The Telugu Desam Party, a key ally of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, will seek more berths when Prime Minister Narendra Modi reshuffles his Cabinet, possibly after the monsoon session of Parliament. The TDP wants that Union Minister of State (MoS) for Science and Technology Sujana Chowdary should be accorded independent charge, besides an additional junior level berth.
Sources in the TDP told this newspaper that the election of M. Venkaiah Naidu as the Vice President of India has created a void in Andhra Pradesh politics and hence there has to be a strong presence of an Andhra leader in the Union Cabinet. A TDP Rajya Sabha member told this reporter that although Venkaiah Naidu was a meber of the Upper House of Parliament, he was an effective voice in protecting the interests of the state.
Currently, the TDP, which has 15 members in the Lok Sabha and five in the Rajya Sabha, has two ministers at the Centre—P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju (Cabinet rank) and Chowdary, with MoS rank. The party leadership always spares Gajapathi Raju the routine grind of political work at the Centre.
For all practical purposes, Chowdary is deputed to represent the AP government’s official work with the Centre. Chowdary is not only a close confidant of Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, but also is known for his aggressive follow-up of issues related to the state. Chowdary was instrumental in securing a Rs 2.25 lakh crore economic package for AP last year, albeit with Venkaiah Naidu’s support.
CM Naidu is understood to have indicated to BJP president Amit Shah and senior ministers at the Centre that promoting Chowdary to Cabinet rank (or with independent charge) would be more effective in furthering AP’s interests in the coming two years. In the absence of Venkaiah Naidu, Chowdary needs elevated status at the Centre to meet the PM and other senior ministers. Naidu is keen on inducting one more face into the Union Council of Ministers at a junior level, in tune with the party’s overall strength in Parliament. The CM is pushing the name of Kakinada MP Thota Narasimham, currently the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha. Narasimham, a two-time MLA and former minister, is a cost accountant. Narasimham’s induction into the Union government would serve a political purpose as he hails from the predominant Kapu community. Currently, Kapus are agitating for OBC status in AP. Former minister Mudragada Padmanabham, who is leading the stir, is aligned with YSR Congress chief Jagan. Naidu thinks Narasimham’s elevation would satisfy the Kapus, sources said.