Monday, March 4, 2024

BJP dilemma in AP: To ally or not to ally

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For a party which fetched less than one per cent of votes in Andhra Pradesh in the last Lok Sabha polls, the BJP finds itself in a rather sweet spot in the state ahead of the 2024 general elections as the two main regional parties vie with each other to keep it on their side.
While the Telugu Desam Party wants an alliance with the BJP, the state’s ruling YSR Congress is keen that the national party go solo in the coming polls like in the 2019 elections, sources in the two regional parties said.
With the state’s minority votes of Muslims and Christians seen as a solid base of the YSR Congress, its leaders are of the view that an electoral alliance with the BJP will not suit their party but have noted its backing to the Modi government’s agenda in Parliament to underline its unquestioned support.
“The BJP has had differences with its poll allies but never with us. Our leader (Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy) has maintained good ties with the BJP leadership and has backed them wholeheartedly without seeking any share in power,” a YSR Congress leader said.
The BJP on its part is mulling its options, with a section of state leaders keen for an alliance with former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP as they believe that is the only way they can hope to win some seats and motivate their cadres.
Lok Sabha and assembly polls are held simultaneously in Andhra Pradesh. The TDP following its alliance with actor Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party is hopeful of a strong show against the YSR Congress but the state’s ruling party has been electorally dominant in the last five years, riding on a slew of welfare schemes it has implemented for different demographics.
TDP sources claimed that Reddy’s governance model and leadership style bear a lot of resemblance with those of BRS leader K Chandrashekar Rao, whose party lost power to the Congress in Telangana after its 10-year rule as charges of crony corruption and highhandedness struck a chord with voters. The TDP has repeatedly accused the YSR Congress of using strong-arm methods, including the arrest of Naidu in a corruption case, to weaken it. Its leaders believe that an alliance with the BJP can prove to be an X factor as the national party is seen favourite to retain power at the Centre.
The BJP may not add much in terms of vote share but it brings in a positive national narrative which can be helpful, TDP sources said, claiming that such an alliance will also help it take on the state government’s might.
Though Home Minister Amit Shah had reportedly met Naidu in June and his son Nara Lokesh following his arrest but the BJP has been keen to ensure that it is not seen as taking any side and has maintained that it had taken no decision on an alliance in the state.
Naidu is now out on bail.
BJP sources said the party’s dilemma is that an alliance with the TDP may prove counterproductive if the YSR Congress wins in the elections.
Reddy’s ties with the BJP leadership has been warm, unlike Naidu who has had a patchy record as far as his relations with top BJP leaders are concerned.
The TDP had broken its ties with the BJP in 2018 over its demand for “special status” for Andhra Pradesh where it was in power.
Since losing power in 2019, the TDP has been making efforts to get close to its former ally again.
The two regional parties have also been unstinted in supporting the BJP in Parliament where the backing of YSR Congress’ 22 Lok Sabha MPs and nine Rajya Sabha MPs has often helped the government ride out the opposition’s challenge, especially so in the Upper House where it does not have a majority.
With three Lok Sabha MPs and one Rajya Sabha MP, the TDP’s presence in Parliament is marginal but it has tried to ensure that it is not seen against the BJP on key issues.
Several BJP leaders believe that it will be prudent for the party to go solo again as the two regional parties are expected to continue supporting their agenda in case of Prime Minister Narendra Modi retaining power for a third term.

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