TDP BJP row: The N Chandrababau Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party’s (TDP) very public grouse over the Centre’s alleged lack of focus on issues related to Andhra Pradesh may have the elections slated in Andhra Pradesh for 2019 at the heart of it. Two sets of developments indicate that this may well be the case. First is the airing of the party’s displeasure towards the BJP-led Centre by Naidu as well as other TDP leaders in the immediate aftermath of the Budget. The leaders gave away ample hints that it could consider wallking out of the National Democratic Alliance if the BJP did not pay heed to the demands of Andhra Pradesh.
The second is the party’s decision reported on Monday that said the TDP would remain in the NDA but will push for its demands aggressively, even if it meant blocking the functioning of parliament. Naidu, it was reported, had however advised his party leaders against engaging in a slanging match with the BJP. The decision was apparently taken after the TDP chief received calls from the top BJP leadership, including party president Amit Shah and Home minister Rajnath Singh.
Briefing media persons, Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Y.S. Chowdary had said the TDP would not go to the extent of breaking the alliance with the BJP. Reportedly, the decision was taken during a meeting the TDP’s parliamentary party held at the residence of TDP president and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu in Amaravati. Chandrababu Naidu had earlier said, in a press conference, “I will not say anything owing to “mitrapaksha dharmam” (conformity to friendship). Their leadership should think about it.” As per reports, as per TDP leaders, there are several issues pertaining to the state that are pending with the Centre.
Upset over “injustice” to Andhra Pradesh in Union Budget 2018-19, the TDP, a key ally of the BJP, has also decided to raise the issue in Parliament. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) President N. Chandrababu Naidu has reportedly asked his party MPs to pressurise the BJP-led NDA government to undo the injustice. Earlier, today (February 5), the TDP MPs held a silent protest in front of the Gandhi statue near the Parliament.
Meanwhile, the BJP has refrained from commenting on its ally TDP. “I will not comment on this issue purely because TDP is an independent party- they are of course a part of NDA-alliance- and they have already made a statement that they will continue to be part of the alliance,” Zafar Islam, BJP spokesperson for Political and Economic Affairs, on Sunday, told ANI. BJP chief Amit Shah reportedly spoke to Naidu over the phone, advising him against making any harsh decision on Sunday.
Much of this very public political muscle-flexing comes ahaead of the 2019 polls to the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly. TDP, which has seen ties with the BJP deterioirate over the past few years, will be hoping to pin all blame with regard to the public demands over the Centre’s alleged high-handedness in issues relating to the state on the BJP leadership. Any posturing against the BJP in this regard would go in its favour. The jostling also signals the unease between the two parties on the state level, where two of BJP members are ministers in the Naidu Cabinet.
On the other hand, the TDP would not like to take the risk of negating the BJP’s popularity on the national level. Naidu’s TDP has little room since it can neither join hands with YSR Congress not with the Congress. Dissociating with the BJP could mean a big risk, one that Naidu could avoid at this crucial time. It is these two aspects that quite explain the TDP’s dilemma and its aggression at the same time.
However, with the Lok Sabha elections not too far off too, other alliance partners are also testing the waters to consolidate their position in the NDA. Arm-twisting and intimidation are tried and tested methods to claim more space in coaltion politics and that is what we are likerly to witness as polls near. Naidu’s muscle-flexing comes nearly ten days after the BJP’s largest ally, the Shiv Sena announced to go alone in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The move also comes at a time when many of the smaller allies in the NDA fold are acting similarly.