WITH AN eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, TDP leader and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has called for a “coalition” of regional parties, saying that BJP cannot “digest” regional leaders and its policy of cooperative federalism was “not happening” on the ground.
Asked whether he would take the lead in bringing together such parties in 2019, Naidu told The Indian Express: “Everyone has to work together to bring in such a coalition. As of today, my concern is to get justice to my state.”
Accusing the BJP government of confining cooperative federalism to mere talk, Naidu said: “This present government does not like the regional leaders. They are not being able to digest the federal leaders or regional leaders. They (BJP) want to have their own party everywhere.”
Pointing out that regional leaders had their own political parties to address the aspirations of their people, he said, “The central leadership here are not liking it… Now they talk about cooperative federalism. But in practical, it is not happening.”
Naidu also confirmed that Andhra Pradesh would attend a meeting of finance ministers of southern states in Thiruvananthapuram on April 10 to discuss their response to the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission. The meeting is being seen as an attempt to bring together the southern states against the BJP-led central government.
Warning the Centre and national parties that they should address the concerns of Andhra Pradesh, he said, “You will have to answer. Otherwise, the sentiments of the people are going to be hurt. Earlier, we have seen Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Assam, etc., have suffered. You want the same to happen to Andhra Pradesh? Why are you playing with their sentiments? Injustice has been done to them and their sentiments are hurt. This nation, through Parliament and through all political parties and media, will have to address the demands.”
The TDP was a key ally of the BJP till last month, when it left the ruling alliance over the Centre not granting special status to Andhra Pradesh. On Wednesday, Naidu accused the central government of “deceiving” the people of his state.
The Chief Minister claimed that he had visited the National Capital “29 times” to take up the state’s grievances but “every time, they (the PM and the Ministers) cited elections over coffee”.
Naidu had played a key role in bringing together non-Congress, non-BJP parties in 1996 to form a United Front government at the Centre and was later an important partner of the BJP-led NDA-I.
Responding to a reference to former CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet, who worked to bring together regional parties without aspiring to be Prime Minister, Naidu said: “Even (in) Surjeet’s time, when we brought together parties, they wanted me to become the Prime Minister twice. I suggested to the Left parties to have Jyoti Basu, as he had managed a coalition. Then they said we had a resolution against it.”
Naidu said that he did not regret that decision because he had not aspired to become the Prime Minister.