Andhra politics: Jagan up, Congress, Naidu down

TDP Chief Chandrababu Naidu’s attempt to align with the BJP/NDA coalition is being interpreted in political circles of Andhra as his last ditch effort to save his party—Telugu Desam from being decimated in the next elections. The possibility of both the Congress and the TDP facing the prospects of a rout, particularly in Coastal Andhra and Rayalseema regions of the state have increased manifolds now since Jaganmohan Reddy is out on bail.

The young leader of the YSR Congress got a rousing reception and is being considered by even his detractors as the future leader. Jaganmohan is getting both the sympathy of the people of his state and is the only one amongst the top leaders who has been a votary of a United Andhra Pradesh. His supporters expect him to be the Chief Minister one day and his party is likely to send the maximum number of MPs from the state.

The problem with both Chandrababu Naidu and the Congress is that they have no clear position on the shape of things to come. Naidu had supported the creation of Telangana in the belief that the Congress government at the Centre will never give it and in the process, he will be able to consolidate his position in that part of the state.

Now that the Congress agreed to create Telangana, he has been caught in a web of his own making. He has not withdrawn his letter for a separate Telangana state and because of it is losing support in the Coastal Andhra and Rayalseema regions. It is actually a war of survival that he is waging.

His attempts to align with the BJP should not surprise anyone even though he had vowed publicly never to be on the same side as the Saffron brigade keeping his Muslim vote constituency in mind. In 1999, he had won the state largely because of Atal Behari Vajpayee’s popularity in the wake of the Kargil conflict.

During the NDA regime he was the biggest beneficiary and through close friends Venkaih Naidu and Pramod Mahajan, he got huge grants from the Centre for his state. Many in the BJP also hold him responsible for the early fall of the NDA government because he convinced Vajpayee and Advani through Pramod Mahajan to go for the Lok Sabha poll ahead of the scheduled date. While he lost power to YSR led Congress in the state, Vajpayee was deprived of completing his full five-year term as the Congress wrested power at the Centre.

Now Naidu perhaps wants to piggy ride on Narendra Modi’s popularity to salvage his position in the state, which is very shaky as there is no dearth of people who believe that he was siding with the Congress to keep out Jaganmohan Reddy.

Naidu of course would deny this and has now accused the Congress of having an understanding with the YSR Congress little realising that the Congress too is at the receiving end in the state. Naidu’s politics today is very confusing and perhaps indicates his state of mind given the complexities of politics arising out of the prospects of the creation of Telangana.

The Congress on its part is very worried and is watching closely the agitation in both the Andhra and Rayalseema regions and in Telangana. Senior leaders are rattled by the fact that statues of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi have been brought down or desecrated in many places and every day on the streets mock funerals of top leaders take place.

The Congress for the sake of one election had thought that by creating Telangana, they would be able to get some seats in that region as chances of them picking up seats in the other two regions would be very dismal. But a peculiar position has arisen now.

If the party reviews its decision to create a new state, it will be decimated in the Telangana region. And in other parts, it will not pick up, as people would see it as being opportunistic. In addition, the CWC resolution of July 30, which talked about Hyderabad being the joint capital of the two states, is constitutionally incorrect.

It does not mention that in that case, the city will have to be a Union Territory like Chandigarh. In short, the Congress is in a big jam and its leaders including the present Chief Minister Kiran Reddy have already started showing signs of revolt since their political future has become very bleak.

In sharp contrast, Jaganmohan Reddy is being seen as the only one who has read the mood of the people correctly. If the state gets divided, his critics also say that he will sweep the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in Coastal Andhra and Rayalseema. In addition, there are at least six out of 17 Parliament seats in the Telangana region that have a sizable population of people from the two other regions of Andhra Pradesh. There too his party will perform well. In the end, it will be Jagan who will have the last laugh and both the Congress and the TDP may have to prepare themselves for alternate strategies.

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