Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party president N. Chandrababu Naidu is toying with the idea of joining hands with the Congress in Telangana for the coming elections. After voting for the Congress candidate in the election of the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman, Naidu dropped enough hints that he was not averse to have a strategic tie-up with the Congress.
However, at the same time, Naidu is not keen on having a seat adjustment with the Congress in Andhra Pradesh where his party is in power. In Andhra, the Congress will have to fight on its own or go with other smaller parties, including the Left and Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena, according to some senior leaders in the Telangana unit of the TDP.
These leaders, who are in touch with Naidu, say that the Congress is interested in joining hands with the TDP in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, so as to improve its tally in the Lok Sabha as well as dethrone the Telangana Rashtra Samithi government from the state. Oommen Chandy, Congress in-charge of Andhra Pradesh and former Kerala Chief Minister, has sent feelers to the TDP leaders to this extent, sources said.
By directing his six Rajya Sabha members to vote for Congress candidate B.K. Hariprasad in the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman election on 9 August, Naidu took a historic turn in the party’s journey, as this was the first such move by his party in the last two decades.
Since it was founded by the late N.T. Rama Rao in 1983, TDP has scrupulously followed an anti-Congress ideology and never openly voted for the party.
When the issue came for discussion within the TDP hours before the voting in the Rajya Sabha, Naidu made it clear that his goal was to fight the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre and for this he would go to any extent, including joining hands with his traditional enemy, the Congress. Naidu was angry with what he sees as a bond between the BJP and Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress.
Though the YSR Congress initially announced that it would vote for the Congress in the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman election—as the BJP made it clear that it would not be possible to grant special status to Andhra—its leader Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy later changed his stand and asked his two MPs to abstain from voting. According to Naidu, this sudden change in Jagan Mohan Reddy was due to pressure mounted by the BJP leadership.
The Congress in Telangana is confident of taking on TRS president and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) on its own, but a section of its leaders are doubtful over their capacity to win a simple majority in the Assembly. This section in the Congress is arguing for a tie-up with the TDP if necessary. The Telangana TDP unit is eager for a seat adjustment with the Congress as it cannot win many seats on its own.
TDP’s Telangana unit president L. Ramana told The Sunday Guardian on Saturday that the decision on seat sharing in the state would be taken by Naidu at an appropriate time. Ramana, however, appeared to be sure of some sort of an understanding with the Congress as TDP’s support to B.K. Hariprasad was a game-changer. Congress’ Telangana leaders refused to comment on this issue as it was “too early to do so”.
Interestingly, some TRS ministers have already launched a campaign against Congress that it was planning to join hands with the TDP, which was still “doing injustice to Telangana”. At a public meeting in Mahabubnagar last week, a senior minister from TRS, T. Harish Rao asked voters to teach a lesson to the Congress if it went with the TDP, an “anti-Telangana party”, in the next elections.