With Andhra Pradesh’s demand for Special Category Status straining ties between the Telugu Desam Party and Bharatiya Janata Party, future alliances now have the potential to change the state’s political discourse completely.
Chandrababu Naidu reportedly said recently, “There is nothing called Central money or state’s money. It’s the people’s money. The southern states contribute maximum tax revenues to the Centre, but the latter is diverting the money to the development of northern states.”
This has been widely interpreted as the CM making his intentions clear to cut ties with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
So whom could the TDP ally with in the Assembly polls?
Political observers think that Chandrababu should consider joining hands with Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena.
The Jana Sena had backed the NDA coalition and did not contest the previous elections.
Pawan had also campaigned for the TDP-BJP at the time, sharing a stage with Chandrababu and then Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Even though the Jana Sena chief has since positioned himself like a ‘watchdog’ figure in the state, by lashing out at both the TDP and the BJP, it would seem from his statements that the Central government has invited his ire more than the state government.
Even as there is ongoing speculation, Pawan is expected to reveal his party’s strategy during the Jana Sena’s upcoming fourth-anniversary celebrations.
Just this week, in a move that signalled his serious shift to politics, the actor-politician Pawan Kalyan conducted a Bhoomi Puja and laid the foundation stone for his new residence-cum-office in Andhra's Amaravati region.
Unlike many critics of Naidu who have questioned the construction of a new capital on the fertile flood plains of Krishna River, Pawan has indicated that he has no such issues, as he is willing to live and function out of the upcoming capital.
A senior TDP functionary, who requested anonymity, said, “We don’t have problems with Pawan Kalyan. The Jana Sena is an independent party, but we believe Pawan can work with us.”
The leader added that TDP hadn’t yet exited the coalition, so nothing could be said for certain.
Last week, Chandrababu Naidu declared that two party ministers would resign from their posts in the Union Cabinet, as a mark of protest against the Centre failing to provide the state Special Category Status.
Meanwhile, the Opposition, led by YSR Congress Party’s Jagan Mohan Reddy, has slammed Pawan for “safeguarding” the TDP’s interests.
In what is being seen as another sign that Pawan may be considering an alliance with the TDP, in an interaction with the media on Monday, he said, “If I am joining hands with the TDP, why can’t we assume Jagan is acting under Modi’s influence?”
However, Jagan himself refuted his party's efforts to align with the BJP saying, “Why would we move a no-confidence motion against the BJP if we wanted to ally with them?”
When Chandrababu spoke about the perceived injustice to south Indian states vis-à-vis taxpayers money, he was echoing what Pawan had said a month ago. The actor-politician had asked then if the Centre was going to use the ‘success of south Indian states’ against their own interests.
Some political observers like AM Khan Yazdani are of the opinion that asking if YSRCP will ally with the BJP is premature as long as TDP is part of the NDA coalition.
The YSRCP had announced that it would move a no-confidence motion against the NDA government on March 21 and resign en masse from the Parliament on April 6 unless Special Category Status is given to the state.
"Pawan Kalyan never claimed he is coming out of the NDA. We may get clear picture after April 6 – in a way, we can say March 21 and April 6 are going to be deciding factors in AP’s political landscape,” said Yazdani.
However, it was observed that Pawan didn't invite the ire of TDP leaders despite his trenchant criticism of the party and how funds were being allocated in the state and for the Polavaram project.
A TDP leader told TNM that his party had decided not to take on Pawan as he is their "ally".