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Andhra Pradesh Congress leaders on BJP radar

Andhra Pradesh was a fortress of the Congress until 2014, the year it lost the state to Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in Telangana and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh

india Updated: Jun 02, 2018 23:15 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Andhra,Andhra Congress,BJP
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu administers oath to the people during a ‘Nava Nirmana Deeksha’ programme, in Vijayawada on Saturday, Jun 02, 2018. (PTI Photo)

The BJP will throw open its doors for Congress veterans in Andhra Pradesh, two leaders familiar with the matter said. There are over 20 senior Congress leaders in the southern state who will cross over to the saffron party between the coming week and the election in April-May next year, they said.

“They are discussing the matter with us,” the first BJP leader said. “Party president Amit Shah is aware of the matter and will decide the timing of their entry.” “Most of them are influential leaders whose influence goes beyond a Lok Sabha or assembly seats,” the second leader said.

The BJP appointed Kanna Laxminarayana, a veteran Congressman who joined it in 2014, as its Andhra Pradesh president in May. He was on his way out, but Shah held him back by offering him the chief’s post. Laxminarayana now helps the BJP poach other Congress leaders.

Andhra Pradesh was a fortress of the Congress until 2014, the year it lost the state to Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in Telangana and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh. The Congress had won 33 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats of the undivided Andhra Pradesh in 2009 Lok Sabha election, an edge it lost in 2014 following flared up emotions over the state’s division.

While TRS swept Telangana riding on a wave over fulfilment of the separate statehood demand, the TDP trounced the Congress in residue Andhra Pradesh by blaming the then Congress-led UPA for the division.

The BJP stitched up an alliance with the TDP in 2014, and the alliance swept the Lok Sabha and the assembly polls, held simultaneously in Andhra Pradesh.

The TDP, however, parted ways in March over demands for a special category status for the state. “Our alliance with the TDP was limiting our growth,” the first BJP leader said. The BJP fielded candidates in 4 out of total 25 Lok Sabha seats, won 2 and polled 20.8 lakh votes with a share of 7.2%. In the assembly polls, it fought on 13 out of the 175 seats, won 4 and polled 6.32 lakh votes with a share of 2.2%.

“We could not have contested 2019 polls – both parliamentary and assembly – on a seat sharing formula we agreed in 2014,” the first BJP leader said. “The TDP could not have given us more.”

BJP general secretary P Muralidhar Rao said the Andhra Pradesh unit will make big inroads in the state. “The popularity of the Modi government and the organisational strength of the BJP, built by Amit Shah, are our biggest strength,” he said.

The second BJP leader said, “Now that we are not an ally of the TDP, the Congress leaders see a scope in the BJP.” The Congress and the TDP have been traditional rivals in Andhra Pradesh, and the BJP wants to exploit the split to woo Congress veterans. “This strategy helped us in the northeast where the BJP was traditionally weak, but Congress leaders who crossed over helped it come to power,” the leader said.

The BJP’s campaign for Andhra Pradesh will be two pronged, the second leader said.

First, it will try to create a perception that the TDP was a party of Kamma, about 5% of the state population. It will insist that leaders only from the community benefitted under the TDP’s rule.

Second, a campaign will be unleashed targeting chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, and his history of alleged ‘betrayals’ — to his father-in-law, the former chief minister NT Rama Rao, and Atal Bihar Vajpayee during the NDA’s first stint in power.

First Published: Jun 02, 2018 23:13 IST