Andhra Pradesh politics is witnessing a churning, with Telugu Desam Party (TDP) general secretary Nara Lokesh Naidu, the son of party chief N Chandrababu Naidu, setting off on a 4,000 km-long padyatra, to be followed by a state-wide yatra in a customised vehicle by Jana Sena Party (JSP) chief, the actor-turned-politician K Pawan Kalyan. Meanwhile, the BJP state unit has tied itself in knots over supporting the proposed TDP-JSP alliance.
After performing ‘Vahan Puja’ of his campaign vehicle at Kondagattu temple in Jagtial district in Telangana on January 24, Pawan Kalyan said if the BJP in Andhra Pradesh says no to an electoral alliance with the JSP, his party may contest alone or look for other alliance partners, which has split opinion in the BJP and made the party speak in two voices. While a faction led by state unit president Somu Veerraju says it does not want to support a TDP-JSP alliance, another faction, led by former state chief Kanna Lakshminarayana, wants to support Pawan Kalyan, even if it means tacit support to the TDP.
Amid this chaos, several important leaders, including former Union ministers D Purandeswari, Y S Chowdary and Lakshminarayana, skipped the BJP national executive held on January 25 at Bhimavaram in West Godavari district. Sources said that the Andhra BJP unit is heading for a leadership crisis, as most leaders are unhappy with Somu Veerraju, especially with regard to Pawan Kalyan.
For the first time, the YSRCP, which has initiated Mission 175 — to win all 175 Assembly seats — also reacted to Kalyan’s political ambitions. “Pawan Kalyan opposes the YSRCP government’s decisions and policies and claims that he will reverse them when he comes to power. We would like to know how Pawan Kalyan plans to come to power; he should say how many seats his party will contest,’’ said YSRCP general secretary Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy.
Lokesh’s “Yuva Galam (Voice of Youth)” yatra will cover 125 Assembly constituencies in 400 days, starting from Kuppam in Chittoor district and ending at Ichapuram in Srikakulam at the Odisha border. Aiming to connect with the masses, mainly the youth, Lokesh is hoping the padyatra will galvanise the TDP back to power in 2024. “The youth of the state are frustrated and disillusioned with the YSRCP government, which has failed to create job opportunities. There is no development in the state since YSRCP came to power. The people are also vexed with lack of maintenance of civic infrastructure like roads. I am receiving tremendous support for this padyatra. People are enthusiastic about it,’’ Lokesh said.
Lokesh will be joined by Chandrababu Naidu at certain places to address public meetings, as the TDP hopes to bring back voters disenchanted with the YSRCP.
Pawan Kalyan has readied a vanity van — a green, customised truck named “Varahi” — in which he will start his state-wide yatra soon. Having drifted away from the TDP after tying up with it ahead of the 2014 elections, he has slowly inched back toward the TDP in recent months, something that hasn’t escaped the attention of either the YSRCP or the BJP, both of which have eyed the development with some concern, as a tie-up would bring together the powerful Kamma and Kapu communities. While Naidu belongs to the Kamma community, Kalyan is a Kapu, even though the latter’s ability to rally the community behind him is still in doubt.
In the last few weeks, Pawan Kalyan has met Naidu twice, sparking off speculations about an alliance.
After contesting independently in the 2019 elections, the JSP and BJP had formed an alliance in 2020. So BJP leaders are concerned about Kalyan going back to the TDP camp.
While the BJP wants to emerge as the main opposition party in Andhra Pradesh, its failure to oppose and condemn moves by the YSRCP government, such as the authorities preventing Pawan Kalyan from addressing a public meeting in Visakhapatnam and confining him to his hotel room last October, or a January 3 government order, putting restrictions on political public meetings allegedly aimed to curb TDP and JSP activities, brought the TDP and JSP closer, leaving BJP — which was hoping to benefit from a tie-up with Pawan Kalyan — in the cold.
While several BJP leaders, including former state president Kanna Lakshminarayana, have been questioning the party’s failure to keep Kalyan on their side, the Andhra BJP unit found itself in a piquant situation, after it resolved not to participate in any alliance that involves TDP for the 2024 elections, with many within the party questioning the decision, and asking whether the tie-up with Pawan Kalyan’s JSP still stands or not. The political resolution was passed at the party’s state executive meeting held at Bhimavaram in West Godavari district on January 25. While the resolution was mainly aimed at sending the message that BJP wants to replace TDP as the main Opposition party, it also means that the BJP will have to go alone, in case there is a TDP-JSP tie-up, which looks more likely now.
Sources in the BJP said that several leaders, including former state president Kanna Lakshminarayana, a Kapu, and cadres, may quit and join the JSP. Unlike in the past, when it lacked political strategy and planning, the JSP is now creating a separate Kapu power centre, with Kalyan’s brother K Chiranjeevi weighing in along with the TDP’s Kapu leader G Srinivasa Rao and BJP’s Kanna Laxminarayana, to woo the Kapu community towards the JSP.