The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) on Thursday plunged into a crisis with four of its six Rajya Sabha members, including industrialists YS Chowdary and CM Ramesh, who were considered close confidantes of party chief N Chandrababu Naidu, joined the BJP. Chowdary, Ramesh, Garikapati Mohan Rao and TG Venkatesh, who met Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu in New Delhi on Thursday, also passed a resolution to merge the TDP Legislative Party with the BJP.
Observers however say, that there is more to it than meets the eye, as two of the MPs who defected were the target of several raids and searches by central agencies until recently. Interestingly, all the four MPs who defected are businessmen.
The timing of their defection also was well planned, as they carried out the move just as Chandrababu Naidu went on a holiday to Europe with his family.
Protecting their personal interests?
Chowdary had served as a Minister of State in the Modi government till the TDP pulled out of BJP-led NDA over the issue of special category status to Andhra Pradesh.
In November, searches were conducted at his residences and offices by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), on allegations of bank fraud. The ED had taken up the case on the basis of an FIR filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against Best & Crompton Engineering Pvt Ltd (BCEPL) and their officials, who allegedly entered into a criminal conspiracy during 2010-2013 for "defrauding Central Bank of India, Andhra Bank and Corporation Bank".
The total loss caused to the consortium of banks due to the fraud was to the tune of Rs 364 crore. According to the ED, BCEPL is a part of Sujana Group of Companies, of which Chowdary is a promoter.
However, Chowdary denied the charges, maintaining that his decision to defect had nothing to do with the cases.
Ramesh, who is also close to Naidu, faced I-T raids with regard to the financial dealings by a company in which he is the director. At the time, Ramesh had alleged that the I-T raids were conducted due to political vendetta.
With both of them now jumping ship, many say that it is a move aimed at saving their skins and stall the investigation into the cases at the very least.
Even in his response to the recent development, Chandrababu Naidu had remarked, "TDP MPs joining BJP is the result of my fight for AP's rights. They had their own personal agendas to address."
Meanwhile, speaking to TNM, TDP spokesperson Sadineni Yamini said, "We are condemning this move by the BJP to poach our leaders. It is a move that is threatening the very democratic institutions that our country is based on. The TDP leaders who defected should also introspect and consider if what they did is morally and ethically right."
U-turn by the BJP?
Last year, state leaders of the BJP had used the raids on the two MPs for their political gain. BJP MP GVL Narasimha Rao in November last year remarked that the raids had 'exposed' that there were "several Vijay Mallyas in Naidu's party." "The real corrupt face of the TDP has been exposed from the revelations made by the ED. The scale of this scam is so huge that it seems like Chandrababu Naidu has so many Mallyas in his team," the BJP leader had said.
With the BJP now welcoming the MPs with open arms, many TDP supporters have also taken to social media and accused the ruling party of making a U-turn.
The TDP lost power to the YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh in the recent elections. The party could secure only 23 seats in 151-member Assembly. It also won only three out of 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state. It is now left with two Rajya Sabha MPs.