YSR Congress president Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has made it clear that he is open to joining hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) before or after the next elections, provided the party backs his single point agenda of granting special status to Andhra Pradesh. “We are ready to work with the BJP, if the party is ready to consider our main agenda of special status,” he told a gathering of villagers in Andhra Pradesh on Saturday.
Jagan, who began a 3,000 km padayatra on 6 November, appeared before the CBI court in Nampally in Hyderabad on Friday and resumed his walkathon from Potladurthi village in his native Kadapa district on Saturday morning. “I am listening to you all who face a variety of problems and I am sure all these problems can be solved, if only we get special status,” he said amid cheers from the public. He outlined his political strategy for the next elections by making it clear that he would be open to working with BJP, if the party concedes his demand for special status. “We will put only one condition, that is special status, and anyone who wants to be with us will have to agree to it,” he said, without spelling out whether there were any talks in this regard.
Jagan, who spoke to select media persons including this newspaper before commencing the padayatra, said that he had no differences with Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the BJP at the Centre. “I am willing to go for an electoral alliance with the BJP if they agree to special status for AP,” he said, without going into whether the BJP was ready to cut its ties with TDP, an NDA constituent. Jagan appears to be keen on going with BJP, if the saffron party is willing, to achieve his main demand of special status, as was promised by then PM Manmohan Singh during the passage of AP bifurcation Bill in Rajya Sabha in March 2014. “We have to take the Centre’s help to get the status and for me, nothing is more important than the interests of our people,” he said. Sources close to Jagan said that he sent feelers to the BJP top brass in June that he was willing for an alliance with the party and was ready to offer more than half of the 25 Lok Sabha seats from AP. The TDP offered only six LS seats to BJP in the last elections and the party won 2 MPs. Jagan has been supporting the Modi government on almost all issues, including demonetisation and GST. However, TDP is confident that the BJP would not leave them and their handsome wins in Nandyal Assembly by-election and Kakinada Municipal Corporation three months ago, was a testimony to the ruling party’s popularity with people.
“Our relationship with the BJP is time-tested and we will definitely fight together next elections,” said TDP general secretary Varla Ramaiah. Jagan’s aides are also confident that the BJP would go by the overwhelming response from the public to the ongoing padayatra and decide their future poll partner. YSR Congress leaders are viewing the recent objections expressed by Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari to the price escalation of the Polavaram irrigation project as a sign of the widening gap between BJP and TDP. Jagan’s 44 MLAs have boycotted the ongoing winter session of Assembly, protesting delay in disqualification of their 20 MLAs defected to TDP.