With names of at least nine Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MLAs doing the rounds for a possible switch to the BJP, soon after the party’s four Rajya Sabha members joined the saffron party, there may not be many TDP MLAs left in Andhra Pradesh by the time party chief N Chandrababu Naidu returns from his Europe vacation.
BJP Rajya Sabha member and senior leader G V L Narasimha Rao said that several political leaders from both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are in touch with the BJP leadership and have expressed their desire to join the saffron party.
While sources in both TDP and BJP named G Srinivasa Rao, the TDP legislator from Visakhapatnam (North) constituency, among the nine MLAs who are ostensibly considering joining the BJP, Rao denied the “speculation”.
“I will continue to remain in the TDP. I don’t know whether other TDP members are in touch with the BJP,’’ Rao maintained.
A source said that several former state ministers and former MLAs, who lost in the recent Assembly elections, are also in touch with the BJP.
The TDP has 23 MLAs in the 175-member House, with the ruling YSR Congress Party winning 151 seats and actor-politician Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party the remaining seat in the polls.
According to former BJP MLA P Vishnu Raju, besides several sitting TDP MLAs, many former MLAs, MPs, and district-level party leaders are also vying to join the BJP.
Maintaining that TDP leaders have realised that breaking ties with the BJP was a “big mistake”, Raju said, “They now acknowledge that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government are development- and growth-oriented, and that people across the country support him and the BJP overwhelmingly. Most of these TDP MLAs and leaders know that development is possible only with the BJP.”
According to Raju, some TDP leaders contend that the BJP is playing a game by luring TDP MLAs, “but they are forgetting that they admitted 23 YSRCP MLAs when they were in power (from 2014-19)”.
On Friday evening, TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu spoke to some TDP leaders, including state party chief Kala Venkat Rao, and asked them to stay strong, according to party leaders. “He said defections are not new to party, and that we should work towards strengthening the party rather than worry about the four Rajya Sabha MPs leaving,” Srinivasa Rao said.
Sources said Naidu wants to ensure that defection of the four MPs does not trigger criticism of his leadership in the party. The TDP chief is also learnt to be calling up party MLAs individually and requesting them not to take any decision in haste.
The former Andhra Pradesh CM, sources said, is also seeking information on whether his son N Lokesh, who is TDP general secretary and a Politburo member, is being blamed for the poll defeat and mismanagement of the party.