Thursday, December 7, 2023

Ratna Column: Rivalry for CM post may mar solitary goal of oppn in AP

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Of course, an opposition front is shaping up in Andhra Pradesh following the dramatic announcement of an alliance between the Telugu Desam Party(TDP) and the Jana Sena Party(JSP). However, with leaders from both sides indirectly claiming the prerogative of chief ministership; there is confusion among the cadres of the two parties and in other circles as to what will happen if the opposition combine is voted to power in the upcoming elections.

This confusion may affect their common goal of unseating the YSRCP government headed by YS Jaganmohan Reddy, who had stormed to power bagging 151 out of the total 175 seats in the AP Legislative Assembly in the last elections. As things stand, YSRCP may not be able to repeat, leave alone better, its performance in the coming elections due to the changed political circumstances. For,two formidable opposition parties have already joined hands with the sole purpose of defeating YSRCP. Jagan’s refrain ‘Why not 175’, intended to weaken the confidence of the opposition camp, may not hold water.

In the combined AP, the Congress party was a mighty political force that dominated the erstwhile state until the emergence of the TDP in 1982. The TDP scripted history, while the Congress was decimated in 1983 as people saw in TDP a viable alternative under the leadership of actor and TDP founder N T Rama Rao, who capitalised on the misrule of the Congress that had become notorious for indiscriminately changing heads of the government. In this context, the triumph of YS Jaganmohan Reddy in 2019 can be equated with phenomenal yesteryear victories. Things have changed.

Presently, the opposition combine’s objective of not splitting perceived anti-Jagan votes can be realised only if, inter alia, their message to the electorate on chief ministership is unambiguous. Cadres of both parties believe that the alliance can effectively take on the YSRCP, going by the voting pattern in the last Assembly polls.

TDP president Chandrababu Naidu, prior to his arrest in the AP skill development scam case,had vowed to bring the derailed administration back on tracks again “after becoming chief minister again” and calledupon voters to vote for TDP to ensure overall development of the state. Even after his arrest, his party leaders are stressing that their leader Naidu would take the reins of the state. After announcing JSP’s alliance with TDP, Pawan Kalyan has hogged the limelight, indicating he would be a natural choice for the chief ministerpost, should the opposition combine win.  The unintended consequence of Naidu’s incarceration is that Pawan Kalyan appears to have emerged as a possible future ruler of AP. He has maintained that he cannot attain the positionwithout proper strength and expressed his confidence that he would work in that direction.

In view of the judicial remand of Naidu, TDP has decided to ask its cadre to participate in the fourth round of Vaaraahi Yatra of Pawan Kalyan that began two days ago. Otherwise, the party is missing the media spotlight that Naidu has drawn on and off since 1995.
The only solace for TDP now is the sympathy factor that can work to the advantage of the combine. Naidu can afford to project himself as future CM only if he comes out of the present case without any stigma of corruption.

Amidst all this, rival claims for chief ministership, whether covert or overt,  may mar the combine’s common goal of defeating YSRCP.

There is a view that restoring normalcy in the financially battered state requires an experienced hand. If Pawan agrees with this view, in the interests of state, he may extend support to Naidu, regardless of who among them becomes the CM in the eventuality of the combine’s victory.

Pawan has decided to go with the TDP but wants to do it without losing his friendship with the BJP, which has been in power at the Centre. Left parties are also looking for an electoral understanding. Pawan may be open to an alliance that includes BJP.

In this backdrop, the emerging situation may be a throwback to the 1984 Lok Sabha elections, when NTR steered a united opposition that included both Left parties as well as the BJP. Replicating NTR’s experiment may be useful for Naidu as well as Pawan when it comes to their task of unseating Jagan.

The TDP-JSP alliance will have an impact also in Telangana, where JSP is planning to contest 32 Assembly seats. The presence of BJP will give heft to the TDP-JSP alliance, going by the outcome of the 2014 elections at granular levels in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts.

So, unless there is clarity among both JSP and TDP about chief ministership, the combine could suffer damage to its unified goal of defeating YSRCP. Lack of clarity would be advantageous for YSRCP. Until the combine took shape, Jagan had begged people to give him ‘anotheropportunity’ to rule the state. Today, he is boldly ridiculing opposition parties for wanting to grab power with the sole purpose of robbing the state.

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