Before Lok Sabha Polls, Jagan Reddy, Chandrababu Naidu In BJP Huddles


Ahead of a Lok Sabha election in a few weeks and a simultaneous state poll, it seems a swayamvar on in Delhi as the ruling BJP decides on a match from Andhra Pradesh. Less than 24 hours after Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu met Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP boss JP Nadda, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy travelled to Delhi and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On the face of it, Mr Reddy is meeting the Prime Minister to discuss Special Category status for his state – a long-standing demand of his YSR Congress Party and the TDP – central funds and other issues. Analysts, however, say the meeting suggests the BJP is in its customary watch-and-wait mode, weighing its options before committing to either side (or remaining neutral) before the elections.

Most likely, any understanding between the BJP and either the YSRCP or the TDP (which is allied, in the state, with actor Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena, a member of the BJP-led national alliance) will be informal, which the regional parties may prefer since a formal tie-up risks them losing minority votes.

That, interestingly, means neither Jagan Mohan Reddy nor Chandrababu Naidu wants the swayamvar to end with a public marriage; a private handshake might be the preferred outcome.

That could be what the BJP wants too, despite Mr Modi’s party not being a political force in the state; it was routed in the 2019 Assembly election, failing to win a single seat despite contesting all 173 in play.

A formal alliance with either party might be seen as favourable but that comes with its own challenges, the biggest of which is seat-sharing. Neither the YSRCP nor the TDP will be very keen on surrendering seats to the saffron party, because it reduces their potential contested seats-to-win ratio.

And the BJP, given its poor record from five years ago, and its big defeat in neighbouring Telangana in November last year, may not be in the strongest bargaining position.

So while a backroom deal seems more likely, Chandrababu Naidu’s chances of winning that support is seen as lesser than that of his state rival. The BJP, it seems, has been giving him the cold shoulder because of the way he walked out of the party-led National Democratic Alliance, twice.

The last time was in 2018, when he was under pressure from Mr Reddy on the Special Category status issue. Back then the BJP had said the “doors are closed forever (for the Andhra Pradesh party)”.

Also, Mr Naidu has been on the backfoot with court cases filed against him and he will, therefore, prefer the party in power at the centre on his side. So he has been making overtures to the BJP.

That might leave Mr Reddy in the lead, but he is likely to only want ‘associate member’ status.

Mr Reddy, in fact, is very clear he wants only the best possible outcome for his state; he has said, as he did before the 2019 Lok Sabha poll too, he hopes no party gets a clear majority in the national election, so Andhra Pradesh has leeway to negotiate with whichever alliance forms the central government.

Ultimately, it seems the BJP will win regardless of which way the Andhra Pradesh voters lean.

Its strength in the state will come, as some analysts have remarked, from ‘B’ (for Chandrababu Naidu), ‘J’ (for Jagan Mohan Reddy), and ‘P’ for Pawan Kalyan, because all three are ready to back the BJP.

Meanwhile, in the BJP camp opinion is divided on how the party should progress and if, in fact, there should be any alliance in Andhra Pradesh. One lobby, which including its state unit boss Daggubati Purandeswari, wants an alliance. Another feels going solo is a chance to establish itself in the state.

That reasoning is based on the fact the Congress, which like the BJP has been nearly non-existent in the state since 2014, is trying to revive its fortunes, and is banking on Mr Reddy’s sister, YS Sharmila.

READ | YS Sharmila, Congress’ Weapon For Andhra Pradesh Polls, Gets Big Post

Ms Reddy, who has been made the party’s state boss.

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