Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh met Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu for an hour on Saturday, sparking talk of a fresh alliance between the two parties nearly a decade after they fell apart.
A tie-up would give the BJP an ally in a state where it has virtually no presence, and mirror the party's efforts to patch up with BS Yeddyurappa in neighbouring Karnataka. For Naidu, who has 6 MPs out of 42 in Andhra, it could help in his stiff battle against Jagan Mohan Reddy in Seema Andhra and the Congress and TRS in Telangana region. The patch-up?
Officially, Naidu and Singh's office maintained that no politics was discussed at the meet, and that it was all about the Congress' mishandling of the Telangana issue and the need for reconciliation between stakeholders in Andhra Pradesh.
But BJP insiders speculated that the two sides were breaking the ice. "There is talk of exploring an understanding with the TDP," said a BJP leader.
The BJP recently lost its chief ally, the JD(U) in Bihar, and is on the lookout for friends that could help it get past the psychologically important 200-seat mark in the Lok Sabha polls. Its strengths lie in the north, west and centre of the country; the twin southern initiatives and the strong rapport PM candidate Narendra Modi shares with Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa could give it a beachhead in a part of the country generally alien to it.
The buzz in the party is that Modi may even reach out to Babulal Marandi in Jharkhand. If 200 is attained, parties like Naveen Patnaik's BJD in Odisha may join the NDA post elections, goes the thinking.
The TDP speculation started when Narendra Modi had heaped lavish praise on the party's founder NT Rama Rao at a recent rally in Hyderabad. And in his meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday, Naidu hit out at the Congress for playing politics with the Telangana demand, and called for engagement with all stakeholders to reconcile conflicting views and provide an amicable solution.
One key factor Naidu will have to consider is the Muslim vote in Andhra Pradesh, which might drift away in the event of a BJP tie-up. But his current imperatives of fighting Jagan, the Congress and TRS could prompt him to fall into the saffron party's arms in an attempt to regain some of his past prominence.