In TDP pullout, BJP smells opportunity in Andhra Pradesh

The TDP-BJP alliance was forged before the parliamentary and assembly elections in 2014. The coalition won 17 of 25 Lok Sabha seats and 106 of 175 assembly constituencies in the state.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2018 07:22 IST
Kumar Uttam
Kumar Uttam
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Chandrababu Naidu,TDP,Andhra Pradesh
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seen with TDP President and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu in New Delhi on January 12, 2018. (PTI File Photo)

The Bharatiya Janata Party sees an opportunity to expand its footprints in Andhra Pradesh after its partner from the southern state, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), almost severed its ties with the Union government, BJP leaders said on Thursday.

State chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s decision on Wednesday to pull out two of his ministers from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government didn’t surprise the BJP, but it was rather preparing for the “inevitable” after the TDP escalated its demand for special status for the state.

“We realised it two months ago that the TDP was going a different way … We have two MPs and four MLAs to lose in the worst case scenario when the two parties contest elections separately,” Andhra Pradesh BJP chief K Hari Babu said.

“We have a bigger territory to gain. The BJP will attempt to improve its position in Andhra Pradesh.”

The TDP-BJP alliance was forged before the parliamentary and assembly elections in 2014. The coalition won 17 of 25 Lok Sabha seats and 106 of 175 assembly constituencies in the state.

According to BJP leaders, who don’t want to be named, the TDP has been demanding the status that will guarantee enhanced central funds for development. But it was lying low until its regional rival, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy of the YSR Congress, started an aggressive campaign for the special status promised when Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated in 2014 to form a separate state of Telangana. The YSR Congress has declared that its MPs will resign on April 6 if the special status was not announced before that.

The BJP polled about 7% votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and over 2% in the assembly polls in the state. It sees a “huge scope” for improvement in vote share and its seat tally.

But the party’s primary concern now is to counter the perception that it blocked the special status for Andhra Pradesh.

“Our strategy will be to dispel this perception,” said a BJP leader, requesting anonymity. “No government at the Centre can grant such a status after implementation of the 14th Finance Commission.”

The BJP’s campaign will highlight benefits the NDA government extended to Andhra Pradesh beyond the increased share of states in taxes collected by the Centre — from 32% to 42%.

The party has prepared a 17-page document listing out incentives such as 11 educational institutions of national importance by 2022 and adequate funds for infrastructure projects.

The BJP’s presence in Andhra Pradesh is mostly concentrated in the coastal region, which includes nine districts. It is relatively weak in four districts of the Rayalaseema region, a stronghold of the YSR Congress.

A BJP leader, who doesn’t want his name published, said the party does not hope to emerge as the dominant force in Andhra Pradesh immediately, but a countrywide surge will help it gain ground in the southern state.

The optimism stems from the BJP’s string of poll victories in states that were considered impregnable for the party — the latest instance being the win Tripura, where it upstaged 25 years of Left Front rule.

The leader warned that the party’s allies must realise this is a “new BJP” that will not give into “blackmailing techniques”.

The BJP pins hope on a multi-cornered contest, including the TDP, YSR Congress, the communist parties and the Jan Sena Party of actor Pawan Kalyan, to make progress in Andhra Pradesh.

The party does not see a possibility of the Congress and TDP coming together. The TDP’s “origin, survival and future” depends on its anti-Congress position, which Naidu will not give away, BJP state unit chief Babu said.

As for Jagan Mohan Reddy, the BJP leader said the YSR Congress chief has his set of reservation with the Congress. “A reunion of Jagan and Congress is ruled out at the moment.”

First Published: Mar 09, 2018 07:20 IST