Multi-cornered fight might alter fortunes in AP

A divided opposition in Andhra Pradesh might prove advantageous to the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections. The anti-incumbency vote against Nara Chandrababu Naidu’s party is bound to split, if the main opposition Yuvajana Sramika Rytu Congress Party (YSRCP), the Jana Sena Party (JSP) of Pawan Kalyan and the BJP fail to enter into a pre-poll alliance. There are no signs of such a united fight against Naidu at this point of time.

The last Lok Sabha elections were held in 2014 in undivided Andhra Pradesh. Within a month, on June 2, the state with 42 Lok Sabha seats was bifurcated into Andhra Pradesh (25 seats) and Telangana (17 seats). Simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and the state assembly were held during the seventh and eighth phases of the general election.

The TDP won 15 seats with the support of JSP; YSRCP won eight, and the BJP two seats. The combined strength of the BJP-led NDA was 17 at that time. Later, the TDP exited the NDA fold protesting the ‘step-motherly treatment’ meted out to the new state as the issue of Special Category status for it took an emotional turn.

Undivided AP result
Undivided AP result

The Telugu voter

The Telugu voter, in general, prefers a regional-national party combine such as TDP and NDA or Congress and UPA in general elections, hoping that a friendly party at the Centre will be of help to the state. TDP chief Nara Chandrababu Naidu rode on the Atal Bihari Vajpayee wave in 1999 and then again on the Narendra Modi wave in 2014 to capture power in the state. Naidu not only became chief minister of the state but also wielded considerable clout at the Centre during Vajpayee’s regime.  “It will be interesting to see how the voter reacts this time, with a major anti-BJP sentiment in the state and no 2014-like pro-Modi wave sweeping across the country,” political analyst Telakapalli Ravi says.

The Mahakutami

The Mahakutami (Grand Alliance) of Telugu Desam with its arch-rival Congress failed miserably in the recent assembly elections in the sibling state of Telangana. The TDP and the Andhra Pradesh Congress have not declared their alliance plans formally but it is widely believed that the two parties will work together to try and oust the BJP at the national level. But TDP workers fear that working hand-in-hand with the party that divided united Andhra state can be detrimental to TDP’s prospects. 

Anti-BJP Front

Naidu hopes to gain from a resurgent Congress, which had won no seats in the state in the 2014 LS elections. The TDP believes that the anti-Congress sentiment has waned, and anti-BJP feelings have firmed up in the minds of AP voters. Naidu is also wooing the traditional Congress vote banks, particularly Muslims and Scheduled Castes, into the TDP fold to benefit from the anti-BJP sentiment.

Notwithstanding the severe drubbing in Telangana, Naidu, backing the anti-BJP national front, has intensified his “king-maker” efforts. Naidu, who met Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on January 8, has said: “On the 19 of this month (January), we will all meet in Kolkata and then take it further in New Delhi if needed”. Analysts say that while Naidu might not benefit from the alliance with Congress, Rahul Gandhi does.

“The BJP will lose the two seats that it had in AP with the friendly TDP helping it in 2014. BJP will not win a single seat out of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the two Telugu states,” TDP state president Kimidi Kala Venkatrao said.

BJP-Jagan?

The YSRCP, unlike the TDP which went with Jana Sena and BJP, stood on its legs without any alliance in 2014. YS Jagan Reddy’s overconfidence and wrong reading of people’s support cost him the assembly elections, albeit with a thin margin as reflected in the vote share. Even though the present mood of the voters in Andhra Pradesh is largely in favour of Jagan, the financial strength of Naidu cannot be underestimated. “If the claims of ethical politics and the welfare schemes of late YSR are to be believed, then why did YS Vijayamma lose the Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha seat?” asks Ganta Srinivasa Rao, a TDP minister from Visakhapatnam.

In the era of alliances, Jagan’s adamant attitude to go it alone could prove suicidal. He must remember that his father came to power in alliance with Telangana Rashtra Samithi in 2004 and almost lost the election without that alliance in 2009. The state unit of BJP has already made an open offer to Jagan to work with them in the LS elections. However, Jagan has made no open commitment but it is said that the national party will come to the rescue if their ‘friend’ is in need of any support.

The YSRCP has already ruled out alliance with Pawan Kalyan’s party, indicating that it will go to the polls alone. “The votes of the Kapu supporters of Pawan Kalyan that went to Naidu in 2014 will now split. The split in the anti-incumbency votes that Naidu is hoping for won’t happen,” Jagan observed in a TV interview.

Jagan has not responded to the offer of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and Majlis chief Asaduddin Owaisi that they are ready to help Jagan win the 2019 elections so that the YSRCP will be of help to the non-BJP, non-Congress ‘Federal Front’ that they are trying to form for the LS polls. The Jana Sena, which will be contesting in all the 175 assembly seats, will be going with the Left parties and not TDP.

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Multi-cornered fight might alter fortunes in AP

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