Less than a fortnight after the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) returned to the NDA, its alliance with the BJP seems to be in trouble. The TDP has even threatened to delink from the BJP in Seemandhra and contest all the Lok Sabha and assembly seats there on its own, while leaving the tie-up intact in Telangana.
Differences have cropped up between the two allies over two issues — TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu’s opposition to the BJP’s “weak” candidates in one Lok Sabha and nine assembly seats, and his insistence on sharing the stage with BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at public meetings in Seemandhra.
“We have been maintaining right from the beginning that the alliance should be useful for both parties. But the TDP is ending up as the loser here.
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We have been forced to give away our seats to the BJP. They are fielding candidates who have no chance of winning. These are all seats that the TDP can win by itself. If a BJP candidate loses in an assembly segment, we will lose that parliament seat also… If the BJP does not cooperate with us and field candidates who can win, we will pull out of the alliance in Seemandhra and contest alone. We cannot do anything in Telangana because the nominations have already been filed,’’ said state TDP spokesperson Kodela Shiva Prasad Rao.
Addressing a rally in Parvathipuram, Vizianagaram, on Thursday, Naidu said, “We formed an alliance with the BJP to ensure that Narendra Modi becomes the prime minister and frees this country of corruption and the hopeless rule of Congress. The TDP-BJP alliance is in the interest of our state. But I do not understand why the BJP has fielded weak candidates in some constituencies. It may end up benefiting our rivals. We should not allow the YSR Congress Party to take advantage of this situation because it is a corrupt party.”
Naidu’s contention is that TDP candidates would have a better chance of winning some of the seats like Narasaraopet, Vijayawada, Nellore, Rajampet, Narasapuram and Rajahmundry, where the BJP has fielded “weak” candidates. As per the seat-sharing arrangement, the BJP has got four LS and 15 Assembly seats in Seemandhra.
The BJP has also opted for industrialist Gokaraju Ganga Raju for the Narasapuram Lok Sabha seat instead of Naidu’s choice — another industrialist, Raghuram Krishna Raju. The seat was reportedly given to the BJP with the understanding that Krishna Raju would be nominated. Krishna Raju has now threatened to contest as an independent and seek the TDP’s support.
TDP sources said many party leaders have conveyed their doubts about the BJP candidates to Naidu. “In 2009, Naidu formed a ‘maha khutami’ (grand alliance) with TRS and Left parties. It failed because Naidu did not read the mood in the state properly. We are afraid that Naidu may have got it wrong again. This is a crucial election, coming at a time when the TDP has a got a chance of winning in the post-bifurcation scenario. We are giving the BJP seats which it cannot win, and thereby gifting those seats to YSRCP,’’ said a senior party leader.
However, a section of the party felt that Naidu’s hand was being forced by some local TDP leaders who have been denied tickets to accommodate BJP candidates. With only a day left for filing nominations, the TDP is racing against time to set things right. Meanwhile, several TDP leaders filed their nominations on Thursday from constituencies allotted to the BJP, anticipating a break in the alliance.
On the other issue of Naidu sharing the dais with Modi, BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu has informed him that Modi’s Telangana campaign schedule has been fixed and he is slated to address public meetings in Karimnagar, Nizamabad and Secunderabad.
“At the public meeting in Secunderabad, leaders of all BJP allies like TDP, Shiv Sena and SAD would be present. Chandrababu is fine with that but wants to share the stage with Modi at public meetings in Seemandhra. The BJP has not replied to this, but said that Modi would do road shows alone. Whether Chandrababu can share the dais with Modi or not is yet to be decided by them,’’ said a senior TDP leader.
TDP leaders said Naidu would meet BJP leader Prakash Javadekar, who arrived here on Thursday, to discuss the issues. “During earlier discussions with Javadekar, it was understood that in the seats allotted to BJP, some favourable candidates suggested by Naidu would be selected. However, the BJP has ignored Naidu and nominated other candidates, and this has not gone down well in the TDP,’’ said a TDP leader.
But state BJP president K Haribabu said there was no such understanding and Naidu had suggested a candidate only for Narasapuram LS seat. “We assured him that his suggestion would be considered… we found Ganga Raju to be a better choice,’’ he said, denying any problems with the TDP.
Javadekar said the alliance was important for the NDA. “There could be differences over some matters but we are united in our approach. Seemandhra as well as Telangana need stable governments… We want a stable NDA government at the Centre and the TDP is an important partner in this,’’ he said.