The growing discomfiture and frustration among regional satraps about hitching their political outfit with the Congress in the run up to next year’s general elections is coming to the fore. They are concerned that the country’s oldest political entity is hopelessly outmanoeuvred by the strategists of the Lotus party over the last four years since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in May 2014.
The Old Lady of Bori Bunder is desperately trying to infuse confidence in the wake of Rahul Gandhi assuming the stewardship of the party organisation which is in a shambles. Is it merely enough to make tall promises of what the Congress will do if it came to power in the 2019 general elections including according special status to Andhra Pradesh when its presence in the country is being systematically reduced and eroded?
Regional satraps, inimical to the BJP, banked on the Congress in forging alliances to keep the communal forces at bay. They are, now, losing faith in the ability of the Congress being in the vanguard and taking the non-BJP parties past the winning post.
Congressmen are trying hard to put up a brave front while being skeptical of the party’s prospects at the hustings with the saffron surge enlarging its sphere of influence in the country. The BJP is either ruling or is part of the government in no less than 22 states in the country.
The BJP’s ideological and mind blowing win in Tripura dislodging the Left Front, which was in power in the north-eastern state for a quarter of a century, has been path breaking. They also became part of the government in Nagaland and Meghalaya by knitting up alliances, even though it won a mere two seats in the each of the two assemblies.
Pushed to the wall as it were, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu decided to pull out his TDP ministers from Modi’s Council of Ministers protesting against the injustice done to the state in the wake of the bifurcation of AP in 2014. He insisted the state had lost heavily because of the unscientific bifurcation of AP.
Even though the TDP’s relationship with the NDA has come under strain, the wily Naidu has made it clear he is not exiting the ruling coalition at the Centre for now. The gambit is to bring about realignment of political forces ahead of the next year’s general elections and hasten the forces in forging a Third Front as an alternative to the Congress and the BJP.
The TDP has the largest number of MPs from the South in the NDA with 16 in the Lok Sabha and six in the Rajya Sabha. The TDP’s issue revolves around inadequate release of central funds to the state facing post bifurcation problems pertaining to creating a new capital Amravati and other infrastructure facilities. Other key demands include the creation of a separate Railway Zone for Visakhapatnam and completion of the Polavaram Irrigation project.
The Naidu government wants the implementation of all the promises made in the AP Bifurcation Act of 2014 and the assurances given by the then prime minister Manmaohan Singh. Having played a key role in the national coalition politics in the past, the latest decision comes after careful political calculations with an eye on next year’s elections.
As an astute strategist, Naidu has been once hailed as the “kingmaker” during the formation of the United Front and NDA-I governments in the past. The TDP provided crucial support to the BJP led NDA alliance at the Centre from 1998 to 2004.
Naidu ended the alliance after losing power in the 2004 assembly elections undertaking an image makeover even apologising to the minorities for committing the “biggest mistake” by aligning with the BJP. He made a U-turn subsequently reviving the alliance with them in 2014 in a “do or die” battle for the TDP after being out of power for a decade.
BJP leaders claimed that the Centre treated all its allies with utmost respect and followed the “coalition dharma” while the TDP’s decision was based on political reasons and the ensuing Assembly and Lok Sabha polls. The Shiv Sena walked out of the NDA recently while other allies, like the Shiromani Akali Dal, resented that the Modi government failed to accomodate their entreaties. In Uttar Pradesh, the outcome of the by-elections in Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s bastion of Gorakhpur and the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s constituency of Phulpur held on Sunday last reflects on his year long leadership of the most crucial state in the country.
T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator.