TDP-BJP Split is a Battle for Supremacy in Andhra, not for SCS

When Telugu Desam Party (TDP) Chief Chandrababu Naidu pulled out his ministers from the Modi government a week ago, little did he anticipate that his hands would be forced by bête noire Y S Jagan Reddy in a little over seven days. Naidu had withdrawn his ministers ostensibly over the Modi government’s categorical no to confer a special category status (SCS) to Andhra Pradesh, but in actuality, it was to steal a march over Jagan Reddy.

If accepted, this will be the first no-confidence motion moved against the Modi-government. The TDP has called for a politburo meeting in Amaravati on Friday, 16 March evening.

Jagan Reddy is now on a padayatra-styled Praja Sankalpa Yatra across Andhra, and has completed 112 days. Naidu averred that the ‘Jagan yatra’ would garner political mileage for the latter. This would make it difficult for Naidu at the polls next year when both general and state assembly elections would be held.

Also Read: BJP Means ‘Break Janta Promise’, Says TDP After Party Quits NDA

Arun Jaitley (L), Chandrababu Naidu (R).

The TDP has been forced to support the motion and now, in a move to wrest the initiative, has decided to move a no-confidence resolution itself. “The TDP now has no option. How can we continue in NDA after moving a no-confidence motion against the government?” asked a TDP leader.

Naidu has summoned a meeting of the TDP politburo at 5 PM on 16 March, to formally pull out of the NDA. But now, the decision has been advanced overnight, in a bid to wrest the control.

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Although the no-confidence motion, even if accepted, will not exactly shake the Modi government, Jagan is planning to up the ante and has announced that his party MPs will resign from Lok Sabha on 6 April.

Also Read: 'TDP's exit signals opportunity for BJP to grow in Andhra'

Reddy-Naidu Tension

Despite surveys by TDP showing no increase in Jagan’s popularity, what has set alarm bells ringing is the revelation by the same survey that Naidu’s rating is plummeting. Naidu always knew that the Modi government would never give an SCS to Andhra Pradesh and he kept quoting a statement by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the floor of Rajya Sabha in February 2014 while piloting the bill for the creation of Telangana.

Singh had said that residuary Andhra Pradesh would be granted SCS for five years. But this promise was never incorporated in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act. Therefore, there was nothing binding about this promise.

But politicians across the board who are possibly feeling guilty that they could not prevent the bifurcation of integrated Andhra Pradesh and prevent the ‘loss’ of Hyderabad that went to Telangana, have continued to harp on an SCS. Their continual chant has created a situation where it has become an intense emotional issue and the man on the street feels (albeit wrongly) that SCS is a panacea for Andhra Pradesh. SCS gets 90 percent funding for centrally sponsored schemes as against 60 percent for other states.

TDP supremo and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu.

Last week, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley however, reiterated that it was not possible for the government to confer an SCS to Andhra Pradesh and this gave an excuse to Naidu to walk out of the NDA government as also to Jagan to give notice for moving a no- confidence motion.

Also Read: TDP exits NDA, decides to move no-trust motion

Naidu’s Reluctance to Quit NDA

Naidu, who has engineered defections of both MLAs and MPs from Jagan’s YSR Congress, is apprehensive of the latter because of historical reasons. In 2003, Jagan’s father Y S Rajasekhara Reddy undertook a padayatra and in the ensuing elections, Sitting Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu was unseated.

MLAs and MPs of Jagan’s party were lured into TDP, and a few became ministers too. But the speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly did precious little to enforce the anti- defection law. A petition is now pending in the Hyderabad High Court (that serves both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana).

YSR Congress Chief Jagan Reddy.

Naidu was not keen to move out of NDA because he does not trust the Modi-Amit Shah duo. Highly-placed sources say that he avers that the duo can enter into a tacit alliance with the YSR Congress. “If he remained in NDA it would be difficult for BJP to jettison TDP which has been its ally for two decades,” a TDP leader reasoned.

However, Modi is not known to be enamoured with Naidu what with the latter’s undisguised display of antipathy for the former as late as 2013. This was the time Modi was getting named as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. Naidu had said that somebody with the ‘mentality of Modi was not acceptable’ (as Prime Minister).

Also Read: What is the ‘Special Category Status’ That Andhra Pradesh Wants?

Earlier on in 2002, Naidu had demanded the removal of Modi after the Gujarat riots. Naidu, who was an important player during the time of the Vajpayee regime, has had frosty relations with Modi ever since he became prime minister.

Jagan’s move to pull out MPs from Lok Sabha will force the hands of Naidu. “It is not a battle for SCS, it is a battle for supremacy in Andhra Pradesh. If Jagan withdraws his MPs, Naidu will have little choice but to follow suit,” remarked a former director general of police who is a keen political watcher.

(The writer is former Resident Editor of the Ahmedabad edition of the Times of India. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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