The national leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may have been taken aback initially at the abrupt withdrawal of two TDP ministers from the Union government, but is preparing for the next phase that holds promise to grow in Andhra Pradesh before the 2019 general elections. More than the state leaders, it is the national leaders of the BJP who are eager to test the political waters of Andhra Pradesh.
Several senior BJP leaders from Andhra who spoke to The Sunday Guardian are of the view that the party has ample scope for making its presence felt in the state where it can grow on its own. The BJP has attracted a large number of Congress leaders before and during the 2014 elections due to the bifurcation of a combined Andhra Pradesh and they are now happy over the split with TDP.
Several seniors, including former Union ministers Kavuri Sambasiva Rao, Daggubati Purandeswari, her husband and former MP Daggubati Venkateswara Rao and former ministers like Kanna Lakshminarayana, have been disappointed over not being able to contest elections or play an active role in Andhra politics after 2014. They all are now jubilant at the prospect of becoming active again.
BJP MLC and national executive member Somu Veerraju told this newspaper: “All these years, our leaders and cadre were complaining about not being able to grow due to our friendship with the ruling TDP here.”
BJP leaders point to the sudden swing in its votes share from almost zero to 16% in 1998 when Vajpayee was the Prime Minister and the party contested on its own. This sharp rise in vote share had even surprised the party leadership, but the unexpected post-poll alliance with TDP tied the hands of the party in expanding further. In 2014, BJP won just two MPs and four MLAs in alliance with TDP.
“There are several supporters of our party who believe that had we not joined hands with TDP then, our party would have grown to a stature where we become a viable alternative to the people of Andhra,” said P. Vishnu Kumar Raju, BJP leader in the AP Assembly. In the last few months, the BJP leadership has focused on increasing its votes and seats tally in Andhra by building the organisation from the grassroots. BJP national president Amit Shah and general secretary Ram Madhav had addressed several meetings in Andhra in the past two years and vowed to grow bigger before the 2019 elections. Though the party has bright chances to improve its position based on the popularity of PM Modi, it couldn’t due to its alliance with TDP. Leaders like Kanna Lakshminarayana, who joined the party only three years ago, had complained that unless the BJP severs its ties with TDP, it cannot grow in Andhra and the time has come now, they say.
Meanwhile, BJP leaders are furious over AP CM’s comments that TDP hadn’t benefited in any manner due to the alliance with the saffron party. “We leave it to the wisdom of the CM and his ministers for their comments, but everyone knows that TDP came to power in 2014 only because of the image of Narendra Modi,” Purandeswari said.
BJP’s two state ministers who resigned on Thursday—Kamineni Srinivas and P. Manikyala Rao—too are confident of strengthening the party in the next one year. Manikyala Rao told mediapersons in Vijayawada on Friday that by splitting with TDP, the BJP can offer tickets to many of its senior leaders and increase its votes and seats.