Seven months after suffering a massive defeat in the elections, actor-politician Pawan Kalyan on Thursday announced that his Jana Sena Party (JSP) has decided to ally with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Andhra Pradesh. The alliance was announced by Pawan Kalyan and BJP's state chief Kanna Lakshminarayana in the presence of BJP's central leaders Sunil Deodhar and G V L Narasimha Rao at a news conference in Vijayawada.
The alliance, especially coming at a time when the state has no upcoming election, has sparked off speculation among political circles, on what could be the reason for it.
Professor Haragopal, senior academic and analyst
There are not many alternatives left for Pawan Kalyan and the BJP in Andhra Pradesh. Pawan Kalyan cannot win the elections on his own, and that is very obvious. The BJP on the other hand, does not have a strong social base in the state.
The BJP can neither go with Jagan Mohan Reddy or Chandrababu Naidu. The Congress is anyways weak in the state. It could be that the JSP and the BJP joined, as they felt that two weak parties coming together, could help them project themselves as a stronger force.
It's a very pragmatic move. I don't think their ideologies match and it will be very difficult to work together ideologically, but politically maybe they feel that it will be advantageous.
For Pawan Kalyan, the BJP is strong at the Centre and he feels this will benefit him. For the BJP, they need a face in the state that is popular among the youth in the state. So BJP gets a face, and Pawan Kalyan gets access at the Centre. If they would have come together closer to the elections, people might have come across as opportunistic.
K Nageshwar, Journalist and political analyst
It is a gain for BJP and a loss for Pawan Kalyan. The BJP faces antipathy among the people in Andhra Pradesh and they had got less than 1% of the votes in the elections. Perhaps Pawan Kalyan has joined the BJP because he is facing the heat from the YSRCP government. Maybe he hopes that the alliance will provide some strength to the JSP.
People are averse to both the BJP and the Congress in the state, so there is no political reason for Pawan Kalyan to tie-up with them. They could have participated together for agitations and no one would have opposed it.
The political alliance may even be a precursor to the merger of the JSP into BJP, ahead of the elections.
Venkatesu, political analyst, University of Hyderabad
Pawan Kalyan’s Kapu community has been a strong vote bank for the Congress party. Since the 1980s, the community has had a leadership crisis. Aspirations for a higher position within the Congress party failed repeatedly.
After Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga’s death, there was a setback for political mobilisation of the community. Dasari Narayana Rao entered the foray in the ‘90s, but the Congress party managed to absorb him by making him a Rajya Sabha MP.
Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party which contested the 2009 elections also ended up merging with the Congress.
Since 2014, Pawan Kalyan with his JSP has been trying to emere as an alternative leadership. With his TDP-BJP alliance, a big share of Kapu votes went to TDP for the first time.
It is since 2018 that Jana Sena’s move towards BJP’s started, that is where the roots lay. He started criticising the TDP and moved away. He may have expected to emerge as a kingmaker in the 2019 elections but fared quite poorly, facing defeat himself. The only option he was left with was the BJP.
BJP has less than 1% of the vote bank, and JSP has about 7.5%. It remains to be seen whether these two can emerge as an alternative political force in the state in the long run. The BJP also has a leadership crisis, as Kanna Lakshminarayana is still perceived as a Congress man. This leadership crisis, combined with a lack of strong grassroots organisational structures is going to be a challenge for both the parties in emerging as a serious option for voters.
Vanaja C, Journalist and political analyst
The BJP has been trying to build a vote bank with BC community members across India. In Andhra Pradesh, both the main parties -- Kammas and Reddys -- are dominant castes, and there is discontent among the BCs.
Kapus also consider themselves as BC and they have been trying to come up. The BJP is looking for an opportunity to bring them together, and is planning much ahead of the elections, and Pawan Kalyan has come in handy.
Pawan himself, seems very confused. He doesn't seem to have a particular ideology. He just wants to save his face. They may be hoping that with the alliance, they can sway BC voters, who form the largest chunk of voters in Andhra Pradesh.
With inputs from Charan Teja and Jahnavi Reddy.