The Telugu Desam and its chief, Chandrababu Naidu, are paying a heavy price for the TDP’s snapping of links with the NDA and its main constituent the BJP in Andhra Pradesh. That Chandrababu was a key spearhead of the campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, going out of his way to spite him was not lost on Modi-Amit Shah duo as they built up their campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
After the drubbing that TDP received in the polls, both in the parliamentary and State assembly elections Chandrababu Naidu stood severely compromised as power in the State passed into the hands of his rival Jagan Mohan Reddy of the YSR Congress. Reduced to a mere three seats in the Lok Sabha, Chandrababu was banking on his six members in the Rajya Sabha to provide him leverage in the Upper House. But he had not reckoned with the BJP dealing him another blow. That has come in the shape of four of TDP’s six members breaking away from the party and joining the BJP. That this has come even as Chandrababu is holidaying in Europe after the strenuous elections has left him high and dry.
Clearly, this is a blow from which the TDP would find it hard to recover. It comes at a time when Jagan Mohan Reddy who is now in the chief ministerial chair is cosying up to the Centre and Reddy is all set to launch prosecution against the latter for corruption during his regime especially in regard to the building of a new capital for Andhra at Amravati. While the steamroller win by the Modi government in the Lok Sabha polls has severely dented Chandrababu’s clout on the national stage, the decimation of the TDP in the Assembly has tied him in knots from which it would be an uphill task for him to extricate himself. In the run-up to the elections, Chandrababu was being projected by some as an alternative to Modi as prime minister but in effect he has ended up in dire straits.
The rivalry between Modi and Chandrababu goes back to 2002 when the latter had openly challenged Modi for the events in Gujarat in the aftermath of the burning of two bogies of a train in which kar sewaks who had participated in the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya were charred to death at the hands of a Muslim mob.
The TDP had then said in a resolution that the Gujarat government led by Modi had lost the moral right to govern the State. That the TDP censured the BJP despite it being a part of NDA irked the BJP a great deal. Ostensibly, Chandrababu had an eye on the Muslim vote and when the party was mauled in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, Chandrababu attributed it to the ire of the Muslims over TDP’s continuance in the alliance. While the alliance ended thereafter, the BJP never forgave Chandrababu for the threat to quit the NDA and the subsequent break that came.
When Chandrababu raised the pitch against the BJP’s refusal to give special economic status to Andhra Pradesh in 2017-18, the TDP decided to walk out of the alliance once again. Had this been a dignified exit, the BJP could well have taken it in its stride. But the TDP and especially Chandrababu Naidu launched an all-India crusade for the ouster of the Modi government at the Centre, flirting with the Congress one day and with BJP’s bête noire Trinamool Congress and other regional parties another day. In all Chandrababu meetings, the NDA government at the Centre was the favourite whipping boy.
With Jagan Mohan Reddy in power in Andhra and Modi firmly in the saddle at the Centre, it would be interesting to see how the game plays out with the TDP which has been reduced to the status of a minor player. Jagan too has been vying for special status for Andhra and for a generous financial package from the Centre but it is on the cards that the Modi government may be more accommodative with him. Yet, all this is in the realm of speculation and future events will show which way the State heads.