The TDP decision to pull out its ministers from the Modi government not only plays a spoiler in BJP celebrations over its electoral gains in three north-eastern states but, for the long term, clouds the ruling NDA’s poll fortunes in Andhra Pradesh which sends 25 members to Lok Sabha — a number that matches seats from all of North-East in the Lower House.
Though the TDP chief has not announced parting of ways with the NDA, his public reference to the sense of hurt in Andhra Pradesh following Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s terse remarks on TDP demands and the non-availability of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take his calls indicate the widening distance between these two pre-poll partners of 2014.
BJP sources suggested that the TDP move to pull out its ministers from the Centre amounts to breaking the alliance because BJP ministers in the Naidu government too are likely to withdraw from the state government.
“It becomes untenable for our ministers to continue in the Chandrababu government in the state,” a senior BJP leader said after the TDP announcement.
The late night political development holds considerable significance for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In terms of Lok Sabha seats, BJP and TDP together have 17 Lok Sabha members from the state — the remaining eight are from the YSR Congress Party. In the long term, BJP runs the risk of being further marginalised for having disregarded the sentiments of Andhra Pradesh the same way the Congress got sidelined after pushing the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014. The Congress does not have a single Lok Sabha seat from Andhra Pradesh.
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While a section of the BJP toyed with the option of aligning with TDP rival YSR Congress Party, that option seems to have been pre-empted by Naidu. Sources pointed out that the YSRCP cannot be seen doing business with the BJP which the ruling TDP is now accusing of reneging on the promise to Andhra Pradesh. Any new arrangement will now be possible after 2019.
A senior BJP functionary, however, drew attention to the fact that there was still time left to salvage the situation. “It is almost a year before elections. That is a long time. Let us see how the politics evolve in the state. Whether it is a setback or opportunity for the party will depend on the way things develop during the next one year,” the functionary said. Another BJP central functionary said: “This is an opportunity for the party to grow in the state where we were being relegated to a marginal player by the TDP.”
In this context, BJP leaders claimed that the TDP chief was rattled by the YSRCP’s growing traction — the latter had already announced its would get its members to resign from Parliament next month if the government did not grant special category status to Andhra Pradesh.
TDP leaders, however, suggested that they had to take this step to neutralise public sentiments which it felt was one of being let down by the Modi government over the denial of special category status.
“There has been a competitive race among the parties (TDP, YSRCP and Congress) in the state to tap into the sentiment of hurt which has continued from the bifurcation of the state. BJP will place the facts in the public domain to tell how the central government has extended all help to benefit the state,” BJP spokesman G V L Narasimha Rao told The Indian Express.