Having severed ties with the BJP, the ruling Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh is trying to woo Muslims back into the party fold after the community was seen as having retaliated to the alliance by voting for the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) of Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy in 2014 elections.
In April-May 2014, angry with the TDP tying up with the BJP, Muslims accused the party of betrayal, and YSRCP benefited in the polls. Several leaders from the community resigned from the TDP in protest, and the party lost a majority of the Muslim vote.
Now, with elections less than a year away, the TDP is trying to woo Muslims back.
On Eid, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu participated in prayers alongside hundreds of Muslims at Indira Gandhi Stadium in Vijayawada. Naidu also announced that 25 residential schools will be opened in the state especially for minority students.
A Muslim MLA who joined the TDP from YSRCP recently may be inducted in the Cabinet Cabinet expansion, expected in a couple of weeks.
Two berths are vacant after BJP ministers resigned following the TDP’s decision to break away from the NDA.
“We are giving top priority for minority welfare. We have allotted Rs 1,100 crore in the budget for minority welfare in 2018-19,’’ Naidu said while addressing the gathering after Eid prayers.
The state government also distributed Ramzan “gift” to 12 lakh Muslims at total cost of Rs 65 crore. The gift packets contained wheat flour, sugar, seviya and ghee.
Vijayawada (Central) MLA B Umamaheswara Rao said that the Ramzan gift was intended to help Muslims from even poor families to celebrate the festival.
Naidu also made several promises, including construction of Haj house in Vijayawada at a cost of Rs 80 crore and setting up of Waqf tribunal. He referred to the triple talaq issue while speaking on Eid and said that he opposes prosecution in instant triple talaq cases.
Recalling the situation in 2014, Shahbaz Khan, who had resigned as the TDP minority cell president then, said, “Muslims felt betrayed when TDP aligned with the BJP. Many MLA candidates were also apprehensive of losing, as Muslims felt betrayed by the alliance and accused TDP of playing opportunistic politics.”
The TDP lost to the YSRCP in 30-35 Assembly constituencies in Rayalaseema region, and in Krishna, Guntur, Nellore and Prakasham districts with sizeable Muslim population. There are approximately 45 lakh Muslims in AP.
“In 2014, Muslims voted for YSRCP not because they endorsed Jagan Mohan Reddy but because they resented TDP’s alliance with BJP. YSRCP got the anti-TDP-BJP vote,” M A Shareef, TDP Member of Legislative Council, said.
The TDP had fielded only one Muslim candidate, Dr Iqbal Ahmed Khan, from Pileru constituency in Chittoor, who lost to YSRCP’s Ramachandra Reddy. In contrast, four Muslim candidates won on YSRCP ticket, of whom Attar Chand Basha (Kadiri MLA) AND Jaleel Khan (Vijayawada-West) later joined the TDP.
The party’s only Muslim Lok Sabha candidate from Nandyal, N M D Farooq, lost to YSRCP’s S P Reddy.