Friday, December 1, 2023

Ratna Column: ‘Coin’ factor presages possible TDP-BJP alliance!

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The release of a special coin of Rs 100 denomination to commemorate the legendary Telugu actor and four-time chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh late N T Rama Rao during his birth centenary year presages possible alliance between the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); of course,including the Jana Sena Party(JSP) headed by actor Pawan Kalyan, who politically has been sailing with the ruling party at the Centre. Thus, a ‘united opposition’ may take on the ruling YSR Congress Party, seeking a clear mandate of the people of Andhra Pradesh.

YSRCP, founded by YSR’s son YS Jaganmohan Reddy, has of course attained a very strong position by absorbing most of the cadre of Congress. In fact, the cadre strength of the Congress has enabled YSRCP to deepen its roots in the state. With 151seats in the Assembly, YSRCP has become a formidable force in the state.

After YSRCP swept the Local Bodies’ polls, rival parties in the state, including the principal opposition TDP, realised that they cannot face the ruling party individually. Amid mutual overtures for an alliance, the release of the NTR coin has virtually cemented their position as a unifiable force.

Given the present positions of the BJP and the YSRCP at the Centre and in the state respectively, the saffron party can either avoid an alliance altogether or tie up with the party having potential to win the maximum number of Lok Sabha seats from AP. In the present situation, it could be YSRCP or TDP. Both need the support of the ruling party ruling at the national level.

Today, the TDP leans heavily on NTR’s legacy. The founding-president of the TDP, despite being dethroned by a breakaway faction led by N. Chandrababu Naidu, is still worshipped as a great personality by most of the party’s cadre. It has become inevitable for the Naidu-led TDP to use latch on to NTR’s legacy.

Naidu, despite strategic moves, could not erase the memories of NTR among the cadre. Now that the legacy of NTR is poised to bringTDP and BJP together for electoral benefits, the relations of the ruling party at the national level and the regional parties in AP will dependon the winnability of sizeable Lok Sabha seats through strategic co-operation. The regional party that has potential to bag the maximum number of LS seats will embrace the ruling party at the Centre.

Political compulsions often drive parties ruling at the Centre to go for tie-ups at regional levels. For example, in Telangana, BJP appears willing to see the decimation of the Congress party, while considering the ruling Bharata Rastra Samiti as a lesser evil in the state. In view of the Congress’ stellar performance in the recent Karnataka Assembly polls, the BJP is believed to have decided to ensure that the Congress does not return to power in TS at any cost.For, victory of the Congressin the General Election in Telangana would mean the grand old party’s ascendance at the Centre as well and that would be suicidal for the saffron party. Hence, BJP appears inclined to sacrifice its political interests in TS. BJP now has four LS seats in TS and not even one in AP. A quarter century back, the BJP bagged two LS seats on its own strength in the combined Andhra Pradesh in the 1998 mid-term LS polls. The BJP won seven LS seats in the 1999 General Election. Driven to the wall now, the BJP appears to be keen in contesting in AP, alongwith alliance partners, if only to retain its predominant position in New Delhi.

Only time will tell how far the BJP would go forward in fulfilling its strategy for a better future in AP. For the time being, the BJP may respond in a positive manner if a specific request comes from NTR’s family for conferring Bharat Ratna on the legendary figure who has influenced generations in film industry and politics.

Amidst the BJP’s dalliance with TDP, JSP is another possible alliance partner of theemerging combine. Pawan himself has advocated the dire need to avoid splitting the perceived anti-establishment votes. The goal of the probablecombine is clear: every vote against the ruling party must come to the united opposition.

There are many constituencies across the state where the combined votes polled by TDP and JSP in 2019 were more than those polled by YSRCP. This crucial element is causing worries to the ruling party. So, it has been taunting Pawan to take on Jagan individually. Yet, Pawan has so far kept his cards close to his chest.

NTR, during his rule in the combined AP, united the Opposition to fight the mighty Congress in the December 1984 Lok Sabha elections. Today, his legacy continues to be the binding factor for opposition unity against the ruling dispensation in Andhra Pradesh.

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