Along with Lok Sabha elections, Andhra Pradesh will also go into simultaneous Assembly elections. What do these mean for the incumbent Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government, after the party has snapped ties with the BJP, and for its main opponent?
TDP under pressure
On Thursday, TDP MP M Srinivasa Rao joined the YSR Congress Party, followed by senior TDP leader and CMD of Vijay Electricals, Dasari Jai Ramesh, who joined YSRCP on Friday. The TDP MLA from Chirala, Amanchi Krishna Rao Mohan, too has resigned and is expected to join YSRCP. Ahead of the simultaneous elections, many TDP leaders are bailing out of what they apparently see as a sinking ship. They appear to have sensed anti-incumbency against Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu due to the government’s failure to fulfil many promises made in 2014. On the other hand, after a successful 3,648-km padayatra, Opposition leader Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy of the YSR Congress Party has emerged stronger.
Watch video: N Chandrababu Naidu fast in New Delhi
Alliances, then & now
In 2014, the TDP, which was in alliance with the BJP and was aided by a campaign by actor-turned-politician K Pawan Kalyan, won with a vote share that was just 0.2 percentage points ahead of the Opposition’s. The TDP walked out of the NDA last March, accusing the BJP of reneging on its promise of granting special status to Andhra Pradesh. Although Naidu has joined a front of non-NDA parties nationally, the TDP has not tied up with any party in the state for the elections. After 2004, this is the first time TDP is contesting without a pre-poll alliance. Amid these challenges, Naidu announced a string of sops and doles on January 25 for various castes and sections of people, followed by a farm investment support scheme of Rs 10,000 per year announced on February 13.
Resentment is also brewing on the ground against Naidu for joining hands with the Congress in the non-NDA front. The Congress is still widely blamed for the state’s bifurcation in 2014, which many feel left Andhra Pradesh at a disadvantage. The Congress did not win a single seat in 2014. Both Naidu and the Congress, in fact, have clarified that they do not have a tie-up in the state and their cooperation is only at the national level.
In neighbouring Telangana, where elections were held in December, the TDP-Congress alliance along with Left parties failed to work, especially for the TDP which was totally decimated.
Promises still to keep
While Naidu is seen as a capable administrator, the Opposition will play up on his failure to keep promises of 2014. Among them is a loan waiver up to Rs 1.50 lakh, including waiver of loans taken by women in Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA). According to YSRCP spokesperson Bhumana Karunakar Reddy, the total loans Naidu agreed to waive was Rs 87,000 crore in 2014 but the the TDP government has repaid only Rs 15,000 crore so far. Agriculture Minister Somireddy Chandrashekar Reddy said Rs 8,000 crore will be repaid in tranches of Rs 4,000 crore each in the next couple of months.
The world-class capital Naidu promised to build at Amaravati has barely taken off. While private educational institutions have come up, the Andhra government is still working from temporary offices.
A major worry for the TDP is which side the 17% Kapu community will favour this time. In 2014, the community favoured the TDP, partially due to the influence of Pawan Kalyan. Pawan has since launched his own Jana Sena Party, which will contest elections this time. His party may end up splitting the votes, which would potentially harm the TDP.
To placate the Kapus, the TDP government had passed a resolution in December 2017 giving 5% reservation to Kapus in education and employment. But it remained on paper as it was not made into legislation by Parliament. When the Centre announced a 10% quota for EWS last month, the Andhra Assembly passed another resolution to give 5% of the EWS quota to Kapus.
On January 25, Naidu announced free smartphones and a dole of Rs 10,000 each for 93 lakh DWCRA women. On February 13, the government announced a direct bank transfer, farm investment support scheme to give Rs 10,000 to each farmer including tenant farmers irrespective of the size of their landholdings. The government has also allotted nearly 7 lakh two-bedroom houses to poor beneficiaries in urban and rural areas.
Naidu vs BJP
Naidu has been trying turn the state elections into a Naidu-versus-Narendra Modi contest. He has been accusing YSRCP and BJP of entering a secret tie-up. He is also accusing the TRS of supporting the YSRCP-BJP combine to defeat the TDP. Naidu’s day-long fast in New Delhi to protest against the Centre for refusing to grant special category status is being seen as a move to reinforce his status as a national-level leader while invoking Telugu pride.
While the TDP has soured its relations with the BJP and the TRS, Jagan Mohan Reddy has maintained amiable relations with them. And while the BJP sees YSRCP as a potential post-poll ally, TRS chief and Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao wants Jagan to join his proposed non-Congress, non-BJP federal front. Jagan’s political posturing has also made him very strong. In the 11 months of the padayatra, Jagan has covered a lot of ground in TDP strongholds in Guntur, Krishna, East, and West Godavari districts. Naidu’s anti-BJP campaign has been successful in isolating the BJP in Andhra Pradesh where it is trying to gain a foothold, so it is set to be a straight and tough fight between the TDP and the YSRCP.