In a boost for the BJP on the eve of the first phase of polling, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) returned to the NDA on Sunday, ignoring strong protests from local units of both the parties.
Announcing the poll alliance, TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu said, “What is important is we have to defeat the Congress at the national level. This is a historic tie-up and I am confident the NDA will win 300 seats. I appeal to all TDP and BJP leaders not to oppose this and instead unite to win in this election.’’
The TDP has returned to the NDA after a decade — the party left the alliance after the 2004 loss, blaming the BJP for the Gujarat riots.
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As per the arrangement worked out between the two parties after protracted negotiations, the BJP will contest eight Lok Sabha and 47 Assembly seats in Telangana and five Lok Sabha and 15 Assembly seats in Seemandhra. The tricky and contentious issue of who will contest from which seat will be announced shortly, said Naidu.
The tie-up sparked protests among district-level TDP and BJP leaders, who fear that the seat-sharing arrangement may result in their potential winning candidates not being able to contest. Naidu sought to assuage the feelings of his party leaders, assuring them that he would take care of them later if they are not given tickets.
But district unit leaders, ticket aspirants and several senior workers of both the parties warned that they would rebel and contest as independents if they felt the seat-sharing arrangement was unfair. Senior BJP leader from Telangana B Venkat Reddy warned that there could be desertions if BJP aspirants have to make way for TDP candidates.
In fact, the alliance talks almost fell through as both sides hardened their stands on seat-sharing. Naidu was under pressure from his party leaders not to yield seats that the TDP could win on its own while the BJP sought the same seats. Naidu did not want to yield more than 15 assembly seats in Seemandhra and over 40 in Telangana.
With time running out, as the last date for filing of nominations is April 9, it was left to SAD leader Naresh Gujaral to mediate between the two parties. “I am happy to inform you that the TDP is now part of the NDA. Chandrababu will be a co-architect with Narendra Modi to build a corruption-free country,’’ said Gujral.
In 1999, the TDP-BJP combine won 36 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh, with the BJP accounting for seven seats. But after the Congress came to power in 2004, the BJP has not won a single LS seat from the seat. It won four Assembly seats, all in Telangana region, in 2009 and the bypolls later.