Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N. Chandrababu Naidu is tightlipped on sparing a Rajya Sabha seat for Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for her re-election from the state. He appears to be readying for a tough bargaining with the BJP leadership on supporting her candidature which is likely to be finalised in a couple of days.
Naidu is planning to ask for at least two Governor posts and two or three key nominated posts in the Central government. Sources close to the CM told The Sunday Guardian that he was, in fact, promised by the BJP leadership two years ago that at least one Governor post will be filled with a senior TDP leader. But till now it has not been fulfilled.
Naidu is also unhappy with the BJP-led NDA government in which the TDP, too, is a constituent, for not being offered any nominated posts in any of the over 100 Central Public Sector Undertakings or other bodies. Presently, Naidu is busy with his party’s three-day annual conference, Mahanadu (mega-convention), which began on Friday in temple town Tirupati. Naidu wanted to announce candidates for three RS seats, which he can easily win, by Friday or Saturday as the last date for filing nominations is 31 May. But as there is uncertainty over Nirmala Sitharaman’s seat, he couldn’t do so. Sources said that BJP president Amit Shah is likely to talk to Naidu by Saturday and clinch the issue. Most probably, she will get re-nomination from AP, sources said. Though Naidu wanted to discuss the Nirmala Sitharaman issue with Amit Shah when they both met at the swearing-in ceremony of Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in Guwahati this week, they couldn’t find time for it.
TDP national general secretary and Naidu’s son Lokesh told the media in Tirupati on Thursday that the BJP leadership hasn’t raised the issue of Nirmala’s re-election from AP.
However, senior BJP leader and Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu expressed hope that the issue would be resolved amicably in a couple of days. He told the media in Vijayawada on Thursday that the issue would be solved once Amit Shah speaks to CM Naidu. Venkaiah said that the BJP and TDP should sort out all differences through talks. Nirmala’s husband Parakala Prabhakar is an adviser to the AP government.
Nirmala Sitharaman was elected to the Rajya Sabha from AP two years ago in a byelection to the seat which fell vacant due to the death of former Chief Minister N. Janardhana Reddy. Now, she is expecting to be re-elected from one of the four seats that fall vacant by the end of next month. Union Science and Technology Minister Y.S. (Sujana) Chowdary is another TDP member retiring now.
The other two retiring members are: Jairam Ramesh and J.D. Seelam, both from Congress. But as the Congress has no presence in the AP Assembly, the party has no scope of fighting the RS election from AP. With about 105 MLAs (including five of BJP), TDP has the capacity to bag three RS seats (each seat needs 41 MLA votes), while another seat will go to YSR Congress which has 67 MLAs originally.
YSR Congress president Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy fielded his trusted lieutenant and auditor V. Vijaya Sai Reddy for an RS seat, which he can win easily. Interestingly, Vijaya Sai Reddy is mentioned as an accused in 12 charge-sheets filed by CBI in Jagan’s illegal assets cases. Till now, 20 MLAs from YSR Congress have defected to TDP, but technically they cannot violate the whip of the party in the RS elections.
Even after re-nominating Nirmala Sitharaman and Chowdary, Naidu will have one more ticket to allot to a TDP leader for RS seat. There is speculation on who would be allotted that ticket. AP Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, former Assembly Speaker K. Pratibha Bharati and newly defected YSR Congress leader M.V. Mysoora Reddy are among the contenders.
In neighbouring Telangana, TRS president and CM, K. Chandrasekhar Rao announced the candidacy of his party leaders — Captain V. Lakshmikant Rao and D. Srinivas — for the two vacancies. Congress member V. Hanumanth Rao and TDP member (later defected to TRS) Gundu Sudha Rani are those retiring. As Congress has just 19 MLAs (including five defected to TRS), both TRS candidates will easily win.