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The route to Delhi passes through the Telugu states

As in the 2004 and 2009 polls, both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana will be vital in the 2019 government formation

analysis Updated: Apr 22, 2019 22:09 IST
Venkatesha Babu
Venkatesha Babu
Hindustan Times
Jaganmohan Reddy,Chandrababu Naidu,K Chandrashekara Rao
Andhra Pradesh chief minister and TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu addresses a public meeting in Serilingampally assembly constituency, Hyderabad, November 2018(PTI)

With all the attention is focused on large states like as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and West Bengal, people forget that in both 2004 and 2009, it was the election outcome in the then undivided Andhra Pradesh (AP) and neighbouring Tamil Nadu that eventually shaped the national fortunes, giving a fillip to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA). However, the historical presence and growth of strong, vocal, regional parties in both states has meant that the BJP has been unable to carve out political space for itself.

In 2014, when Andhra Pradesh was divided into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, which included coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, the BJP could have made an attempt to build itself up, but chose to go with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). While it ended up with two seats — Vishakapatnam and Narasapuram — in AP, it won only the Secunderabad in Telangana. Its dependence on an ally to grow in the Telugu-speaking states has meant that when a partner walks out, the party has struggled to make a mark.

Take the case of Telangana. After the TDP decided to part ways with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in March 2018 and join hands with the UPA to form a Mahakootami (grand alliance) in the 2018 Telangana assembly elections, the saffron party chose to contest alone. In the 119-member assembly, it contested from 118 seats and lost deposits in 103. Again in both the Telugu-speaking states, the BJP has gone alone in the current round of polls. While the saffron party would be happy to retain even its current set of numbers, ground realities indicate it may not end up doing so.

Which is why, it is all the more surprising, at how sanguine the NDA is about still getting support from the Telugu- speaking states, irrespective of the poll outcome. In Andhra, Jaganmohan Reddy’s Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) has been making not so subtle public overtures to the BJP. Jagan is fighting a number of cases of disproportionate assets and embezzlement, which are being investigated by a slew of central agencies including the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate. While the YSRCP has always maintained that these cases are due to political vendetta, Jagan knows that it would be in his interest to have the support of whoever rules at the Centre. However, following a bitter parting of ways with the Congress after it denied him the chief minister’s post after his father’s tragic death, Jagan’s options are fairly limited.

With TDP chief, Chandrababu Naidu, breathing fire and brimstone at Modi, Jagan and the BJP have a mutually coalescing political interest in keeping Naidu away from office. Whether this relationship can withstand the ideological difference between Jagan — who has openly said he reads the Bible daily — and a Hindutva hardline party like the BJP remains to be seen.

In Telangana, the compulsions are a bit different. K Chandrashekara Rao (KCR), who won a three-fourths majority in the recently-concluded assembly elections, is unlikely to support the Mahagathbandhan, in the formation of which Naidu played a key role. KCR has been floating the idea of a non-Congress and non-BJP federal front. Which is why even as the BJP rues its missed opportunities to grow in the Telugu-speaking states, it seems to be sitting pretty for now.

venkatesha.babu@hindustantimes.com

First Published: Apr 22, 2019 22:09 IST