Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a last ditch effort to retain the two TDP ministers in his government till as late as Thursday night, but he couldn’t help but accept their resignations on Friday as the BJP leadership realised that no amount of financial assistance or assurances to solve the problems of Andhra Pradesh were going to please Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who seems determined to snap ties with the NDA.
Technically, the TDP remains an ally in the NDA as of now, but the BJP’s senior leaders, who have been trying to manage the Andhra crisis for the last few days, have understood that the southern ally will eventually part ways. “After seeing the hurry with which the TDP left our government at the Centre, we have no confidence that they would stay with the NDA for long,” said BJP MP and AP unit president K. Hari Babu.
Hari Babu, who spoke to The Sunday Guardian, is of the view that CM Naidu should have paid heed to PM Modi’s advice to wait for some more time to solve all outstanding issues through talks. “The PM even called Naidu at 4.30 pm on Thursday and invited him to New Delhi for talks, but the latter insisted that his ministers’ resignations should be accepted,” Hari Babu said.
Several senior BJP leaders told this reporter that both the PM and the party president Amit Shah wanted to retain the TDP ministers and that was why the resignations of the two ministes—P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju (Civil Aviation) and Sujana Chowdary (MoS for Science and Technology) were held back until Friday morning.
They pointed out that Naidu did not give them any chance for a patch up and had accepted the resignations of the two BJP ministers in AP—Kamineni Srinivas (Health) and P. Manikyala Rao (Endowments)—by Thursday evening. Moreover, Naidu had instructed his ministers to ensure that their papers were put in by Thursday evening.
Even when PM Modi spoke to Naidu for 15 minutes on Thursday evening to pacify him with his offer of talks, the latter is understood to have made it clear that the situation had gone out of hand. “I told the PM that if we take back the resignations, people will not trust us,” Naidu is learnt to have told his ministers at an informal chat on Thursday night.
Shah wanted to send BJP general secretary Ram Madhav to Amaravati for talks with Naidu, who politely said this was not the right time to talk. Naidu told both the PM and the BJP leadership that whatever they wanted to do for AP can be done without any talks as TDP was still a part of NDA.
“We are definitely anguished over the sustained campaign against our PM by the TDP leaders including some MPs and MLAs. It was atrocious to project the PM as the betrayer of Andhra,” BJP MLC Somu Veerraju told this newspaper.
According to Veerraju, the BJP national leadership had sensed long ago that Naidu wanted to cut ties. “By quitting the Central government, Naidu wants to make the BJP the scapegoat for his poor performance as CM,” pointed out Veerraju.
The BJP leadership was also annoyed over Naidu’s constant insinuations that the BJP would suffer in the next election the way the Congress had suffered in 2014 when it failed to win even a single Lok Sabha or Assembly seat in AP. Though Hari Babu or Veerraju were not ready to talk on the possible motives behind Naidu’s decision to cut ties with the BJP, sources in the BJP say that the CM has other reasons for his belligerent stance towards the PM. They include the Centre’s refusal to increase the number of Assembly seats from 175 to 225 as was promised in the AP Reorganization Act 2014.
The BJP sources also said that Naidu was unable to digest his reduced importance in the NDA. “He used to enjoy a greater clout during the time Vajpayee led NDA from 1999 to 2014. But the same is not the case with the present government,” said an AP BJP legislator. The BJP leadership is peeved at regular protest demonstrations by several front organisations of the TDP, demanding special status for AP. “Outfits like ‘AP First’ are openly backed by the TDP and these bodies are making abusive references to the BJP,” said BJP legislature party leader Vishnu Raju.