TDP-BJP row: Will NDA survive another year of discontent?

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu had made several appeals for additional funds and incentives for Andhra Pradesh in Union Budget 2018. However, disappointed with the allocations given to the state, TDP has threatened the BJP of walking out of the alliance.

Written by Kanishka Singh | New Delhi | Updated: February 4, 2018 4:25:31 pm
Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu in Mumbai during an event. (Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran/File)

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, currently one of the most formidable coalitions in the country, appears to be on shaky ground with members like the Telugu Desam Party threatening to walk out of the alliance.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N Chandrababu Naidu organised a meeting on Sunday with senior party leaders, and TDP MPs and MLAs to review the party’s alliance with the BJP. In retrospect, Naidu had made several appeals for additional funds and incentives for Andhra Pradesh ahead of the Union Budget 2018. However, disappointed with the allocations given to the state, the TDP has threatened to walk out of the alliance with the BJP.

Naidu’s party is third only to the BJP and Shiv Sena in the NDA in terms of seats won in parliament. BJP, which fought the 2014 with TDP as one of its allies, has two MPs and five MLAs from Andhra Pradesh.

With the cash-rich Hyderabad going to Telangana after bifurcation, TDP leaders, meanwhile, believe that Andhra Pradesh requires extra support from the Centre till the state’s revenue deficit comes down and its economy gets up and running. After the controversial bifurcation of united Andhra Pradesh, the denial of special status, delay in sanction and release of funds for the mega Polavaram multi-purpose irrigation project along Godavari, and lack of funds for developing state capital Amaravati are some of the reasons that led to a strain in ties between the two allies.

The TDP, incidentally, is not the first NDA ally to have developed a strained relationship with the BJP. In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena, NDA’s second largest member in terms of seats in parliament, expressed its intent to go it alone in the upcoming state and Lok Sabha polls. The tension has been simmering between the BJP and Sena for some years now. The parties, though partners at the Centre, have had bitter spats in Maharashtra and the tussle came out in the open during the last BMC elections when the parties contested separately.

Up north, not all is well with some of NDA’s regional constituents.

In Bihar, Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha and his Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, which has three Lok Sabha MPs, formed a human chain recently on issues like educational reforms and right to education. Though alliance partners BJP and JDU were absent at the event, senior RJD leaders Shivanand Tiwary and Ramchandra Purve were in attendance, raising speculation of a possible discontent in the alliance.

The NDA was however strengthened its position with Nitish Kumar’s return to the alliance fold in July last year. Though JDU’s two Lok Sabha MPs may not make a difference in the overall scheme of things, Nitish’s popularity in the state, performance in state polls and, most importantly, his party’s seven JDU Rajya Sabha members make him a key ally for team Amit Shah-Narendra Modi.

Further up north, the BJP’s alliance with the PDP has come under tremendous pressure over a host of issues ranging from civil unrest, militancy and Army operations. The PDP, which has three Lok Sabha seats, is a minor ally at Centre but is formidable in Jammu-Kashmir.  In the north-east, the BJP  severed its 15-year-old alliance with the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) after disagreements over seat-sharing. It, however, forged an alliance with the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) headed by former chief minister Neiphiu Rio.

Though the BJP enjoys a comfortable majority and can form the government on its own, the next general election is not too far away. When the party lost its goliath status in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat during the recent assembly polls, the message was clear that it would need to strengthen its alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

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