The opposition leaders are resorting to crossfire at a time when they are expected to put up a united fight against their common enemy – Naidu.

Jagan-Pawan spat leaves chasm in anti-TDP camp much to Naidus amusement
news Politics Thursday, July 26, 2018 - 12:58

A leading paediatrician in Andhra’s Bhimavaram, who is close to the Jana Sena Party leader Pawan Kalyan’s family, narrated a fable to this writer sometime back.

The story goes thus: warriors in a camp have been sharpening their swords day in and day out in anticipation of a bloody battle against the rivals. One of the soldiers, looking passionately at his shining weapon, is unable to resist the temptation to test its efficacy. In no time, the idea is translated into action and he slices one of his pals into two with the sword. The idea spreads and all the soldiers try out their swords one after one, decimating their own camp, leaving the enemy camp jobless.

A divided opposition

Pawan seems to be doing the same thing now by giving vent to his anger against fellow opposition leader YS Jaganmohan Reddy, sending out signals of an imminent division in the opposition camp ahead of the 2019 general elections.

At one of his rallies, PK, as Pawan Kalyan is known in political circles, taunted the YSRCP chief saying he ran away from the state Assembly and the Parliament at a crucial time, when he was expected to articulate the dismal condition of the bifurcated state. YSRCP had avoided attending two Assembly sessions in the past as part of its boycott over the defection of its MLAs engineered by CM Chandrababu Naidu. During the recent no-confidence motion in the Parliament, the party again failed to be present after its five MPs resigned from their elected posts.

Pat came the response from Jagan with a personal attack on Pawan. “Pawan Kalyan is changing wives as if changing cars every four or five years. If anyone else had practised polygamy like him they would have landed in jail by this time,” he thundered at a media conference, triggering a social media war between the two camps. This has obviously turned out to be a source of amusement for Naidu’s camp.

Why the crossfire?

Why are the opposition leaders resorting to crossfire at a time when they are expected to put up a united fight against their common enemy, i.e., Naidu?

According to sources, Jagan’s party is feeling ill at ease over the prospects of Pawan splitting the anti-establishment vote, upsetting its applecart in the upcoming polls. Initially, it was assumed that Pawan would take away his supporters, including his fans, educated youth and some sections of his Kapu community, who contributed to Naidu’s victory in 2014 with the actor’s help, denting TDP’s vote share. But of late the YSRCP ranks have started becoming restive with the feeling that Pawan is robbing Jagan of the prospects of benefiting from the anti-government vote.

Of course, the 2014 election result continues to haunt the YSRCP with a grim reminder that it was only 2% of votes that tilted the fortunes in favour of the TDP.

Lone battle for YSRCP?

The die appears to be cast for Jagan Reddy, making it amply clear that he will have to wage a lone battle in 2019 with no allies around as he did in 2014. Naidu’s craft of finding potential allies and forging alliances at the right time helped his party win the election weathering a strong opposition last time.

Jagan narrowly missed the bus for want of that art and he has seemingly not yet learnt a lesson or two while sitting in the opposition in the last four years. Tuesday’s state bandh enforced by the YSRCP, targeting the ruling TDP over the Special Category Status, stands testimony to Jagan’s alienation from the other opposition parties. All the opposition parties in the state are crusading against the TDP and the BJP over the bifurcation promises due to be delivered by the Centre to the state. But all the anti-Naidu forces, such as the Congress, Jana Sena and the Left Parties, did not rally behind Jagan on the common cause. Why is this so?

Jagan not accommodative?

Jagan’s alienation from the opposition camp is attributed to his typical style of functioning, marked by a sectarian approach.

A top leader from the CPI (M) told this writer sometime back that Jagan’s non-accommodative nature was the main reason for the lack of unity amongst the opposition parties in the state. Driving his point home, he recalled his party’s experience with Jagan over seat-sharing during the 2014 Assembly elections.

“Our party defended Jagan when he was treated as an outcast in state politics after being framed in criminal cases. But when we requested him to allot at least 3-5 seats, he was not willing to give away even a single seat, leading to a failure of talks,” he recounted.

In contrast, his father and former Congress CM YS Rajasekhar Reddy while in the opposition personally walked into the offices of the Left parties and other opposition parties in an attempt to forge unity in the anti-TDP camp. Along with other opposition leaders, he even led a major protest against the hike in power tariff leading to the police firing at Basheerbagh in Hyderabad that saw Naidu out of power in 2004.

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