Analysis: Is BJP trying to be new Opposition in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana?
Annihilating the Telugu Desman Party (TDP) by getting its members to defect isn’t just sweet revenge against bête noire Chandrababu Naidu.
The Bharatiya Janata Party loves political vacuums. It fills them where they exist, creates them where they don’t.
Before the 2019 elections, the party created space for itself in provinces where it had not been traditionally strong: West Bengal and Odisha. The Communist Party of India-Marxist’s emasculation and the Congress’s dissipation lent it room to telescope the fortress of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. In Odisha, the moribund Congress surrendered without demur the space the BJP needed to replace it as the principal Opposition.
The BJP’s hunger isn’t apparently satiated by the massive mandate it got in the Lok Sabha polls. Always an expansionist, it’s replicating in Andhra Pradesh what it did in Bengal. Very much part of that gameplan is its celebration of former prime minister PV Narsimaha Rao, whose legacy can be encashed in either parts of the reorganised state.
Annihilating the Telugu Desman Party (TDP) by getting its members to defect isn’t just sweet revenge against bête noire Chandrababu Naidu. It’s strategy is as much to gain a majority in the Rajya Sabha while carving beachheads in the southern state now under a greenhorn chief minister, the YSR Congress’s Jaganmohan Reddy.
As is evident from the defection of four of the six TDP Rajya Sabha members to the BJP, there’s isn’t any dearth of Mukul Roys and Arjun Singhs in Andhra Pradesh. The TDP has to be decimated to create the West Bengal-like vacuum the BJP needs in the state. That’ll help the party have a free run of the space where the Congress committed hara-kiri while bifurcating the state. The Congress hasn’t since recovered from the loss of Andhra Pradesh that was the key to it attaining power at the Centre in 2004 and 2009. For the BJP, tainted legislators seeking state protection are not just easy prey. They come with the promise of becoming pliable instruments in clearing the way for the saffron party’s green-field projects.
In Telangana, carved out of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti’s K Chandrasekhar Rao is unconsciously preparing the ground for the BJP by luring Congress members in either chamber of the bicameral legislature. The alleged horse trading that’s weakening the Congress will strengthen the BJP which won four Lok Sabha seats in the state in which it could send just one member to the assembly in the polls last December.
The situation is fructifying for the BJP to be the new Opposition in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Whether or not it’ll succeed will depend on the TDP-Congress push back. The prospects of this happening appears dim at the moment. Naidu is fighting two adversaries in Andhra Pradesh: Jagan and the BJP. So is the Congress in Telangana: KCR and BJP.
One has to grant the BJP its tenacity and resolve. Even after losing power in the three Hindi heartland states towards the end of 2018, it was part of the governments in 16 states. While the Congress rested on its oars, the saffron party went about plugging loopholes, organising cadres and rebuilding social pacts in the states it had lost: Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh.
Not just that. It explored with renewed vigour the fresh pastures it had identified in West Bengal and Odisha. The party won 18 of the 42 seats in Bengal and eight of the 21 in Odisha. If that wasn’t miraculous enough, it regained the turf it lost to the Congress in the three Hindi-speaking states by winning all but three of the 65 Lok Sabha seats they account for. The odds facings the Opposition parties are, therefore, gargantuan. The first test of their residual strength will be in the impending polls to assemblies in Maharashtra, Haryana, Delhi and Jharkhand.
In all these states, the Congress’s role has to be pivotal. That is, if it can, by then, install or elect the new president who’d lead it in the fight for political-electoral relevance.