Carrying out its threat “in the interest of the people of Andhra Pradesh”, the TDP, which has 16 MPs in Lok Sabha, walked out of the ruling NDA Friday. TDP leader and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who directed his party to bring in its own no-confidence motion against the Modi government, told the state assembly that “BJP allies are fighting for their rights in Parliament” but the Prime Minister does not have time to address their concerns.
Ending his party’s four-year alliance with the BJP over denial of special category status to Andhra Pradesh, Naidu announced in Amaravati that he had decided to leave the NDA. Simultaneously, Thota Narasimhan, floor leader of the TDP in Lok Sabha, gave notice to move a no-confidence motion against the BJP-led government.
The government, however, exuded confidence about its stability. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said: “The whole country has full confidence in the Prime Minister as does the House. The government has the numbers… We are ready to take up everything.”
Naidu’s move came amid dissent within as his two colleagues who resigned from the Union Council of Ministers, P Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Y S Chowdary, questioned the timing of the decision.
Sources said that at the TDP politburo meeting Friday morning, leaders told Naidu that the TDP had walked into a trap laid by YSR Congress Party leader Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy whose party had already given a no-trust motion notice. They said it appeared that the TDP was a step behind its Andhra rival — before the TDP politburo, Jagan said “until we raised the issue, the TDP and the CM were sleeping… Now, TDP and the rest have to follow”.
In Lok Sabha, when Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said the TDP motion could not be taken up as long as there was no order in the House, Thota Narasimhan gave another notice, asking her to “include the motion in the revised List of Business for March 19”.
In Amaravati, Naidu told the assembly: “I took the decision in the interest of the people of Andhra Pradesh and not for any selfish, personal reason. Everyone knows that for four years we tried hard and made all efforts to secure whatever was promised to the state as per the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. I went to New Delhi 29 times but there was no response. The last Budget was a big disappointment as there was no mention of our state. When the BJP’s allies are fighting for their rights in Parliament, can’t the Prime Minister give some time to address them? I waited until Thursday before deciding to leave the NDA.’’
Writing to BJP president Amit Shah, Naidu said TDP “joined the alliance with the hope that our state will get fair treatment and with an expectation that our people will get justice. When our being in the alliance doesn’t serve that purpose, we feel that it is pointless to continue”.
On March 8, Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Chowdary resigned in protest after Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said there was no question of granting special category status to Andhra Pradesh.
On Thursday, Naidu had indicated that the TDP would back the no-confidence notice moved by the YSRCP. But on Friday, TDP leaders said the party would move a separate notice as it smelt a nexus between the YSRCP and BJP.
“We go according to principles. Our leader felt being part of NDA and moving a no-confidence motion would not be ethical. So we withdrew from the NDA, and I have handed a letter to the Speaker on a no-confidence motion,” Narasimham told reporters in New Delhi.
His party colleague Ramesh claimed that YSRCP MP Vijaysai Reddy was seen trying to meet the Prime Minister and this, he said, suggested a nexus between the two parties. “We have no confidence in their no-confidence motion, so we have decided to go on our own,” he said.
The Opposition parties jumped in to to embarrass the government. While the Congress and Left leaders were the first parties to declare support, TMC leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who spoke to Naidu over phone, tweeted: “I welcome the TDP’s decision to leave the NDA. The current situation warrants such action to save the country from disaster… I appeal to all political parties in the Opposition to work closely together against atrocities, economic calamity and political instability.”
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the party would also support the motion but asked the two Andhra parties not to play politics over the matter. Mohammad Salim of the CPM said: “When the Andhra parties bring a no-confidence motion in Lok Sabha, we will support it.” Leaders of RJD, SP and AIMIM too said they would back the no-confidence motion when it is moved. These parties together account for 129 seats. Smaller parties friendly to the Congress are also expected to join the bandwagon.
The BJP, which currently has 274 MPs — two more than the magic number — and its allies including SAD and JD-U will be able to defeat the motion. The TRS, which has 11 members, also announced it would not back the no-trust motion. BJP leaders, however, conceded that a no-trust motion and the debate over it could damage the party’s image.
For the record, the BJP said the TDP’s exit would be good for the party in Andhra Pradesh. “Andhra will be the next Tripura for the BJP. TDP’s exit is a loss for the TDP, not the BJP. The slim victory of (1.7%) for the TDP-BJP combine in 2014 would have resulted in a third consecutive defeat for the TDP,” BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said.