It was on 18 October, 2022, that Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan first voiced disappointment at his party’s alliance, struck in 2020, with the BJP.
A few hours before his first meeting with TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu in Vijayawada — which signalled a significant realignment and churn in Andhra Pradesh politics — he conveyed his frustration with the BJP to party workers.
“Though we (BJP-Jana Sena) are in an alliance, I somehow feel that it is not going well. Both the BJP central leadership and we know and understand that,” he told his cadre at the Jana Sena headquarters at Mangalagiri.
“I sought a roadmap from the BJP to fight the ruling YSRCP, and the time is running out,” he added.
The BJP, which is not comfortable with an alliance with the TDP — after all, it is the TDP it hopes to finish off in the state to emerge as the principal Opposition to the ruling YSRCP of Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy — did not make any overt effort to placate Pawan Kalyan.
Clearly, the party did not believe, as Pawan Kalyan does, that the way to neutralise the overwhelming dominance of the YSRCP in the state is to enter into a three-way alliance with the Jana Sena and the TDP.
Now with an alliance between the Jana Sena and TDP all but formalised after a second meeting of the two leaders in Hyderabad on 8 January, the BJP appears finally ready to present Pawan Kalyan with the road map he desired.
The only problem is that it does not leave Pawan Kalyan with much of choice.
Related: Political churn in Andhra as Naidu meets Pawan Kalyan
The BJP ‘road map’
BJP sources have indicated to South First that party has started preparing a road map/action plan to take up protests along with Jana Sena against the YSRCP government’s “anarchic rule” in Andhra Pradesh.
By putting forth the “enigmatic” road map which Pawan Kalyan has been asking for, the saffron party appears to be forcing the film actor to choose between the BJP and TDP ahead of the 2024 polls — both Lok Sabha and Assembly —- which are now just 15 months away.
South First has learnt that the BJP’s central leadership may unveil the broad contours of the road map at the party’s state executive meeting scheduled to be held on 23 and 24 January at Bhimavaram.
State BJP leaders are expecting the Modi-Shah duo’s pointsman in the South, BL Santosh, to attend the state executive meeting and give a clear direction to the saffron party’s state leadership.
The choice is Pawan’s
“Our national leadership is very clear about not having an alliance with TDP. We really don’t know why he (Pawan Kalyan) brings up this issue so often. I’m sure Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, conveyed the same to him when they both met in Vizag in November,” a senior state BJP leader told South First.
“We expect our central leadership to provide the road map which Pawan Kalyan is asking for. We will have to see if he goes with our road map, or with the TDP,” the BJP leader added.
That BL Santosh is likely to attend the executive meeting underlines the fact that it will not be a routine affair, but one imbued with some significance, the leader pointed out.
Pawan Kalyan met Modi in Visakhapatnam on 11 November after a gap of eight long years. It was after the 2014 elections results that he had last met Modi.
Related: When Modi stonewalled Pawan’s talk of a three-way alliance
During the meeting Modi, it is learnt, advised Pawan Kalyan that this was not the right time — then 19 months before the polls — to talk about an alliance with the TDP, and also not one to “rush into”.
The prime minister is said to have advised the actor-turned-politician to take up programmes to expose the failures of the YSRCP government, and that the BJP would extend total support.
Why Pawan wants a 3-way alliance
In 2014, soon after launching his Jana Sena party, Pawan Kalyan — a big star in Tollywood and big draw at public meetings — had actively campaign for both the BJP and the TDP.
And, for him, the results of the elections were quite satisfying. It ensconced Modi in power in Delhi and placed Chandrababu Naidu in the chief minister’s chair in Andhra Pradesh.
Perhaps carried away by his campaigning prowess, Pawan Kalyan and party decided to go it alone in 2019. The Jana Sena contested all the 175 seats in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly in an alliance with the two Communists parties and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
The results were devastating for the Jana Sena. It won just one seat in the Assembly and, embarrassingly, Pawan Kalyan himself lost from both the seats he contested: Gajuwaka and Bhimavaram. The party garnered just about 5.5 percent of the vote, mostly from the numerically strong Kapu community to which he belongs.
The YSRCP, in resurgent mode after Jagan Mohan’s mega padayatra, swept to power with 151 seats, cornering almost 50 percent of the vote.
The election results were equally shocking for the ruling TDP, which managed to win just 23 seats, although it had a respectable 39+ percent vote share.
Given the huge wave in favour of the YSRCP, it is unlikely that a TDP-Jana Sena alliance in 2019 would have stopped Jagan, but it would certainly have prevented his complete dominance in the Assembly.
In fact, some political analysts have estimated that the Jana Sena, by luring a chunk of the Kapu community votes in areas where they are dominant, caused the TDP to lose anywhere between 30 and 40 seats.
Related: TDP-Jana Sena alliance all but sealed after Pawan-Naidu meeting
“I don’t have any desire for any posts,” Pawan Kalyan had told his cadres in October.
He stressed that all he wanted was to end the “anarchic and rowdy” rule of the YSRCP under Chief Minister Jagan Mohan.
And for that, he said, “I need to change my strategy. I am not against Modi or the BJP. I have utmost respect towards Narendra Modi, but can’t be in slavery”.
Pawan Kalyan’s frustration with the BJP is understandable. Though Jana Sena and the BJP are allies, they have never taken up any joint programmes in the past two years.
While the BJP planned its protests against the ruling dispensation, the Jana Sena had its own programmes.
And now, as Pawan Kalyan leans towards TDP, the BJP leans away from him.