A 100-minute-long meeting between PM Modi and Jagan has triggered speculation that the BJP and YSRCP could come together.

Modi-Jagan meeting sets off new buzz How archrival TDP can bring BJP YSRCP together
news Opinion Tuesday, February 18, 2020 - 11:54

The marathon one-on-one meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy a few days ago sparked widespread debate over the prospects of political realignment in the state. This was followed by Minister Botsa Satyanarayana saying that the YSRCP would ally with the BJP “if need be”. His comments triggered further speculation over the possibility of the party joining the NDA. However, soon after the Minister claimed that the media had ‘misinterpreted’ his remarks.

The speculation comes weeks after the BJP announced an alliance with Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena. Both the BJP and Jana Sena had also unveiled a joint plan of action against Jagan’s plans to shift the capital out of Amaravati. But in the wake of Botsa’s remarks, Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan stated that he will pull out of the alliance with the BJP if YSRCP were to tie-up with the national party.

The ‘Power Star’ began his political entry by backing the BJP and Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP in the 2014 elections. From the right-wing BJP he moved to the Left in the 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. His party’s dismal performance at the hustings forced him to return to the BJP.

Joining hands to take on the TDP?  

And while the BJP and the YSRCP were quick to dismiss reports of a tie-up as baseless, speculation is rife that the two could join hands to target their common enemy- TDP’s Naidu.  

This became evident in the wake of raids by the Income-Tax Department on persons and infrastructure companies close to Naidu and his son Nara Lokesh. Although the I-T department did not name the persons who came under its radar, YSRCP leaders were quick to demand the arrest of Naidu and Lokesh in connection with I-T raids. An official handout issued in the name of Surabhi Ahluwalia, the Commissioner of Income Tax and Official Spokesperson of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) suspected money laundering by three “prominent” infrastructure groups based in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Naidu was the focus of the 2019 Assembly poll campaign, with both PM Modi and Jagan targeting the then Andhra CM. Alleging corruption by the TDP government in the Polavaram project and the setting up of Amaravati as the capital, Modi had at the time of campaigning promised to bring him to book. In the run up to the polls, the YSRCP had even published a book titled ‘Emperor of Corruption’ on the alleged financial frauds during Naidu’s tenure, with Jagan going onto present a copy of it to Modi.  

Following TDP’s exit from the NDA in 2018, Chandrababu Naidu had attempted to stand up to the BJP ahead of the elections. He barred the CBI from carrying out investigations in Andhra without the permission of the state. However, soon after Jagan came to power, he reversed Naidu’s decision, thereby allowing the central agency to carry out raids in the state.  

Politics of compulsion       

Naidu and his party men, in turn, continued to build a narrative that Jagan is in dire need to be on the good books of the Prime Minister so as to escape from Enforcement Directorate cases. The CM has been on bail and attending the CBI court.  

But it appears to be a give-and-take for both Jagan and Modi, say analysts, pointing to the 100-minute meeting between the two, an unusual length of time the PM spent with the Andhra CM.

Narendra Modi may be billed as a winning horse, helping his party win 303 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. But with the electoral reverses his party has been suffering in the state elections, the NDA’s Rajya Sabha numbers have been reducing. The Narendra Modi-government has been struggling to push through key Bills in the Upper House and the PM can no longer depend on regional satraps like Telangana’s K Chandrasekhar Rao, whose TRS, in spite of supporting Bills such as triple talaq, scrapping of Article 370, voted against the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

In this context, the BJP could see Jagan as a potential ally, with the YSRCP having 22 Lok Sabha seats and its strength in the Rajya Sabha expected to go up from 2 to 10 by 2023.

Gali Nagaraja is a freelance journalist who writes on the two Telugu states. Views are author’s own.

 

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