Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party president, N. Chandrababu Naidu has decided to hold a meeting of regional parties in New Delhi in the last week of July. Buoyed by the outcome of the recent byelections across the country, the CM is busy identifying leaders who can be invited for the gathering, which is expected to set the tone for next year’s general elections. Sources close to the Chief Minister told this newspaper that the meeting would be planned around the time of the monsoon session of Parliament, which is likely to start from the last week of July, or early August. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had shown their interest in the conclave, said AP Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu.
Naidu was particularly happy over the BJP’s defeat in Uttar Pradesh’s Kairana Lok Sabha byelection and shared his joy with senior ministers and party leaders who were with him in Amaravati on Thursday and Friday. He told them that this was the opportune time to cobble together a coalition of regional parties at the national level. Naidu believes that without winning Uttar Pradesh, the BJP cannot come to power again in 2019.
According to TDP leaders who met Naidu, the latter justified his friendly pat on the back of Congress president Rahul Gandhi at the swearing in ceremony of Karnataka CM H.D. Kumaraswamy in Bengaluru last month, saying that as long as Congress was with the regional parties there was nothing wrong in maintaining relations with the party.
The AP CM observed on Saturday “Nava Nirmala Deeksha” (Rebuilding Andhra) in protest against what he called the unscientific division of the combined AP four years ago on this day. Naidu has been observing June as a mark of protest against the bifurcation of AP. In the neighbouring Telangana, the day is celebrated as Telangana formation day.
The Chief Minister attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing an official function to mark the protest in Amaravati on Saturday. He accused the BJP-led government at the Centre of going back on its promises to Andhra in the last four years. “We joined the BJP led NDA with the hope that the people of Andhra would get justice, but our hopes were belied,” said Naidu.
Referring to reports on his possible move to float a regional parties’ front at the national level and repeat the United Front experiment, Naidu said: “I know what to do and when to do. Unlike some (Telangana CM KCR), I won’t make tall claims on floating a third front or national front, but I will play a key role at the Centre after the 2019 elections.”
The TDP president again made it clear that he was not interested in the PM post, adding that someone who would be acceptable to the regional parties in the country would be awarded that position. Naidu interpreted the “surge” of the regional parties as the failure of national parties in fulfilling the aspirations of the people from different states. “The national parties have lost their relevance in our country,” he said.
Naidu mentioned the revolt of Shiv Sena against the BJP in Maharashtra and predicted that the NDA would not have with it any big parties in the coming months and that Biju Janata Dal in Orissa too would fall in line with the other regional players. “I am the senior most serving Chief Minister in India and I know how to organise the regional parties into a front,” he boasted.
According to sources close to him, Naidu wants to force the Congress into supporting a coalition of regional parties at the Centre, if they can manage enough seats to form government after the 2019 elections. “Congress may have their plans, but we have our own plans,” said a senior AP minister who preferred not to be quoted.
Naidu will hold several protest meetings throughout the week, until 8 June as part of Nava Nirmana Deeksha, telling the people of Andhra Pradesh on how the Centre had done injustice to the state on various fronts like the building of the capital city, the irrigation sector and railway zone. The CM on Saturday made students and youths take a pledge that they would fight against the Centre to achieve a special status for Andhra.