It was under pressure from BJP president Amit Shah that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu refrained from fielding one more candidate in the current Rajya Sabha elections from AP to defeat arch rival Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress nominee V. Vijaya Sai Reddy. The BJP was apprehensive that a last minute struggle for an extra RS seat would involve attracting defectors from YSR Congress, which may hit the image of the ruling coalition in the state.
Top sources in the BJP told this newspaper that Amit Shah had unambiguously conveyed his opposition to any kind of “political drama in AP” at a time when the TDP-BJP combine has no more votes than what can get them three RS seats. “Our president conveyed this to the CM through a party channel and also through Union minister Venkaiah Naidu,” said a senior BJP leader preferring anonymity.
Senior TDP leaders also confirmed that the BJP leadership was against any uncertain contest in the RS biennial elections as it would have an impact on the state and the Central leadership. But TDP MLA Bhuma Nagi Reddy (who defected from YSR Congress two months ago) said: “Even otherwise, our CM had second thoughts about TDP contesting the election on a fourth seat and finally he decided not to.”
As a result, all the four candidates who had filed their papers for the Upper House were declared elected unopposed. They are: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu (BJP), Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Y.S. Chowdary (TDP), T.G. Venkatesh (TDP) and V. Vijaya Sai Reddy (YSR Congress).
This is for the first time that YSR Congress will have representation in the Rajya Sabha since the party was formed five years ago. In the faction ridden AP politics, the TDP chief was under pressure from his own party leaders to see that Jagan did not get an RS seat. Jagan has six members in the Lok Sabha. Moreover, Vijaya Sai Reddy is a trusted lieutenant and auditor of Jagan.
The minimum number of MLAs’ first preference votes needed for an RS candidate to win from AP is 40. Jagan currently has 49 MLAs with him, even after 18 of his MLAs having defected to TDP in the last few months. The TDP and BJP combine has 108 MLAs (TDP 104 and BJP four MLAs) in the Assembly of 175.
In the usual course, the TDP-BJP combine doesn’t have any surplus votes to win an extra seat. But thanks to the defection of 18 MLAs (till Thursday) from YSR Congress, the TDP leaders wanted to field one more candidate in order to deny Jagan’s party the chance to win an RS seat.
Vijayawada West MLA Jaleel Khan, who defected from YSR Congress to TDP told The Sunday Guardian on phone from Vijayawada that there were feelers from some YSR Congress MLAs that they were not interested in voting for Vijaya Sai Reddy who has never been active in the party and that they would back the ruling party if a candidate was fielded.
However, Khan said the CM left the matter to the 18 YSR Congress MLAs who had joined him. “He (Naidu) told us to decide on fielding one more candidate from our side so that Jagan’s candidate would be defeated. But we couldn’t rustle up another 12 MLAs to our side,” said Khan.
Naidu was toying with the idea of fielding one more candidate from his side till 30 May but later changed his mind. A senior TDP minister told this newspaper that the CM changed his mind due to two reasons—lack of guaranteed number of MLAs from YSR Congress and, second, the pressure coming from the BJP leadership against any political scheming.