columnist and political scientist professor K Nageswara Rao observes, “Jagan shouldn’t take the bait and play along with the BJP and commit the blunder of weakening the TDP.”
Citing the example of West Bengal, he says that earlier TMC and BJP together eliminated Congress and Left parties in the state. And subsequently, the BJP emerged as a main opposition to the TMC. “Now, BJP is posing a major challenge to the TMC,” Rao points out.
Rao predicts that the BJP will try to polarise the future elections in Andhra Pradesh using Jagan’s religion, if the TDP disappears from the political realm. “Already, the RSS is spreading misinformation about religious discrimination by Jagan. Jagan can fight Chandrababu, but he can’t fight the BJP,” he says.
Jagan is a converted christian. Not just Jagan’s religion, the corruption charges against him could prove as his Achilles heel, analysts say.
In the recent Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had crushed the opposition almost in all the states, but in Andhra Pradesh, it failed to even surpass the vote share of NOTA (None of the Above). However, capitalising on the crisis in the TDP, the BJP is resolved to strengthen the party in Andhra Pradesh for the 2024 polls, and its first efforts to emerge as an alternative is by poaching TDP MLAs. The TDP is left with just 23 MLAs in the Andhra Assembly.
According to reports, the BJP is in touch with several TDP MLAs including former minister Ganta Srinivasa Rao, who is likely to bring along at least 12 MLAs to the BJP, as per reports. Srinavasa Rao has denied these reports. The BJP is also eyeing Kapu MLAs and community leaders. Kapus are a dominant community, who have a significant presence in Godavari and north coastal districts. The Kapu consolidation largely determines which party comes to power. Recently, Kapu MLAs held a meeting in which they reportedly discussed whether to join the BJP.
For building a strong base, BJP has strategically chosen National General Secretary Ram Madhav, who had engineered a stupendous victory for the BJP in Tripura by uprooting the more than two-decade rule of the CPI(M). Ram Madhav is a native of East Godavari, Andhra Pradesh.
“Several leaders from TDP, Jana Sena Party and YSRCP are in touch with us. Soon they will be joining us. We have a road map for 2024, and we will emerge as an alternative to the YSRCP by then,” says Andhra Pradesh BJP president Kanna Lakshminarayana speaking with TNM. On Monday, Ambika Krishna, film producer and former TDP MLA from Eluru joined the BJP. The BJP has already been successful in bringing in four TDP Rajya Sabha MPs into its fold and merging the Legislative party with the BJP.
While some analysts say Jagan should be worried, others however believe political defections may not translate to votes for the BJP. Analyst T Lakshminarayana says, “The BJP could engineer defections and bring TDP MLAs and MPs into their fold, but people won’t vote for them in the elections if they contest on a BJP ticket.”
According to Lakshminarayana, there is angst the BJP for not according Special Category Status (Special Category Status) to Andhra Pradesh. “The angst was evident as the BJP could not even record more votes than NOTA and this won’t change until the Centre grants SCS,” he says.
The analyst doesn’t see a possibility of sitting TDP MLAs defecting to BJP as Jagan had made it clear in the Assembly that he wouldn’t encourage defections, and those defecting have to resign as MLA first and join the party of their wish.
Despite the poaching by the BJP underway, the TDP says it’s confident that the current crisis is temporary. “TDP is a cadre based party, it had witnessed several ups and downs since its formation, and the present crisis would also be overcome. Just because a few MPs shifted their allegiance doesn’t affect the TDP. We will remain in the Opposition and bounce back. We have a strong cadre of over 6 lakhs,” says Gorantla Butchaiah Chowdary, Rajahmundry rural MLA. Chowdary is one of the founding members of the TDP.