Updated: August 10, 2021 7:59:48 am
While the BJP managed to get the Janata Dal (United) to join the Union Cabinet, its attempts to rope in a key regional party from the south, the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), with offers of Cabinet posts, fell through after the regional party rejected the idea at the last minute.
Sources said the BJP, which had tried to get the YSRCP into a pre-poll alliance ahead of the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, resumed talks with Reddy before the July 7 Cabinet expansion. “The process was initiated to have YSRCP in the Cabinet. The deal was almost done. There were offers of a Cabinet post, an Independent charge and a Minister of State. But later, the discussion came round to two Cabinet posts and the BJP leadership was not ready for it,” said a source familiar with the developments, adding that Reddy “had the inclination” to join the government and had even “finalised the names” for the posts.
Asked if both the parties had come close to clinching a deal, YSRCP parliamentary party leader V Vijayasai Reddy told The Indian Express, “There were some discussions. But only the Honourable Chief Minister can comment on what happened.”
A source said that while Reddy’s decision to not accept the offer “infuriated the BJP leadership”, the Andhra CM maintained that he “would remain friendly towards the Centre and extend issue-based backing to it”.
The YSRCP has since 2014 been averse to joining the NDA government despite being open to offering issue-based support. Its present move is with an eye on future openings for the party, the sources said, pointing to efforts by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and poll strategist Prashant Kishor to cobble up an anti-BJP front ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
Sources said Kishor’s attempts to rope in YSRCP into the anti-BJP conglomerate of parties have sent “disturbing” signals to the BJP leadership.
Sources in the YSCRP admitted that Kishor, who worked for YSRCP in the 2019 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, “mooted the idea of parties coming together against the BJP” before the next Lok Sabha elections.
YSRCP had won 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats and 151 of the 175 Assembly seats in the 2019 elections. Party leaders said Kishor would continue to advise Reddy in the upcoming elections too.
During Banerjee’s recent visit to the national capital, she had said she shares good and warm ties with Reddy and indicated that doors were open for parties like the BJD and YSRCP, which have been on the fence when it comes to supporting the Narendra Modi government.
When asked if the party is considering joining the group of parties against the BJP, YSRCP leader Vijayasai Reddy said, “It’s a political decision that has to be taken by the Chief Minister.”
The BJP, sources said, will once again try to persuade the Andhra ruling party to join the NDA and have a pre-poll alliance with it. For the BJP, which has already lost two traditional allies, the Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal, getting a regional ruling party from the south would be a “very important” achievement, said a BJP source.
Ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the late BJP leader Arun Jaitley had initiated talks with YSRCP to bring the party into the NDA fold. Then too, the BJP was keen on a pre-poll alliance, but YSRCP insisted that it was ready only for a post-poll arrangement. Its reluctance led to the N Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP entering the NDA fold. After Naidu pulled out of the Modi government in 2018, the BJP resumed efforts to win over YSRCP, but Reddy did not agree.
A YSRCP MP said Reddy had his apprehensions over how his party’s support base would view an alliance with the BJP.
“Backward communities, SCs, STs and minorities, besides a considerable segment of the Reddy community, form our support base. Our assessment was that these groups would not like us getting into a formal alliance with the BJP,” the MP said.
The Andhra CM, meanwhile, is weighing his options. “The Uttar Pradesh elections and the presidential election, which are coming up in the first half of 2022, could offer early hints of which way the wind is blowing. Like every other regional party, YSRCP is keeping a close eye on the political developments and re-alignments in Uttar Pradesh,” said a leader.