Friday, December 1, 2023

Ratna Column: Stocktaking period for major political players in AP

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Key political players in Andhra Pradesh viz. ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), and new entrant Jana Sena Party (JSP) are now bracing up individually to make the most of the forthcoming Assembly elections, with the D-Day in March — the month in which they coincidentally share their Formation Day– expected to provide the impetus for vigorous action.

The YSRCP is bent upon retainment power at ‘any cost’. The TDP, after having licked its wounds in the wake of its humiliating defeat at the hands of YSRCP in the previous election, is itching to regain its previous glory. The JSP is hoping to get a ‘chance’ this time on the presumption that people have already given opportunity to TDP and YSRCP post bifurcation. The imminent changes in political equations are causing a flutter among political circles as well as the public.

Opposition parties are working to ensure that there is no split in the perceived ‘anti- YSRCP votes’. The YSRCP, on its part, is watching the situation closely as there is distinct possibility of an alliance between the other two opposition parties. So, it has been instigating the two opposition parties to fight the upcoming elections individually or contest all the 175 seats in the AP Legislative Assembly. YSRCP supremo and Chief Minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy is trying to drive home the point that the two parties cannot fight elections individually.

The JSP had fought the Assembly polls individually in 2019, though it did contest in all 175 seats. It secured only one seat — Razole (SC) in the combined East Godavari district. JSP president and actor Pawan Kalyan suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of YSRCP candidates in both the two seats from where he had contested. That apart, JSP faced another humiliation when its lone member in APLA switched loyalties to the ruling party ostensibly for ‘overall development’ of his constituency.

The only common factor among the three political parties is that their Formation Day falls in March. While Jagan founded YSRCP and Pawan Kalyan founded JSP, Chandrababu Naidu has took over the mantle of TDP from NT Rama Rao, who launched the party on 29 March 1982 in Hyderabad. Within nine months of its inception, TDP created history by coming to power. Naidu ruled the combined state of AP for eight and half years and residual AP five years.

The country in fact had no recognised opposition party in the 8th Lok Sabha during 1984-89, as the Congress headed by Rajiv Gandhi had swept the polls by securing 400-plus seats duty to the sympathy wave. However, NTR could buck the trend and get votes in his favour. So, TDP was unofficially the main opposition party (without recognition as such since only a party that gets 10% of the total 543 seats in the House can be recognised as opposition) with 30 seats. This had made TDP popular and enabled NTR to become chairman of the National Front that was formed on 18 August 1988 in Madras (now Chennai) to fight against the Congress party. But NTR lost power in AP in the same capacity in the 1989 elections.

SRCP is now trying to strip TDP of its principal opposition status in the Assembly by working to reduce its strength to below 10% of the total strength.

Jagan had launched YSRCP using the legacy of his father and former chief minister Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy. Slowly he has built his own image since YSRCP took birth in 2012 at Pulivendula constituency on 12 March — on the day when Mahatma Gandhi launched the historic Salt Satyagraha in 1930 at Dandi in Gujarat. YSRCP could not grab power when it faced elections for the first time in 2014. Later, YSRCP scaled new heights in AP politics by securing 151 seats out of 175.

JSP was launched on 14 March 2014 by Pawan Kalyan. But the party did not contest elections in the same year as Pawan had declared his party’s unconditional support to BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Soon he had differences with BJP over its denial of Special Category Status (SCS) to AP and other key issues.

In 2019, Pawan reviewed his earlier decision and decided to join hands with Modi again. Now he is being treated as true election partner of BJP in AP. Yet, Pawan is advocating unity among opposition parties to unseat YSRCP. On JSP’s Foundation Day this year, Pawan may be forthcoming on his party’s probable alliance with opposition parties, particularly TDP.

The cadres of the three major political parties are on tenterhooks in the absence of clues on the final political line-up for the 2024 elections. Regardless of which party the voters would ultimately bless, the core issues for Andhra Pradesh would remain SCS, Capital issue, and completion of Polavaram project. Voters require a healing touch. They need to witness real development with marked improvement in the standard of their living.

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