HYDERABAD: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu has shocked Congress president Rahul Gandhi by making it clear that the two parties will have to go separately in both the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections later this summer. Congress was expecting a pre-poll alliance with TDP in Andhra, which accounts for 25 LS seats and 175 MLAs.
In fact, the Congress and TDP contested together along with two other parties—the Telangana Jana Samithi and CPI—in the “Mahakutami” (grand alliance) in Telangana two months ago, but failed miserably. At the time of the Telangana Assembly elections, the Congress proposed to Naidu to continue with an alliance in Andhra, too, and the latter agreed to examine it.
However, the subsequent developments like the defeat in Telangana and the decision of BSP chief Mayawati and SP supremo Akhilesh Yadav to exclude Congress from their alliance in Uttar Pradesh have made an impact on Naidu who changed his mind and decided to say no to Rahul Gandi. Initially, Congress wanted to ask for eight MPs and 25 to 30 MLAs in AP.
At the same time, Naidu is keen on roping in Tollywood star Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena, which has been drawing crowds at public rallies, on the ground that there were many similarities between the two parties. So far, Pawan Kalyan hasn’t reacted to the invitation and announced that he would decide on it soon. Pawan Kalyan has also been invited by the BJP to float a front in Andhra.
Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president N. Raghuveera Reddy confirmed to this newspaper that there might not be any alliance with TDP and that his party was ready to go it alone in the coming elections. He refused to say more on this, saying that the matter of alliances would be decided by the high command and that they would go with it.
At a meeting of Congress chaired by AICC-in-charge and former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy at Vijayawada on Thursday, several senior leaders wanted to know why the Congress was unable to clinch a deal with Naidu’s TDP at a time when both the parties had come closer before the elections. When Chandy hinted at going it alone, several leaders expressed their unhappiness. Former Union minister Kotla Suryaprakasha Reddy walked out of the meeting in a huff, in protest against the Congress leadership’s failure to have a tie-up with TDP. Sources close to Suryaprakash Reddy, a strongman in Kurnool district in the Rayala Seema region, say he is likely to quit Congress and there is no hope of the party on its own faring well in the elections.
Congress is in dire states in Andhra since 2014 as people were angry with it over the bifurcation of the combined state and the party drew a zero in both the Assembly and Lok Sabha and lost deposits in over 80% constituencies. The party couldn’t recover in any of the elections held thereafter and many of its seniors deserted it for other parties—TDP, YSR Congress and Jana Sena.
The formation of Mahakutami in neighbouring Telangana came as a ray of hope for Congress leaders in AP as they thought that the alliance would help revive the party in the state. The party’s senior leaders have told the cadre that there would be a tie-up between TDP and Congress and that they can even hope to join a coalition government if they come to power in Andhra.
Naidu’s decision to keep Congress at bay will have implications at two levels—first the party would find it hard to face on its own the elections and, second, there cannot be any pre-poll adjustment at the national level for Lok Sabha elections too. This way, Congress’ plans of cobbling together a coalition at the national level will take a beating.
Naidu’s decision was primarily influenced by two reasons—one, there has been some opposition from his party seniors—including Deputy Chief Minister K.E. Krishnamoorthy—who think that allotting some seats to Congress might affect their prospects and, second, is a view among TDP leaders that the grand old party was still not acceptable to the people of AP and that the party might become a burden on them.
Of late, there has been some bonding between Naidu and Rahul Gandhi at the national level and the former has been counting on the regional leader’s clout in wooing other Opposition parties to his side. However, now that Naidu will be away from Congress in AP, there is no guarantee that he could back the prime ministerial candidacy of Rahul Gandhi.
Naidu has indicted that anything can happen at any stage in the run-up to the elections. Naidu went to Delhi on Monday and informed Rahul Gandhi of his decision to go it alone in AP. According to sources, Rahul Gandhi is learnt to have okayed any decision by Naidu and informed his party leaders to get ready for a solo fight.
Congress leaders are worried over the possible impact of Naidu going with some other parties in Andhra, including Jana Sena, but not with them. Now, the CPI and CPM, too, might consider joining hands with TDP, leaving Congress friendless. If Naidu goes the Maya-Akhilesh way in AP and the Mamata Banerjee way in Bengal, Congress will be left alone in most of the states.