After the declaration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the floor of the Lok Sabha that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will score 400 seats in the upcoming general elections, the BJP has been pushing forward at a furious pace.
While it works in the north on multiple levels to get Jayant Chaudhary’s RLD to join the alliance, it’s working in the south to get erstwhile ally Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP back into the affron fold in Andhra Pradesh.
Naidu, former chief minister of the state, was in the national capital on Wednesday and held a late-night meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president JP Nadda over the possibility of returning to the NDA.
“The meeting was extremely productive, and it looks like an announcement may come sooner than later. Both the sides have communicated their expectations,” a source in the TDP told News18.
The source also confirmed that the discussions between the leaders were primarily based on the broad contours of the alliance and no specific seat-by-seat talks were held. “In-principle, it was agreed to take the talks forward. There was no discussion between the leaders on seats so far.”
Other sources confirmed that the BJP top brass will next meet Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan, who is tipped to be reaching Delhi on Thursday. Interestingly, Pawan Kalyan, who is part of the NDA, has also struck an alliance in Andhra Pradesh with Naidu’s TDP even though the latter is not yet formally part of the NDA.
Pawan Kalyan has been a staunch critic of the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSRCP government in the state and had declared that he was willing to “ally with anyone” who would remove Reddy from power. Kalyan has often called the Jagan Reddy government “corrupt” and was one of the political leaders who were able to meet Naidu when he was in jail. Soon after that meeting, Kalyan had announced the alliance with the TDP.
Naidu is expected to head back to Hyderabad on Thursday morning, but may return to Delhi in a week or fortnight to take the talks forward.
Naidu had visited Delhi just a couple of months ago and held a hush-hush meeting with Nadda and Shah. Naidu’s son and TDP MLA Nara Lokesh has also had multiple rounds of talks with the BJP top brass, sources said.
In September last year, when the Jagan Reddy government got Chandrababu Naidu arrested over the skills development scam, for which he remained in jail for close to two months, Nara Lokesh had met Amit Shah, expressing concerns about his father’s health. The BJP leadership back then had also assured Lokesh, that contrary to Jagan Reddy’s claims, the central government had nothing to do with his father’s arrest.
Meanwhile, three sitting MPs from the YSR Congress Party have quit in the last one month. On January 10 this year, Kurnool MP Sanjay Kumar quit the party, upset with the alleged ill-treatment meted out to the Backward Community by the Reddy government. Vallabhaneni Balashowry, sitting MP from Machilipatnam, quit the YSRCP to join Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena on February 4. Lavu Sri Krishna Devarayalu, who represents Narsaraopet, also resigned recently from the Lok Sabha and from the party after he was asked to switch constituencies. He held a long meeting with Chandrababu Naidu in Delhi on Wednesday evening and is expected to announce joining the TDP.
Sources said a couple of more sitting MPs from the YSRCP may quit and jump ship to the TDP sooner than later. One of these MPs reportedly met Naidu on Wednesday evening as well.
Meanwhile, in a blow to the TDP, Vijaywada MP Kesineni Nani quit last month to join the YSR Congress in the presence of Jagan Mohan Reddy. He is likely to contest again from Vijaywada on a YSRCP ticket in the upcoming elections.
One of the strongest allies of the BJP, Chandrababu Naidu was with the coalition since 2014. He walked out of the alliance in March 2018 over the demand for special status for Andhra Pradesh. Two ministers from the TDP in the Narendra Modi cabinet had also quit. Ashok Gajapati Raju was the Minister for Civil Aviation in Modi’s first term, while Rajya Sabha MP YS Chowdhury was Minister of State for Science and Technology.
After leaving the NDA, Naidu tried to stitch together an anti-BJP alliance with the Congress and the Trinamool Congress, but suffered a huge defeat in the 2019 elections. When Naidu lost the state to Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress, in the Lok Sabha only three MPs from the TDP were able to win out of the 25 seats.
Since that defeat at the hands of the YSR Congress and the friendly proximity between the party and the BJP at the Centre, during which Jagan’s party supported the central government on multiple bills and also supported the candidates for both presidential and vice-presidential elections, Naidu has softened his stand towards the BJP. His party has also over the last five years supported the central government on multiple bills.
Naidu was also one of the attendees at the Ram Mandir ‘Pran Pratishtha’ ceremony at the invitation of the VHP on January 22.