Terming it a “democratic compulsion”, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu Thursday met Congress president Rahul Gandhi at the latter’s residence in a bid to drum up opposition support to take on the BJP in next year’s Lok Sabha elections. “We have to save the nation and defend democracy. It is a democratic compulsion and we have joined together to protect our country,” Naidu said while addressing reporters.
This was the TDP chief’s first meeting with Rahul Gandhi after severing ties with the NDA. The two had shared the dais at the swearing-in ceremony of Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy in May.
Emphasising the need for opposition parties to unite against the saffron party, Rahul said, “We had a very good meeting. The gist was that we have to defend the democracy and future of the country. So, we are coming together to work together; all opposition forces must unite.”
I had a good meeting today with Shri Chandrababu Naidu. Amongst other things, we discussed the issue of opposition unity. I look forward to carrying forward our dialogue and to working together in the upcoming state & general elections. pic.twitter.com/wNowJhP4sm
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) November 1, 2018
The Congress leader added, “We are not going to get into the past. We are going to talk about the present and the future. Opposition forces need to come together to provide a vision to the country because of the current situation.”
Talking about unemployment and alleged corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal, Rahul said, “It is very clear that corruption is taking place. Institutions that can investigate are being attacked. A proper inquiry on what all happened, where the money went and who did corruption, that is what I am pushing very aggressively. The nation wants to know this.”
— Congress (@INCIndia) November 1, 2018
Earlier in the day, Naidu had met NCP chief Sharad Pawar and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and held talks of building a nationwide alliance against the saffron party.
After meeting Pawar and Abdullah in the afternoon, Naidu had told reporters, “We must protect the future generations. There is a need to chalk out a programme for the future. We must act in the interest of the nation.”
Abdullah, on the other hand, said the country was going through “difficult times” and emphasised on the need to “save democracy”.
Expressing concern over “assault” on institutions like the CBI and the RBI, Pawar said the non-BJP parties will come out with a common minimum programme to take on the government. “If we collectively work to save democracy, we can definitely save the institutions. Chandrababu (Naidu) will talk to other state political leaders in this regard,” the NCP chief said.
Naidu also met Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad. However, TDP sources claimed that the duo met “coincidentally” at the airport.
The meeting between Naidu and Gandhi could be a watershed in the history of TDP, established by Naidu’s father-in-law N T Rama Tao in the early 1980s with the sole purpose of defeating the Congress in undivided Andhra. He was successful within a year and became the first non-Congress CM of AP in 1983. Now the TDP, under Naidu, is already in talks with the Congress for an alliance in Telangana.
Naidu, who walked out of the NDA alliance this year over demand for special status for Andhra Pradesh, is now trying to bring all like-minded opposition parties together to form an alliance as an alternative to BJP. “I have taken the responsibility to save the country from this threat. It is the duty of all to save the country,” he said.
On his previous visit to the national capital, the TDP chief had met a cross-section of non-Congress and non-BJP leaders in an effort to bring them together against the NDA. During his visit, he met the likes of BSP chief Mayawati, AAP leader and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, former BJP leader and government critique Yashwant Sinha, and Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav.
Naidu, who was the convenor of the United Front coalition, pointed out that the TDP and he himself had played a role in the formation of the coalition governments in 1989 and later in 1996. He said coalition and minority governments have “done well” to implement “clear policies”, and argued that political compulsions have always brought parties together. He said he will play the role of a “facilitator” in helping evolve a credible alternative and said that he is not interested in becoming the Prime Minister.